I want to encourage him to go out. I need to ask him to stay home. There is no right way right now.

The current stress of competing opposites

When I take something on, I want to do a good job of it, so in the main roles of my life, I try hard:

  • a great mom
  • an awesome wife
  • a kick-ass therapist
  • a conscientious global citizen

I measure carefully how much I can get done. When I’m asked to speak at a conference or be on a committee, I check my obligations to clients and to my family before I commit.

I don’t want to set myself up for failure.

I want to know that I can a good job at what is important to me.

I am so not perfect. I fail; I mess up; I learn; and then I regroup.

Always trying to up my game. I’m working to align my behaviour with my values. Trying to figure out how to do well in my life–to do right by the people in my life–family, friends and strangers.

I’m guessing we have that in common, you and me.

Then COVID-19 came and took the ability to know I’m doing good away from me.

Every day, COVID-19 sets me up for failure.

You too, I’m guessing.

My parents are elderly. I like to have them for dinner or drop by their place occasionally. I certainly wanted to get together with them and my siblings and nieces and nephews at Thanksgiving. That’s what I do to be in right relationship with my parents.


To help stop the spread COVID-19, and to protect my parents, I haven’t seen them in person for weeks. It seems like tokenism to send them a fruit bouquet for Thanksgiving instead of visiting them. Dinner by ZOOM seems inadequate.

I can’t be a good daughter by seeing them–because, virus. I can’t be a good daughter by not seeing them–because, well, we are wired for connection.

Failure, no matter what. There is a contradiction that cannot be resolved.

I visit with Mary every Thursday morning at Starbucks. We started in 2005 and have never really stopped. (Well, we met for the first 5 years on Wednesdays, but still.)

Mary is over 70 now, and is careful because her husband has a cardiac history.

Over the summer, we could meet near Starbucks–after we got our lattes, we sat on a nearby bench outside. But now–cold weather.

For years, at the end of every Thursday morning, we end with a hug. I say something like, “Love ya, Mary!” and she says something like, “Have a good week, luvvie.”

To be a good friend is to end our visits with a hug. It’s important to me–not just for her, but for me too.

Now, to be a good friend is to visit by ZOOM on Thursday morning. I drink a homemade drink—giving a store less business. We haven’t hugged in months.

The contradictions/opposites that we live with: Our desire to care for each other by being close clashes with the mandate to distance.

I could use a hug from her. I’m guessing she might value mine too.

We have a Junior Tribe Member in high school. Remember high school when you were that age? Games with friends, movie nights at friend’s house, late night McDonald runs with friends, going to a movie with a friend. Just about every activity involved different groups of friends–small groups, large groups–all friends, all the time.

He’s launching towards adulthood. I want to support his burgeoning independence and his desire to develop a life apart from his family. Part of my job (and joy) as a (bonus) mom is to encourage and support his forays into independent life outside of the home.

It’s important to me to support his interests and dreams and passions. I want him to make his own choices that show he is growing up.

Except now, the right thing to do as a global citizen is to ask him to avoid getting together with friends. I let him know of my concern that he might not wear a mask and hang out with kids that aren’t in his school cohort.

I’m crimping his style, big time. And it breaks my heart–it’s wrong.

I want to encourage him to go out. I need to ask him to stay home. There is no right way right now.

I’m supposed to discourage get togethers outside his cohort and our little bubble–it’s the right thing to do to slow the spread. It’s the wrong thing to do to support this kid I care so much about.

My body constantly feels the tension of trying to live out opposites at the same time. It’s like being black and white at the same time (and a blend of gray does no one any good). It’s like turning left and right at the same time. Lying down and standing up simultaneously. It does not work because no matter my actions, I do wrong.:

  • distance from my parents and visit them
  • connect with Mary in ways that are familiar and routine in a stablizing way while keeping distance. I’m looking to resource my soul and am less able to do so.
  • encourage my Junior Tribe Member to become an adult and hover over him discouraging his efforts to enjoy his friendships in the way that feels natural
  • To be a good friend is to give a hug. To be a good friend is to stay 6 feet away. At the same time. Go figure.
  • and a dozen more ways every day.

This is your life too. A set of competing expectations that sets you up for “wrong” no matter which option you choose.

on the contradiction of distancing as social beings. The math doesn't work. It sets us up for failure and messes with our heads

My body aches at the contradiction. My head feels the tension. My spirit deflates at the lousy job I’m doing as a friend.

Our Junior Tribe Member struggles at home–he wants to be out. I see his spirit flag. Everything in me sees he needs some good competition; he needs to hit some volleyballs; he needs to burp and fart with buddies when no adults are around.

This young man needs to be out.

And yet.

And yet I discourage it. I can’t be a good (bonus) mom to him right now–I can’t give him what he needs, because we all need to hunker down and stop the spread.

It sucks for him. Big time.

But frankly, the contradiction sucks for me too.

I hate that being a good mom is to be a bad mom. A contradiction I have to live with.

You too?

Please, tell me, that this is you, too.

It won’t fix it, but it will make me feel less alone.

And that will help.

Sometimes, the internal feeling of opposition spreads into external experiences of it between friends and family:


  • Mary Reimer

    While I miss that Thursday hug, I am so grateful for your face appearing in my room each week. I love that we can be in pj’s or bed and most of all that we can still laugh or cry. And we remind each other that it won’t always be like this.

    • Carolyn Klassen

      Thanx, Mary. You’re right. It won’t always be like this. But in the middle we forget. Sometimes, you remind me. Sometimes, I will remind you. It won’t always be like this.

  • Hermine Olfert

    Wonderful that you have the courage to ‘open up’ to your readers letting us know how you feel about wanting to do the ‘right’ thing when it feels wrong. This is a time which none of us would have ever thought we might experience. Yet here we are with SO many challenges which are before each one us. It’s a blessing to know, that through your understanding and your own life experiences, you are able to encourage many others. May we all be able to encourage each other in ways currently possible, as we look forward to a time when “things won’t like this”. You’re thoughtfulness means a lot to us.
    Take care of Yourself– !!

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