Photo by: Red Fern Photography
When my first son was a year old, we moved from our Brooklyn apartment to New Jersey. Life in New York City had been tough. It was exhausting and mentally demanding for my husband. It was also a lot more lonely than we anticipated. Making friends was difficult, and the cost of living was so high that we had a hard time getting out to do much.
But moving to a small town in New Jersey, while closer to the warehouse my husband managed, was even more difficult. Renting was still very expensive, so settling into a small apartment was our only option. We moved in mid-October and a cold gloomy Northeast winter settled quickly in. We had to sell one of our cars, so I was left without a car most days, home with a terrible sleeper, without any friends or anywhere to go.
I quickly sank into an awful depression and extreme bitterness.
I woke up angry, day after day, wallowing in my resentment and depression. And I had no idea how to get out. One afternoon, I sat on the tiny kitchen floor crying my heart out. I missed people. I missed a life outside of the gloomy walls. I explained all of my emotions and complaints to my little one-year-old. He was both my confidant and source of frustration, because of his inability to sleep without me touching him.
Most days, when my husband arrived home from work, he came home to a miserable wife and a fussy baby. I look back and am terribly ashamed of myself at that time. I’m sad for my husband, that he had to deal with stress at work and then an unhappy wife at home. I am sad for a little child who had a mother who shed many tears while holding him.
But here I am, 5 years later, finding myself in very different circumstances, and once again feeling the impact of isolation, unable to find a change of scenery or see anyone who doesn’t live under my roof.
Things are much brighter this time around. Instead of the start of winter, spring has begun. Instead of a tiny apartment, we have a beautiful backyard. Instead of no friends, I have a weekly Zoom meeting with my bible study group. Instead of a fussy one year old, I have a happy-go-lucky 6 year old and pretty easy 3 month old.
Despite all that, I have found myself awaking with similar feelings of anger and frustration. There were tears on the gloomiest of days last week—after a week of rain and being stuck inside. But yesterday, as I remembered my time in New Jersey, I realized: while we can’t control our circumstances, we can control how we handle them.
It’s okay to grieve for a time (because some of the grieving I did was probably brought on by seasonal and postpartum depression), but a lot of it could have been avoided. For instance, there was a lot to be grateful for at the time, but instead of purposefully seeking out small moments of joy, I focused only on the terrible. And I overwhelmed myself. When you spend all your time filling your thoughts with gloom, gloom is all you can think of.
And here I am now, frantically reading the news and lamenting all of the things around me that I don’t like, and I’m finding my days much more gloomy than they should be. Even if circumstances are different, a mindset can be a fixed thing.
But I’ve realized that if I want things to be different this time around, I need to be more purposeful with my gratitude.
What an opportunity for breaking my old, bad habits! (Maybe this second round of isolation is, in a way, a blessing in disguise?)
I have promised myself to start every single day by counting my blessings and finding something to be grateful for in all this chaos. Hopefully something as simple as acknowledging the goodness around me—like my two happy, healthy sons, my husband’s job, our home—can combat the anxiety and frustration.
Oddly enough, as tough as it was to feel isolated in New Jersey, I’ve realized that that time of difficulty brought us to where we are today. And, in a way, I’m grateful for it.
We never would have moved to Texas, where my husband’s family lives, if not for that desperate and lonely time. It took isolation for me to really appreciate the value of family and the importance of finding a strong friend community. It made me realize just how much a blessing moving here has been.
And sometimes, I wonder if that time of difficulty was the fire God used to shape us into people who value that community and family.
Now I find myself asking, what will this time of trial bring for us?