Isolation Diary II: When Adulting Is Hard

Do you ever wish sometimes that you could step back from being an adult? On those days when adulting is particularly hard? Just for a while you could stop trying to be responsible and patient and sensible. You could hand over all decision-making to someone else. They would be perfectly trustworthy, look at your problems, and tell you exactly what to do. Just for a day or two it wouldn’t matter if your behaviour is a bit childish, your tears overly dramatic, and your fears groundless. It would be someone else’s job to be the adult. They’d give you a hug, solve your problems, and you’d happily go on your way.

That’s how I’ve been feeling this week. A bit down, and more than a bit lonely. Longing for some older and wiser person to ask me what’s wrong and then make everything all better.

Morning sun glinting off the Rideau River, near Manotick, Ontario.
Morning sun on the river.

Even in our splendid isolation on the river, I’ve been feeling melancholy. When the early morning sun glints off the water, and Hubby and I sip our lattés in the sun-room, watching a few ducks paddle by, trying to determine if they are merganzers or the more common mallards. Or on those dark days which I normally love, when the rain batters the windows, and I turn on the gas fire in the sun-room and curl up with a book and a cup of tea, cosy and safe and warm. Or even when I’m walking in the sunshine listening to an audio mystery read by a wonderful narrator, with a plot the ending of which will make me sigh and smile. Even then.

There’s nothing to be done about this. Not really. I’m well over the age when I can run to Mum for hugs and a band-aid. Or call my stepfather to come and fix whatever needs fixing.

The other day was the anniversary of my stepfather’s death. He’s been gone for more than a decade, but I still miss the sound of his slow, gravelly voice on the other end of the phone. As I said to Hubby last night, Lloyd excelled at adulting. He was always willing to be the adult in the room. Always.

When he was twelve or so he looked after his invalid grandmother because his mother was wrung out caring for his two younger brothers who both had muscular dystrophy. When he was twenty, like most young men his age, he went to war. He came home from the war and looked after his parents. Eventually moving his family into the old farmhouse after his father died. Three years after his wife died, he married my mum, and then he looked after us.

When I was a teenager, neighbours were always calling for Lloyd to come help with one thing or another. I remember clearly the day an elderly women who lived on a farm a few miles away phoned. Her husband had gone out to cut wood that morning and hadn’t returned. She was worried. So Lloyd drove down, and walked across the fields of their farm, to the small woodlot, to find her husband dead. Killed by a falling tree. And one day, when I had left home, my mum called to tell me about the death of the son of family friends. The young man had shot himself, and they called Lloyd to come. I cannot even imagine how difficult these requests were for him. But he always stepped up. Always.

My niece posted something on Facebook on the anniversary of Lloyd’s death, how she misses him every day. For even though he was a step-grandfather, and not a blood relative, he’ll always be Grampy to her. One of my fondest memories of her as a little girl is how she used to love to brush her grandfather’s hair. I remember one day as he sat in his chair at the kitchen table, patiently trying to drink his cup of tea, she stood behind him, brushing away. I think she must have been four or five. And as she brushed the few hairs he had on top, she said, “You know Grampy, there’s not much hair up here. But it’s growing real good on the sides.” That memory always makes me smile.

Sunny day on a back road near Manotick, Ontario.
Beautiful walk in the sunshine.

But this post is not about grief. Or about missing someone I love. I still have my mum to call, and for that I’m very grateful. It’s just that I’ve been feeling a bit melancholy for the past few days. And I am trying to figure out why. Or what can be done. If anything.

I tried to explain to Hubby yesterday morning how I’m feeling, but although he tries to understand, he really doesn’t get it. In fact as I tried to explain, I began to feel silly. I miss my friends… makes me sound as if I’m fourteen again. It made me remember the difficult days when we first moved to the farm, and I had left all my friends behind in Marysville. I came home from my new school in tears a lot that fall. “Nobody likes me,” I’d wail to Mum.

Understanding my emotional reaction to this social isolation thing has been a struggle for Hubby. He’s quite content because he’s not someone who needs a lot of social interaction. In fact, in recent years his chattiness with strangers when we travel has surprised me. Normally, he’s happy with my company, his garden, and his woodpile. As I write this, I can hear the chainsaw in the backyard as he cuts wood for next year’s fires. Yesterday, he tried suggesting things I might do. But as I told him, I’m not bored. I can come up with all kinds of things to do. But for the moment they all seem… well… not productive enough. Not necessary. Too … well… childish.

In many ways, I think I miss the days when I was working. I miss all the casual social interaction. The morning chatting and laughter before classes started. The purposeful discussion about course planning and student evaluation. Even the moaning and venting. As a department head, people always came to me for help with their problems. I used to joke that my name ended with a question mark… “Sue?” …followed by… “Do we have any…? Can you tell me…? What should I do when…?” And I kind of miss that.

Maybe what I’m feeling is not that adulting is hard. But that I miss being the adult in the room, helping to solve someone else’s problems.

I do hope you’re not getting exasperated with my musings. With these wobbly weekend, “poor me, I’m lonely” posts. I’m not looking for sympathy. I have too many things to be thankful for: safety, security, good health. And at least one person to talk to. Ha. It’s just that this blog has always been an outlet for me. Somewhere to write my thoughts. I’m not looking for solutions. Really, I’m not. Because unless someone can magic the world back to some sort of normal, there is no solution for me. Just patience.

I’m trying to be patient. I know that in a few days, I’ll be back writing posts about earth-shaking things like white tee-shirts. 🙂

Now it’s your turn, my friends.

Have you had days during this isolation thing when you’ve been sick to death of being an adult about everything?

Oh… and if you’re someone who used to say my name with a question mark at the end… and you need an extra adult in the room… call me, eh?


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56 thoughts on “Isolation Diary II: When Adulting Is Hard”

  1. In French, this is called ras le bol. Fed up. What was a change of pace/universal necessity/once-in-a-century-crisis is grinding us down mentally and emotionally after weeks of having done our best, fought the good fight, made sacrifices for the greater good.
    I am the adult in my household, and since my parents died several years ago I can’t even go crying long-distance to them (as they aged, it became a strange combo of them adulting me and me adulting them). My business has evaporated, my husband is sick (cancer not covid), my kid is in adolescent angst, and we are all stuck under the same roof. I would like to relax, to not have to solve the latest problem. To an extent, the French government is doing that, and I am SO grateful. Sometimes I just want to have a good cry and to be held and rocked and told things will be OK, like my mom used to do.
    Before the pandemic, I had been looking for jobs. My industry has been falling apart for years and I’d hoped to hang on until retirement, but retirement keeps looking farther away. But most of all, I want a job for the social and intellectual benefits. Now that’s all on hold. We’re in a collective coma, unable to move.

    1. What a lot you have on your plate. I can imagine that you’d like to hand over control to someone else…if only for a brief respite. Hang in there. But I guess hanging in there, moving forward, is all you can do, really.

  2. Lloyd was a wonderful man indeed- I enjoy when you write about your childhood memories (….and books…and t- shirts as well)….
    I’m usually an adult in the room….and when I fall……metaphorically or for real…all need some time to recuperate. It would be so nice to have someone who would say: “Go out and don’t be afraid” or even “Stay at home for a month more”….. or something else ….and not having to make decisions myself.
    Or maybe not 🙂
    If there were no clouds,how would we know how beautiful the sunshine is?
    P. S. And,btw…..It is sunny on my balcony (the answer to your question from previous blog post :-))

    1. “If there were no clouds,how would we know how beautiful the sunshine is?”
      Thank you Dottoressa, for these line. Very comforting in this times.

      Hi to Sue! Hi dear other readers… we all go through the same difficult period. Stay strong! Together we will overcome…
      Best wishes Susa

    2. I agree, Dottoressa. How I am going to revel that first order of restaurant fish and chips. Ha. So pleased that your “beach” remains in the sun. 🙂

  3. Hey Sue
    I miss the chatting before classes, the laughs with colleagues as well especially during this isolating time. Some days are better than others especially when I exercise. Yesterday I had a 25 minute and a 15 minute walk. Did noon hour aerobic exercise for a half hour, stretched and did core strengthening for an hour and unwinded with yin yoga in the evening. I’m feeling so sore today especially with my hip issue. So taking it easier and feeling a little more melancholy today. It will pass. I’m sure. Take care Sue and remember we are safe at home!

    1. Exercise is a great panacea isn’t it? I always feel that I have at least accomplished that each day, if nothing else. Hang in there, my friend.

  4. This really is a loving post Sue. Every word resonates with me. I’ve said those words myself and have longed for my Mom. These are times where I’ve had to dig deep to carry on with a somewhat positive attitude!
    Robin xo

    1. Thanks so much, Robin. Sometimes positive attitudes are more difficult to dredge up. Other days they come bubbling to the surface effortlessly.

  5. I have just retired and I miss the friendly banter of my workmates. After 17 years as a teacher and then 10 years doing research in a technical school I feel like I needed a break from working. I just didn’t expect this break to include being under virtual house arrest for over a month. I exercise, read, sew and paint which all keeps me busy but like you there are some days where I am wearing my gloomy pants and everything seems just a bit off kilter. Hopefully things will ease soon and life can return to normal. Covid 19 will just be something we all have in common and we can all say “Remember back when we were all in social isolation…”

  6. What a helpful post, Sue. Your words are comforting since I’m having a very difficult time staying positive and grateful. Some days I’m grateful that my parents are not alive and others I wish that I could talk to them about this mess. Exercise helps me and so does spending time working in my yard since my dad really enjoyed being outdoors. Thanks for sharing your feelings since they are often my own- Mary Lou

  7. thank you for sharing your very real emotions with us. i have recently given up work (pre virus) and although i have lots to do i miss being necessary and making things happen. everything i am doing seems a little bit pointless. i will give myself a pep talk and get on with it, as i am sure you will, but we are all entitled in the current situation to have a wobble now and then

  8. Sue, your memories of “adulting” by others is really touching. Today, I decided I really needed to talk to someone to whom I am not related and phoned a woman ten years my senior. She was so excited about a position that her son-in-law had just achieved. That she could be so happy for him made me think of what you mention, safety, security and good health. Not being able to go where I want and when seems trivial in face of what so many others are enduring. I need to develop some “adulting” too. I want to be able to share in the pleasure of that my friend did with what I actually have. Your blog brought that home to me. Tomorrow, I am going to clean the garden furniture for this last day of sunshine this week and sit out with a book and some tea.

    1. Ah, thanks, Susan. I keep thinking of a book I read a few years ago, in which the character said that around age thirty he realized with surprise that he was “one of the grown-ups.” I always loved that.

  9. Oh , I know . It didn’t seem so bad at first . We love our home & it’s not like we are penned up in a small area , we are well & have everything we need , including lots to occupy us – but it’s getting harder . There seems to be so little definition to the days & they are slithering by . My lovely niece , an A & E sister , has just recovered from Covid & is back at work even though exhausted & ill prepared by our (useless) government – I better not go there . I don’t drink spirits . I really enjoy a G & T but learnt long ago that I mustn’t drink it as it has the opposite effect of rose tinted glasses . However these days I often feel as if I’ve had one or two – not good .
    I wish I’d known your Lloyd he sounds such a special man . It was so moving reading about him & his stoicism . No wonder you all miss him .
    Max just called me to the back door to see a big fat hedgehog gazing into the kitchen . That’s cheered me up a bit . Plus your blog helps – your honesty . The comments too make me realise I’m not alone . Thanks everybody .

    1. The whole thing felt cosy at first. Then restrictive. Some days it feels cosy again. Just not last week. Hope your niece continues to recover. That fat hedgehog would have cheered me up too. I’ve never seen a hedgehog except in a pet store.

  10. I don’t mind being the adult, generally. I think not being able to be one is what gets my goat at present, although I understand totally the need to follow the rules and do the right thing, putting my wishes on the side. So I do that each day and watch as they slip by. If I feel as you do, I take myself away and either go for a run or hole up in the spare room with a cup of tea and the radio. Occasionally I have a good old fulminate, with the entire trunk of swears open and spilling out, against people who won’t behave sensibly or use their brains. Then it is back to looking out of the window again. The weather has changed here, much cooler and wetter, with air quality the like of which I have never experienced before. Extraordinary.

    1. I’ve been longing to do some DIY…. watching too many YouTube videos, I guess. But I don’t have any old furniture that needs sprucing up. I’ve heard that in many places the air quality has changed. We haven’t noticed any difference. But it must be lovely to see (and breath) in some places.

  11. You wrote: “For even though he was a step-grandfather, and not a blood relative, he’ll always be Grampy to her.”
    My father’s parents divorced when when my dad was 3, and both of them went on to have very (50+ years) long and happy 2nd marriages. Let’s just say that Grandma and Grandpa got married very young and via a shotgun. 🙂
    So from the moment I was born, I had 3 sets of grandparents. It was sometime in middle childhood when I learned that it wasn’t so for all children, and that I was a particularly lucky duck. There’s no “even though” involved – Grandma Elva and Grandpa Bill are just as much my grandparents as their (blood-related) spouses.
    Your stories about Lloyd have always touched me – my husband lost his father at a young age and was fortunate to have a beloved 2nd father whom he adored, and I got to love as well when I came into that family. I know not everyone is as fortunate as we have been on that score, and I try not to forget that.

  12. And Mother Nature could not be any more fickle this spring. I love a good rainy day as well, but…this unending string of grey, cool, gloomy days just makes it difficult not to feel glum. It helps so much to read your honest, reflective posts and know that I am not alone.

    1. I agree, Cosette. A lovely dark rainy day every so often is wonderful. But we seem to be getting more than our share. But maybe that’s just my mood.

  13. Thank you for you, your words and thoughts and all the words and thoughts of your readers…I am not alone in my isolation. Be well everyone, think good thoughts, pray and Together we will get through this. Can’t wait for the days when we can say…remember when…

  14. Sue, did you just finish listening to Songbird by Peter Grainger? That is how I felt when it ended. Thank you for the recommendation. I’ve read all the books now. What next?.

    I am moping around my house with no energy—none of my projects are completed. I am not exercising. I haven’t worn makeup for weeks. I wear the same few outfits over and over. I miss meeting my girlfriends for lunch and browsing. I am losing the ability to make conversation.

    1. Have you read the two books in Grainger’s other series, Deborah? He wrote them in between his DC Smith books. Hubby just finished them and liked them. There are only the two books… Lane: A Case for Willows and Lane, and One -Way Tickets: A Case for Willows and Lane. They are really short, but we enjoyed them both.

      1. Deborah Svenson

        Yes, I did read those two books and also enjoyed them. The relationship between the two women was entertaining. I hope he writes more.
        Simon Brett wrote a series, The Fethering Mysteries, with two unlikely women who become partners in detection. Brett also wrote the Charles Paris mystery series which are the absolute best audio books—read by Bill Nighy.
        You have recommended many wonderful books by Canadian and British authors. My mother’s family were from Lanark, Ontario and my parents met in Montreal during
        WWII. I was raised in Seattle, but have tried to keep in touch with my Canadian roots.
        Best wishes from Texas.

        1. Thanks, Deborah. I’m off to find a Simon Brett book. 🙂
          P.S. We know Lanark well. I used to drive to the Kitten Mill (maker of the famous, at least in Canada, Kitten sweaters) to buy yarn for knitting.

  15. Exactly. It is getting harder and harder to isolate. You and I (and probably most people who follow your posts) are the fortunate ones. But it certainly does not feel fortunate. Human interaction is vitally important, and not just on Zoom.

  16. Beautiful, Sue, especially your stories about Lloyd.
    I find that my ability to maintain my equilibrium rises and falls like the tides. Longing for companionship, but very comfortable in the safety that staying home gives me. Walking and baking really help me stay afloat.

  17. Your feelings simply are. No need to worry about justifying them. I’ve been the adult in the room since I was a teenager and my father had a massive heart attack. Always the one who others depended upon. The one pressured to ‘fix’ things. I longed for just a moment in time when I didn’t have to be that person. It just didn’t happen. So I understand your feelings–you just want someone to make things better, even when you intellectually know it won’t happen–not right now. In general, the pressure has lessened on me as my my eighth decade is just months away. But the memory of wanting someone–anyone–to take responsibilities away from me for just one moment in time still haunts me. It’s a powerful emotion.

    1. Young people solving problems for adults is a lonely place isn’t it? I remember a student who’s father was dead and whose mother was suffering from mental illness. She used to come early before class or stay late just to talk. Even if it was only about how to file her university application or what to wear to a job interview. She just needed a caring adult’s opinion.

  18. It is reassuring to know that I am not alone in these feelings. In some ways we never grow up and always miss that loving care that our “adults” gave us – but we gave it as well. We’ve maybe grown into adulthood a bit through this experience of isolation, loneliness and uncertainty. Thanks for blogging friend.

    1. We have grown through this experience. You are absolutely right. I am finding myself being much more patient, especially with little things which used to annoy me.

  19. Your post really resonates today. This week is a low point for me so far, unusual for my bright and cheerful self. It’s slowly dawning on me that things WON’T go back to normal any time soon, and probably not forever. When we emerge from our cocoons, the landscape will be far different, and I don’t think I’ll like it much. On a smaller scale, I incinerated a perfectly good chicken on the BBQ grill last night, as well as the vegetables in the oven while we waited for it to be done. We went to bed grumpy, picking charcoal out of our teeth.
    But how lucky to have had Lloyd in your life! Step-parents get a bad rap, but many of them deserve it (I was a step-mother, and while not malicious, I was inept). I’m glad yours was the opposite. My mother was our grown-up, but she died suddenly when I was 37 and living overseas. I’ve never found as secure a mooring since.
    It’s very green here, but chilly and blowin a hoolie. Thunderstorms coming this afternoon. If I lose internet, I’m sunk! Anyway, thanks for a post we can certainly relate to.

    1. Some days I long for everything to reopen, and on others I want to shout… not yet it’s too soon. Wishing you uninterrupted internet and good barbeques. 🙂
      P.S. “Blowin a hoolie,” I am going to remember that one. Ha. Thanks, Mary Katherine.

  20. I am the adult in the room. Widowed at 34, cared for both aging parents, a mentally ill sibling until his suicide. It always shocks those in my life when I voice the feelings you expressed so beautifully. How lovely that you acknowledge that we “Lloyds” of the world likely experience them too. Maybe when no one else is looking.

    1. Thank you for that, Anita. You certainly have been called upon to be the adult in the room. Just know that we all appreciate the Lloyds of this world… including you. 🙂

  21. Today has been good. If this isolation has to happen I’m glad it is during early spring. I find it wonderful to be outside working in the yard and taking the dog for nice walks. I know if this was happening in the dead of winter I would be struggling to maintain my sanity. I do miss my volunteer work and the great interactions that I think we all miss so much. I feel so fortunate that I have my health and that I have a wonderful family, even though we cannot be together right now. Visiting at a distance is just not the same.
    Your post today made me think of my father. He was always there for me and our visits after I was married with my own family we’re always memorable. He had such a positive outlook and always reaped praise on me and my family. I miss his presence and the warmness he exuded. Fathers and stepfathers can have a huge influence on our lives. I think you and I are lucky in that respect. Take care. There are better days ahead.

    1. Fathers and stepfathers can have such a huge influence on our lives. Even though mine only came into my life when I was fourteen… he had a major impact on the person I am today.

  22. A lovely post. Thank you.
    I wonder if you can access BBC iPlayer or Hulu where you are? I’ve just finished watching (binge watching in fact it’s 12 x 1/2 episodes!) an adaptation of Sally Rooney’s book “Normal People” on iPlayer. I thought it was wonderfully moving; I was in tears for much of it. The casting couldn’t be better. I highly recommend it if you are able to access it.

  23. Thank you, it is nice to know that I am not alone. I am an Elementary school librarian and I miss my students, I miss my books and I miss being the”adult” and having those meaningful conversations with students and staff alike.

  24. Beautifully written Sue … thank you for being so honest, about how you’re feeling. It all totally resonates with me. I honestly thought I would cope with “lockdown” relatively easily, apart from the obvious, of missing family and friends. Finally, the time I’d often dreamed about … be careful what you wish for! 😂 Time at home to really relax, read, reorganise … and truly appreciate life … to be in the moment and not constantly looking forward, planning etc My ability to turn things around and see the good in a situation seems to be deserting me … or at least dwindling. I think, simply, I’m struggling without my usual social contact! I need people! 😊 Plus, I don’t want to look back on this time and feel that I “wasted” it. I may be alone here, but I feel as though the days race by, a large portion of my time is spent planning meals and cooking! Time to research means more new recipes ..,. as we’re no longer eating out, it’s nice to look forward to some special meals.
    So yes, I’m feeling grumpy and wobbly too!
    It’s so comforting to read here and on other blogs that so many of us are experiencing the same feelings.
    When you write about your family ( especially your mum and step father ) and your childhood and teenage years the love just radiates from the page/screen. I’m not meaning to sound overly sentimental, but it really does. Your mum, and your sisters must love being transported back in time as they read your blog. How wonderful for you all that you had such a very special man in your life.
    Take care Sue … and thank you for continuing to write regularly at this time. It’s so good to hear from you. xxx

  25. Yes, absolutely. I’ve been feeling a bit down this week, too. It’s just feeling like too much, even though I have no real complaints – I’m not ill, we have a warm house, good food, and endless books and streaming service. But I’m a social person and I miss going out and about, seeing friends, attending meetings, visiting my hospice patients. It’s just all feeling like too much some days. And then I feel guilty for being petty and ungrateful when I have so much to be grateful for. But it doesn’t help some days.

    Today I had a long bath with my latest New Yorker and then hubby made me a nice waffle and sausage brunch. I feel a bit better.

  26. Late to this conversation, and can only add a “Yep. Absolutely.”…although it’s not so much that I feel I have to be the adult in the room — oldest of very large family, then mom of four, etc., I’ve always felt that. Now it’s more like …they don’t really need me to be and it’s not at all clear that what I do matters anymore. Oh, poor me. Etc. Like you, I can wobble through the patches, but as much as i can do all the pep talks, the brisk getting on with it, there’s something deeply revealing, existentially disturbing about the Limbo we find ourselves in right now…and some days, just keeping busy isn’t enough to keep that knowledge at bay. So the company of others willing to admit to the wobbles and the darkness is very welcome. Can’t hug but some virtual hand-holding is much appreciated.

    1. It’s a rather indefinable feeling isn’t it? But commiseration helps. Even as we admit that we’re all pretty lucky. Some of course more than others. Take care, my west coast friend. 🙂

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