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The Bad News vs. the Good News vs. the Ordinary

A few days ago, I spoke on the phone with my daughter’s teacher. My daughter is in first grade, and it’s been a challenge to home-school her. I also know it’s been a HUGE challenge for her teacher.


My daughter’s teacher was asking me about a new app she’s trying with the kids, and we got to talking about how difficult this time has been. She didn’t come right out and say it, but I think she feels the pressure to be AWESOME right now. Maybe she’s seen one of these stories:


She said she’s been trying really hard to make contact with all of her students’ families, but she just hasn’t been able to reach some of them. She may not have the correct email. She’s tried calling.


“Short of going to their houses, I just just don’t know what to do,” she said. And as our conversation went on, her 3 kids in the background grew increasingly loud, just like my 2 kids in the background.


If my daughter’s teacher were to drive to all of her students’ houses, check in on them, make sure they’re ok, one of us could snap a photo and make a meme out of her. And that would be awesome. She definitely DESERVES that kind of recognition. But she’s got 3 kids at home and her husband is still working. She’s still balancing a full time job of teaching with the unexpected job of being a stay-at-home mom.


Our phone conversation ended with both of us still feeling confused and a bit helpless. We’ve repeated it to each other a couple of times: “We’re all just doing our best.” But the underlying feeling is that maybe our best isn’t good enough.

I don’t pay attention to the mainstream media. I don’t need to hear about people dying all over the world, hospitals overflowing, people protesting against our governor here in Ohio (seriously?). My husband fills me in on all that stuff when he is cruising around the mainstream media sites, but honestly, I don’t need it. The world is in a really bad state right now. It’s not news or hype or anything. I can FEEL it. If you’re empathetic at all, you can FEEL it.


So I started following the good news sites: Upworthy, Tanks Good News, Some Good News. These are all great sites if you need to counteract the toxicity of the mainstream media. If you just watched a frightening press conference and now you need something to cheer you up, go to one of these sites.


But are these sites any better? I mean, yes, yes they are. But don’t they create just as much anxiety?


I see stories on the good news sites along these lines all the time:


These are all from Tanks Good News, and I honestly LOVE that site. It makes me happy, and it makes me hopeful that the world will be ok. These sites are showing that people are being AWESOME right now. And I’m really glad those people are awesome. But one unforeseen circumstance of seeing stories like this is that it tends to make those of us who aren’t doing something newsworthy feel “less than.”


Now, most of this is a flaw in my own thinking. I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself to live up to these awesome individuals. Scratch that. What I should be doing is looking at my actions and realizing that they ARE just as awesome even if not meme-worthy.


How about this for headlines:


MOM CONVINCES KIDS TO TURN OFF THE TV AND PLAY OUTSIDE FOR AN HOUR


MOM GETS ALL LAUNDRY WASHED, FOLDED, AND PUT AWAY

(That’ll be the day!)


MOM MANAGES TO ONLY YELL TWICE THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE DAY!


Maybe I need to play these headlines for myself in my own brain at night and give myself more credit. But it also wouldn’t hurt for me to take a break from the good news sites just like I do from the mainstream media. It would certainly help me to see my own accomplishments for what they are, relative to what I CAN do without feeling the guilt of what I CAN’T do.


But let’s keep something else in perspective: it’s still REALLY hard to do things right now, logistically and otherwise. Most of us are stuck at home. And not sleeping well. And tired. And worried. And scared. And feeling all the feelings. I know a big part of me just wants to cuddle up on the couch and cry or watch a sappy movie or read a book or something mindless and tell my kids to leave me alone.


The truth is, we can’t all do AWESOME things right now. Some of us will just do our ordinary things. We’ll get through the day…. As I write, it’s almost 1pm, and I just got my kids to take baths and wash their hair. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time they did. Am I going to be featured on a good news site? Nope. That’s certainly not newsworthy. But if I really think about the effort it took, it’s quite an accomplishment.


So in reality, I’m definitely accomplishing something. Everyday I’m overcoming my desire to just lie in bed and let the world pass around me. I may not be raising millions of dollars for coronavirus research or doing elaborate art projects with my kids (of the art projects that we have tried to do, a few have turned out but a few have ended in tears… and none of them are what I would consider “elaborate”), but I’m living my ordinary life as best I can.


The Sad String Art Balloon Craft we attempted yesterday.  Someone put this thing out of its misery.


And that is enough. I hear a small voice saying, “Don’t try to accomplish so damn much. You don’t have to be awesome. The world genuinely needs some people to be ordinary.” If you believe in a God, I think even our spiritual selves are asking us to do less. God needs us to be reservoirs of peace. He needs us to be still. To do less. To observe a bird on a tree. To simply read to our children without trying to teach. To just sit. To cry. To breathe. REALLY breathe. To calm ourselves. To let our children see us be calm.


And now is the time. I truly believe that if we do that, then soon we will find that we are really quite AWESOME at all those ordinary things.


Now, to tend to the most important thing on my to-do list for today: emailing my daughter's teacher to tell her how awesome she is.

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Photo credits: Patrick Hoban and Chrissy Utt

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