There are so many contradictions
In all these messages we send
We keep asking
How do I get out of here
Where do I fit in?
Though the world is torn and shaken
Even if your heart is breakin’
It’s waiting for you to awaken
And someday you will-
Learn to be still
-D. Henley, S. Lynch

About two months into quarantine, I discovered a hair growing out of my cheek.

My cheek.

It wasn’t a soft, downy hair; it was coarse, like a horse’s tail. It was dark. It was ugly. I wondered how long it had been there. “Pandemic hair,” I thought. It was a symbol of all that was around me. Our dirty house, our bored kids whose bangs had grown over their eyes, our overwhelming desire to bolt. We had run out of things to talk about. We mostly wore pajamas. We were sick of Zooming with people—our faces frozen in bizarre positions, shouting through the screen. Why couldn’t anyone ever hear me? I must be muted. No, I’m not muted. Forget it, I’ll just sit here while other people talk.

I hate this, I thought. I hate it.

I had an inner tantrum almost daily—angry that my routine had been disrupted, frustrated that my kids had lost their physical contact with their teachers and friends, and despondent that each day was exactly the same, one blending into the next. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I mean, I knew—I needed to help my kids through school assignments and make them breakfast, and clean up breakfast and take the dog for a walk, and change the laundry over and wipe up the floor, make the kids lunch and get on a class Zoom with them, clean up lunch, and argue over how to subtract. Say no to the kids when they asked for one more freaking snack. Take the dog for another walk.

And this was before 3 p.m.

But after 3 p.m. was pretty much the same, except substitute making dinner and cleaning up dinner and crying in the shower. This horrible sameness, day after day, it was maddening. So naturally, to change things up, I turned to social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. As if our worlds weren’t in our phones enough before, now, we had nowhere to go. Except into our phones.

But the phone is a dangerous place to go. It feels like an escape, but it’s not. We think we are bolting from wherever we are, but we’re not.

We are simply isolating ourselves further.

In any given 10-minute long (or let’s be realistic, hour-long) period, I can be bombarded by taquito recipes (triple it and freeze two bags!) personality-type quizzes, pictures of kids getting ready to go back to school, moms who look like models working on their Monday Morning Mindset, tweets from the president, new masks/face guards, posts about what we should be doing, posts about what we shouldn’t be doing, pictures of cute dogs, ugly dogs, beaten dogs, forgotten dogs. We see what new items we need for our kids, what new fears we should have for our kids, reminders of what we should be grateful for, reminders of what we should feel ashamed about. We are asked to question whether we are real Americans, whether we are closet socialists. Do we need a licensed therapist? Magnetic eyelashes? Apple-cider vinegar gummies? Period-proof underwear? What about hacks for doing laundry, hacks for cooking with kale? We are reminded we are all going to get sick. Also, we are reminded how stupid we are for believing that we are all going to get sick.

RELATED: Are You Worn Out, Mama? You’re Not Alone.

I wonder, I thought to myself, why I feel so emotionally wrecked. One minute I’m fine, and the next minute I’m crippled with fear and insecurity.

Yeah, why would that be?

I was a phone checker before the pandemic, but being trapped inside took it to a whole new level. I found myself scrolling the second I woke up in the morning, scrolling as my kids were talking to me, scrolling while watching TV, scrolling while eating, and scrolling even as my eyelids grew heavy at the end of the day. In addition to my full-blown phone addiction, my nightly glass of wine had turned into two, then three. Sometimes I’d have a cocktail first.

It’s amazing how we can fool ourselves into accepting new habits with the idea that they are serving us in some way.

Subconsciously, I knew I was addicted to social media. My hand seemed to have a mind of its own sometimes, reaching for my phone before I even processed I wanted to pick it up. Before I knew it, I was knee-deep in food blogs about how to make vegan maple donut smoothies and cat memes. Sure, some of it was helpful. Glennon Doyle posted a video daily about how she and her family were getting through quarantine (“it’s gettin’ chippy in here”) and comedian Jim Gaffigan filmed the horror of his five children stuck at home during the pandemic with nowhere to go—food wrappers everywhere, an open kitchen morning, noon, and night. We could all relate.

Often I would combine my scrolling with my drinking (tip: don’t do this.) Oh yes . . . I’d think the following Tuesday morning when a non-stick frying pan, insulated water tumbler, and five-pack of facial wipes arrived at my doorstep from Amazon . . . I forgot about these.

It was only after I noticed how miserable I was that I stopped to consider what was going on.

My life suddenly seemed stale and monotonous. I opened my eyes each morning to find I was bored with my surroundingsthat same stupid picture in its frame. My same clothes in my closet that I didn’t even wear. That pile of crap on the sunporch that we never took to Goodwill. It was as if my life had been covered in a film of discontent.

It occurred to me that the moment I had been taken out of my fast-paced routine that I knew so well (gym, shower, dressed, kids, work, home, dinner, baths, shows, bed), my brain no longer knew what to do as though the world had suddenly stopped spinning. In an effort to keep it going, I started spinning myself. I had been addicted to busy-ness, and anything different felt wrong, intolerable. So I had found a way to numb myself to the present moment.

They say that change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. In my experience, it’s true.

You know when you are just going through the motions, one day after another. When what you once enjoyed to lift you up feels hollow, like it’s not enough and never will be enough. There are so many ways we distract ourselves—through booze, shopping, texting, food, work, a new project. Anything to avoid the reality we face. That we are lonely, unsatisfied, bored, uncomfortable.

Coronavirus has insisted that we look at our lives in a new way. “What if,” coronavirus says, “you were forced to stop running, and all of those things that usually comforted you were gone? What if those things that helped you remember who you were in the world, and gave you purpose, suddenly disappeared? What if there was nowhere to go? Nothing to do?”

RELATED: Keeping Ourselves in Check During Quarantine Might Take Some Extra Effort

It felt as though I was one of those wind-up plastic toys that had been maniacally racing around and suddenly hit a wall, but was still wound up. My legs frantically marching, marching, marching, banging into the floor, face down.

But what happens with those toys is they eventually stop. They have to. Unless someone or something keeps winding them up, at some point, they are going to be still.


Oh, how I fought the stillness. Getting quiet enough to see what I had been doing felt so uncomfortable, like a too-tight bathing suit, digging into my skin. Like a fish wriggling on its hook, I fought with everything I could.

But there was no denying it. I was addicted to escaping.

It started with putting down the wine. I knew I needed to stop because every day, 5:00 couldn’t come soon enough. I found myself thinking about a drink earlier and earlier. This bothered me. In addition, it seemed that just one no longer satisfied me. I had nowhere to go, nothing really to live for, so why not pour myself another? I’m starting another episode, what am I going to do, just watch it? No, I need something to sip. This is the reasoning of someone who is looking for an excuse to drink. I’d wake up in the morning feeling groggy and bloated. No matter. I’m not doing anything anyway.

The thing is, I was doing something. Just the fact I could wake up each morning and feel my feet touch the floor, breath moving in and out, hear my kids laughing at some stupid YouTube video, put food down for the dog, make coffee. This is doing something. This was my life. For some reason, I had decided that if it wasn’t productive in the way that I thought of as productive, it wasn’t really worth showing up. I mean I’d show up, but not really be there.

The same day I stopped drinking, our bernedoodle puppy went in to get groomed. She hadn’t had a haircut in months, and as much as I’d tried to brush her, she was matted in several spots and they needed to shave her. When she came home, she looked almost unrecognizable to me. Her once full, fluffy fur was gone, revealing twig-like legs and a tiny body. Her head seemed huge because, in an effort to not shave her entire body, the groomer had kept her face the same. She looked at me as if to say, “What happened here?”

As I sat with my sparkling water, I watched as she paced the room, rubbing her body along our couch, biting at her hind area, and stuffing her face in between cushions.

She felt exactly like I did: exposed, raw.

“Get me out of this body,” she seemed to be saying. Of course, the answer was to accept her predicament. Even though it felt wrong, she needed to get rid of those mats. As much as she wanted to fight this new feeling, this was her—the real her.

The first few nights without my elixir were rough. I found myself agitated, fidgety. I sat at dinner, listening to my family talk about this or that, and I felt bored. And then I felt guilty about feeling bored. The next night was pretty much the same. When you are used to going through the motions of something and not really experiencing it, it feels awkward to actually be there. As if you are suddenly off-script before you know your lines.

Before I stopped drinking, I didn’t realize how much I thought alcohol was helping me with anxiety. I know that sounds strange, that I would have anxiety about having dinner with my own family—but I guess I did. I had a lot of ideas about what a family dinner should look like—kids set the table, kids stay in their seats with their napkins on their laps, everyone enjoys their food, the grown-ups talk, the kids ask questions appropriately. I grew up as an only child, and this was very much what dinner looked like in my house growing up. My mom would light candles every night, and we would talk about our day together.

To say that dinner in my house now is a dumpster fire would be an understatement.

Most of the time, I avoid even sitting down because I know how annoyed I’m going to get. I will make something, and because my daughter is a vegetarian and my son eats three things, the only people who eat it are me and my husband, and sometimes my husband doesn’t feel like eating (he wants to go for a run afterward, or he has work to do and wants to get that done first.) So that means I’m left being the only one eating what I made. This frustrates me and makes me wonder why I go to the trouble at all. So that’s just the food part.

The conversation, as much as we try, is punctuated by my son saying things that are inappropriate, or getting out of his seat, or antagonizing his sister. Or, my daughter is in a funk and sits sullenly, answering questions with one word only. Or she’ll be chatty, but her brother will interrupt her so many times that she gives up. No one is having any fun. Then it’s over and they want dessert.

RELATED: I Was a Really Good Liar, But I Finally Got Caught

So you can see how I thought I needed that drink to make it through. To take the edge off.

To take the edge off my own life.

I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s true.

But when I think about what I was trying to avoid by drinking, it comes down to my discomfort with the way things were.

In my mind, the fact I couldn’t pull off a successful family dinner meant I had failed as a mom. And frankly, without the job I had quit because I couldn’t handle it with virtual learning, and without the exercise classes I had been going to before COVID that helped give me confidence and strength, and without my friends to get together with, and without plans to make for the future because we didn’t know what the future would bring, what else did I have? If I couldn’t pull off this mom thing, what did that say about who I was and what kind of purpose I had?

By the fifth or sixth day without my nightly friend, I was doing a little better. I still felt that urge when 5:00 rolled around but found it passed and by the time the evening got going, I had forgotten about it. This was a relief to me. I started reading more. I started writing more.

I noticed I was much more able to tune into my signals of hunger and fullness. I no longer raided the pantry cabinet at 11 p.m. because the desire just wasn’t there. Surprisingly, I found my kids could be quite funny. Yes, still obnoxious at times but also creative and interesting and kind. I found that when I got that familiar feeling of agitation at dinner, I could feel it and then . . . it would go away. It might come back, but then it would go away again.

So much of being still is being patient. Allowing a feeling to come and then giving it time to leave.

I realized that with my addiction to my phone had come a very low tolerance for any kind of waiting, for anything. When I texted someone, I grew impatient if they didn’t text back right away. What could they possibly be doing? I thought. No worries, I’ll text someone else. Or check Instagram.

If we never allow our minds to be without stimulation, they begin to rely on it. And when they don’t get it, they get mad. They start looking for more stimulation, and more. Give me something, anything! Anything to change up what I’m feeling right now. And when our phone dings with a text notification, we’ve got another hit. Until our next one.

We made the decision to send our kids to camp this summer (all outdoors.) I found I was excited to see people I knew in real life, in the flesh. When I talked with the counselors, I was beaming just to be able to have an exchange with them. Whether we realize it or not, we humans are social creatures. We thrive on eye contact and communication. We need to get together and exchange ideas and thoughts. We need to talk about this experience. What it has been like, how hard it has been.

We need to listen to each other, not through a screen, but live.

If we can learn to be still, whole worlds can open up to us. What we thought we couldn’t stand for a moment, like sitting in quiet, can begin to feel good. We can even begin to crave it. We might be hit with insights we didn’t know we were capable of, ideas that were buried somewhere deep inside of us. That grimy film that covers our lives may begin to lift. Perhaps, most importantly, we are able to see we aren’t really who we thought we were: The Mom, The Student, The Employee, The CEO, The Dad, The Daughter. Those things are part of who we are, but they aren’t really us. Underneath these labels is our essence, the soul inside of us that makes us valuable just by existing.

Suddenly we notice beauty where we didn’t see it before—a blue glob of toothpaste in the sink. Chipped toenail polish. Dog’s heavy body lying across your feet. In the stillness, we find the surprising truth that we didn’t need the numbing we thought we needed; that it was the noise and distractions that were pulling us down. That underneath the film of discontent was a shiny, precious life, waiting to be lived.

Previously published on Scary Mommy

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Tell a Couple Trying to Conceive to Just Relax

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Black-and-white photo of medical supplies

This is a plea. A plea to those who know someone who is struggling with infertility. So, if you’re reading this, this is directed right to you. Please, for the love of everything, when someone tells you they are struggling to conceive, do not tell them to “just relax.” I know it’s the cliche, default term most blurt out because they don’t know what else to say. It’s awkward to discuss for some. I’m 10000% positive it is coming from a good place and is meant to be calming and reassuring, and you really do believe it’s true because a...

Keep Reading

My Husband Having a Stroke at 30 Wasn’t in Our Plans

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife, selfie, color photo

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) This verse in the book of Jeremiah has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, it’s felt relevant across many life events. Its simple, yet powerful reminder has been a place of solace, perhaps even a way to maintain equilibrium when I’ve felt my world spinning a bit out of control. In this season of starting fresh and new year intentions, I find great comfort in knowing...

Keep Reading

That Mom at the Playground Could Become Your Best Friend

In: Friendship, Motherhood
Young mother sitting on bench looking at playground

I didn’t realize I was that mom at the playground. That mom who always smiles at the other moms even if she doesn’t know them. That mom who often makes small talk while she pushes her toddler on the swings. That mom who strikes up a conversation while sitting on the bench watching her older kid play. That mom who can often tell whether you are interested in talking to her or not. And if you don’t seem interested, that’s okay. Because maybe you’re preoccupied with other things going on in your life right now. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with the...

Keep Reading

The Shattering Grief of Suicide

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Sad person sitting in darkened hallway, black and white image

Navigating through my second Christmas without my dad, the weight of grief seemed even heavier this year. In fact, everything felt and looked different to me. As I unwrapped the ornaments and cards he gave me over the years, a tidal wave of madness and sadness engulfed me. I know many feel sadness and grieve during these times, but let me just say . . . suicide is a different type of grief. My vibrant, happy, physically fit dad committed suicide on April 30th, 2022. There, I said it. In the aftermath, a myriad of emotions consumed me. One perplexing...

Keep Reading

“I Can’t Do This Anymore,” He Said—Then Everything Changed

In: Living, Marriage
Woman with head in hands

The questions are very much valid. Did I know when I married him? Did I know when we struggled with infertility and trying to become parents? Did I know when we unexpectedly became pregnant with our second child? When did you know your husband was an alcoholic? The answer is simple yet so complex, I pretty much knew from the first year, yet I was in complete denial. When I met him, he was just my type—a bad boy with a bad reputation, yet so cute! On our third date or so, I saw how much he could drink and how...

Keep Reading

Mean Girls Aren’t Like the Ones You See In Movies

In: Friendship
Woman whispering in another woman's ear

Mean girls aren’t like Regina George. If they were, it would be easy to know to stay away from them. Not all mean girls are wealthy, image-conscious, stick-thin blondes. They also don’t always have the reputation of being “mean girls.” The problem is that mean girls are way worse than Regina George because they don’t look like mean girls. Mean girls can be your “friends.” Mean girls know how to gain and betray your trust. They are the girls who, on a rough day, ask you what’s going on not because they care about you, but so they can have...

Keep Reading

My Husband’s in Love with a Different Woman Now

In: Living, Marriage, Motherhood
Couple standing by Christmas decorations

He’s in love with a different woman now . . . I met my husband seven years ago. We got married and went on adventures. Went to some weddings and had a bunch of kids. Every Christmas party season, we would celebrate by going out to dinner . . . except this year that one dress didn’t fit. I had my husband try to zip it, and then my mom . . . there was no budging. I had been tiny, I had been heavy—sick and healthy. My weight had been a roller coaster always. But, this special dress had always...

Keep Reading

Sweet Commercial About A Dad and Daughter Reconnecting Over Taylor Swift Has Us Teary

In: Motherhood, News, Teen, Tween
father and daughter cuddled up on the couch watching football

It’s hard for any girl dad to imagine a time when his daughter will stop wanting to spend time with him. But seemingly overnight, she can go from a devoted daddy’s girl to a prickly, detached teen who is much more interested in what’s happening on her phone than hanging out with her old man. Suddenly it can feel like there is no common ground between them, and shared interests are few and far between. But this NFL season has been different for football-loving dads and their Swiftie daughters. A heartwarming commercial from Cetaphil with the tagline, “A New Sports...

Keep Reading

I Hope You Never Know What it’s Like to Forget Who You Are

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Woman staring at camera, black-and-white photo

I write best when I’m passionate. It’s always been my release. But lately, I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to find purpose in my words. It’s all been twisted and choppy, not a bit poetic or beautiful. These feelings are what the struggles of loss, parenting, work, and marriage push against. It’s finding yourself over and over again and trying to make sense of the senseless. It leaves you questioning most things and leaves you feeling broken with no idea how to put yourself or others back together. I hope you never know. I hope you never know what it’s...

Keep Reading