I think one of the more painful things people wrestle with is the gap between expectations and reality. The stories we get told and the ones we uncover later. It can make you feel powerless, like there are huge missing pieces, lots of murky lies, a chasm in front of you. It seems during a time of quarantine these things sit with some people a little heavier. They can bring grief and anger and cynicism, which don’t seem like good things.

But disillusionment is actually the process of losing illusions. And the loss of illusions (so long as they aren’t replaced by new and different illusions) means you can see things in a more real way. There is nothing bad about that. In fact it is very good. It’s just a painful and often misunderstood process.

For a while we were told that college degrees would keep us out of the “bad” jobs, so we went and got them, and it turns out this story was not correct.

Our country has more educated poor people than it’s ever had.

For a while we were told that very scheduled lives of enrichment activities was how to be healthy and successful, so we added every productive weekend and after school activity we could handle, and then felt guilty for being tired and not adding more. But it turns out this story was not correct.

We needed some peace and quiet and unscheduled time to just be.

For a while we were told that anyone having children too young or to old or without being married or parenting after divorce had ruined their lives and badly damaged their kids lives. But it turns out this was not correct.

We needed to go it alone until we could find relationships that held our needs in a place of respect and consideration.

What all of those other things were turned out to be proxies for being wealthy and belonging to a culture of wealth and privilege and able to do the things wealthy privileged people are easily able to do.

Most of us in this pandemic don’t feel wealthy (although some of us do feel privileged), so the attempt at a wealthy lifestyle didn’t quite work. We didn’t get to feel relaxed and in charge. We didn’t feel like we got the security that the level of work we put in indicated we would. Our carefully honed schedules and accolades did not protect us, and in fact most had to be suddenly unceremoniously scrapped a little over a month ago.

It can leave you wondering what you did wrong, why you got left with little to nothing, and then you take a long hard look at the system and what was untrue about it, and feel angry.

It is then, and only then, in the disillusionment, that we can start to come up with new and real ideas and plans that are not reactionary, but belong to us. Realizing slowly that we weren’t left with nothing, but in fact we have and have had everything we need to build out a real dream of our own.

Right now so many people I care about are in the beginning awkward phase of that process. I hope they make it through to the rest of it and that they know the disillusionment is a beginning.

I think I completed a lot of that process already, which is why this time at home is bringing up something different for me.

For me I feel rather well prepared for this in that I already know how to (mostly) keep my sanity when stuck at home, since I managed to do it for years. I also know that loneliness is a serious thing to be navigated through, not a darkness simply endured or pretended away.

I have another couple layers (don’t we all) of having been in the middle of trying to plan a major second surgery (for endometriosis on my diaphragm and perhaps in my thoracic cavity), and then finding out that because of all the work done in my first surgery that I am no longer dealing with endometriosis-induced infertility. So I will be 37 and expecting my first baby this summer.

Realizing I was having this baby was a whirlwind change to my reality, something that I’m happy about and finally felt ready for in life, but being six months pregnant, furloughed from my job, and quarantined at home during a pandemic, is sure not how I imagined 2020 going down.

I also didn’t expect to see fundamentalist homeschoolers (in this case, the Dorr brothers and their father) leading some crazy liberty-or-death-for-the-economy re-open/anti-quarantine protests around the country, or to watch literally everyone in the whole nation suddenly attempting to homeschool and mostly being miserable at it, or to catch people I used to do homeschool reform advocacy work with and who are still “very online” now crafting tweet storms designed to go viral, this time about and with this virus.

But all of those things have happened. And I have realized that on some level these things have in fact all remained the same, true to form, just adapted to the circumstance. It is me that feels quite different. I have adapted to a different set of circumstances, far from my origins and planned skill set.

Not just because I’m going to have a baby, or because I finally got the diagnosis and a surgery I needed to feel a lot better.

I think it is because I finally found a situation where I feel fully requited love. I’m not seeking or striving for belonging or meaning anymore. I’m not fighting and thirsty in some desert of unmet need.

All my basic needs are met. Every single one of them.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still have things that are painful or hurt my feelings or frustrate me or make me wonder if I’m doing things right. Those still happen.

I do still have endometriosis on my diaphragm literally grabbing at my phrenic nerve and twisting my body in pain, the equivalent to enduring a prolonged right sided heart attack some of the time.

But I can feel and at least somewhat understand the source of my own pain when it happens. It doesn’t have to be incomprehensible or misattributed. I also don’t have to wonder who has my back and who my real friends are. At this point in my life, anyone who is still here is a real friend.

I am also with someone who I can ask to hold me when things hurt. And when I am feeling sad or hurt I can use that time to design beautiful things that transcend it, knowing that when I am feeling better I will have a buddy in the work to build them.

The other day it was some garden gates that we put in. I had a vision that slowly took what had been a boring neglected little side yard, overrun with daylilies (seen in this before photo) and turned it into something lovely, something that can become even lovelier.

I realize that the biggest difference between where I was and where I am is that you can get to a healthy space where none of what you are doing is about you or anything that has happened to you. I mean, sure, those can remain catalysts in your own heart, of course (that’s how you know it’s healthy) but it becomes more about transferring useful or beautiful things from your mind out into the world simply because it would be nice if they exist.

No matter whether a pandemic is happening or not, your health is good or not, and you have a family or not, you can get in the habit of making those kinds of transfers, those creations, and be an artist in your life.

I am grateful that I have learned more about how to become someone who builds my own dreams, and I hope that when my baby daughter is here, she can play in some of the things I’ve designed and that her father and I have built. I hope she feels able to grow up thinking that such things come naturally, easily, (because they can) and that it really is as simple as cutting out and painting some stuff, planting some flowers, and then keeping the space clear for them while they bloom.

I think of all the illusions I had to clear away in order to fill an empty space, and there sure have been a lot, but I look around me and see that the disillusionment, and the kind of results it has led to, has been worth it.