I’ve been reading more than ever lately. While I haven’t been spending money on fancy coffees or lunches out since March, I’ve more than eclipsed the amount I’ve saved on books. (Totally worth it, IMO.) If we’re supposed to look for silver linings during this difficult period in time, rediscovering my passion for reading has definitely been one of mine.

I’ll admit, however, that not all the books I’ve started I’ve actually read through to the end. For one reason or another, I’ve stopped mid-way through. Perhaps the characters or the plot grew a bit tiresome, maybe I just discovered a new release I was impatient to begin; whatever the reason, some of the stories I’d started — and enjoyed — are now paused indefinitely.

I feel like my own real life is a bit like those half-read books on my nightstand or Kindle right now. My story, which was trucking along nicely in February, has come to a halt, and I’m not sure when it will get to pick back up.

Living our own new adventure stories

A year ago my nest was newly empty and I was embarking on a new phase in my life, and while I definitely accepted and appreciated the good in these changes, I was nervous. Okay, fine. I was a wreck. I couldn’t imagine how my life — my story — would look going forward. The sadness at my girls being in completely different states was all-consuming, and I wondered how (if?) I’d ever be able to get used to this new chapter in life. But I did, very quickly, in fact.

I call this one, “Adapting.”

From the moment we returned from dropping our daughter off at college in Connecticut I hit the ground running. And by running I mean flying. With one daughter still interning at Disney World, no real schedule to uphold, and a season pass burning a hole in my Loungefly backpack, I made four trips to WDW from late September to early January. Throw in a few trips to visit the college girl in Connecticut, a visit with family in Arizona, and a tag-along with my husband on a business trip to Florida, and from late 2019 to early 2020 I racked up some serious frequent flyer miles. 

Quite surprisingly, this new chapter in my life that I’d been so anxious to begin was turning out to be an exciting and enjoyable one. I was finding both excitement and fulfillment from the new direction this site was taking and was working hard to put some new writing plans in action. My girls were both chasing dreams and figuring out life as independent adults, and while I certainly missed the parts of my family’s story that were over, I was starting to come to terms with the fact that everyone’s plotlines were moving along just as they should be. I was excited to see what was ahead for all of us.

And then in March, all of our stories turned into one of those infuriating “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. “Want to go back to 2013 when you all four lived under one roof? Turn to page 132. And then stay there indefinitely.”

We’ve been bookmarked

For over five months, we’ve all been stuck under the same roof and stuck in our stories. Besides feeling like they’ve been interrupted, it sometimes feels like they’ve flipped back a few chapters as well.

My husband and I have resumed the full-time parenting roles we’d so recently graduated from. I’m back in “mom mode,” trying to plan dinners everyone will eat, hyper-aware of my daughters’ daily moods, and nagging at everyone to PICK UP THEIR DAMN CRAP. While we adore our girls and love having our family back together, I’ll admit, my husband and I are missing the excitement of our new empty nest adventure, the anticipation of some fun travel plans we had, and the unexpected new groove we’d found as a couple.

Personally, I feel like I’ve lost my ambition. I seldom have an interest in putting words on paper anymore, and the effort it takes when I do is tremendous. I feel like I’m spinning wheels lately, writing-wise.

My Zoologist daughter is paused indefinitely in her previously forward-moving career path. (It’s a tough time to be an aspiring marine mammal trainer.) Not surprisingly, zoos and aquariums aren’t hiring right now, and it’s anyone’s guess as to when they will be once again. Back in her messy childhood bedroom, she’s missing out on living the life of a young adult (where no one complained about her messes).

Our college daughter, who’s majoring in musical theatre, is losing her sophomore year on campus: dancing and acting with others, taking voice lessons in person, and performing on stage in front of a live audience, not to mention all of the other fun, outrageous college experiences with friends that she deserves. While her wings may still have been a little bit damp when COVID hit, she had just begun to trust that they’d hold her up as she flew, and she was excited to keep flying.

And for all of us? We’re losing newfound independence, freedoms, and, especially for my husband and me, some privacy we’d grown to appreciate. Let’s just say nap time isn’t nearly as much fun now that the nest is once again full and leave it at that.

Rethinking our plot points

It’s easy to get fixated on what this indefinite pause is keeping us from, isn’t it? (And listen, I know my bookmarks are ridiculously minor compared to other people’s, that needs to go without saying … although I’m saying it.)

Recently, I started to rethink things (lord knows I have enough time on my hands for introspection.) Instead of wondering when our stories will pick back up, what if I started appreciating what we’re going through as being an integral part of them? Instead of biding time right now, bookmarks in place, wishing like hell I could flip forward a few chapters to get back to the action (actually, nevermind, after the past few months I don’t think I want to know what comes next), maybe I need to slow my roll and accept that this interruption is every bit as integral to my story.

Instead of treating it like a bookmark, maybe this weird, confusing time right now needs to be written in.

What date days look like now. Talk about an element of surprise.

Because here’s the thing: we can’t know that our own personal stories will even pick back up where they left off when this mess is over, so waiting for them to is a waste of time, something we now know the value of more than ever.

And maybe the direction things go will even surprise us. Just last week my older daughter got a full-time job in a veterinary clinic, working with cats and dogs instead of sea lions and dolphins, a path she’d never even considered before March. Will it change her story? Who knows? But it’s definitely an interesting plot twist, which I think we can all agree is something that all great stories should include.


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