Dear Emuna

I know that I am very lucky compared to so many others during Covid-19. My husband and I are both still working which means that not only do we receive our regular income but our time is also being used productively. Our children are out of the house so we are not struggling with remote learning and the whole in-school, out-of-school yo-yo-ing. And yet I still find myself climbing the walls and going a little crazy, so to speak.

With all the good, I feel trapped – there is quite literally nowhere to go and nothing to do. This can lead to petty bickering with my husband – and worse. I know it’s not his fault but somehow I think he should be able to fix things. I need some advice to keep moving forward here. Please help.

Trapped

Dear Trapped,

Relax. You are describing a situation that many of us find ourselves in and that we are all negotiating to the best of our abilities, some days with more success than others.

I think that back in March (how long ago that now seems) when we thought it was going to be a few months of lock-down, we all lifted up and actually adjusted to our new normal. And I think most of us did a pretty good job. But then it didn’t end. It turned out not to be just a small blip but an ongoing challenge – to our sense of selves, our relationships, to how we live our lives.

And while your challenges may not be as great as some – and I think it’s good to take a moment to stop and appreciate that and say thank you God – they are nevertheless your challenges and they are very real.

In the first place, it is very tempting to take out our frustrations on the closest object, in this case your husband. He is the handiest and safest target. Like you, he is literally not going anywhere! But, as you obviously recognize, this is a destructive strategy. Fighting this deadly disease and its ramifications is enough of a struggle without adding marital struggles to the mix. Instead of seeing him as your enemy, you need to view him as your ally. You are in this battle together and you can discuss together how to make the most of it.

Even small things like a walk outside everyday (no matter the weather!) can change your perspective and give you both new life. Add to that, some Torah learning and you both deepen who you are and your connection with each other.

While it is, God forbid, possible that your marriage can be an unforeseen casualty of the coronavirus, it can also be an opportunity to create deeper closeness and understanding. You now have all the time with your husband that you always wanted (!); instead of kvetching about it, try to make the most of it. Appreciate this gift of time.

And it’s not just a gift for your marriage; it’s a gift for you individually as well. I am empathic to the cabin fever and I definitely feel some of it myself but I also know that this kind of time will never come again, time when my commitments are fewer, when I’m spending less time in the car, less time at appointments or errands, freeing up a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow. Take all that frustrated energy and channel it into this productive arena.

I remember what it was like when I was young and single and in seminary and all I had to do was learn and work on myself. While I clearly have a lot more responsibilities now than I had then, even in these unique Covid-driven circumstances, I can catch a glimpse of that younger self and those opportunities. Make yourself a list of things you’d like to learn and ways you’d like to grow. Invest in some books, some notebooks, some pens. Get your husband on board and see what you can learn together.

Hopefully this will be a time we can soon look back on. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could look back on it as a time of unique productivity in our spiritual lives, or focused learning and growth and connection with the Almighty? And a fun crafts project on the side wouldn’t hurt either…