I’ve watched life unravel in a lot of strange ways, but nothing quite compares to the moment we’re inhabiting right now.

Pieces of "normal" I didn’t quite think I’d miss — like an empty inbox or the emotional fortitude to fold laundry — have become obsessions.

Witnessing the knock-out power of a pandemic, piled high with the tensions of social unrest and a charged political climate, I’ve been on track and subsequently off-track with food, exercise, chores, therapy, and even showering regularly these past months. Decisions like “Do I clean up the remnants of lunch or do I log into my meeting on time?” are eating up mental real estate day in and day out.

During working hours, I toggle between Google classroom, toddler programming, and financial projections — sometimes in the span of minutes.

On my good days I wake up knowing sunshine. I smile as I rub my 10-year old's bed-headed hair as a gentle good morning. Those are the days I pull myself out of bed before my 14-year old slips off to school, mask in hand, to remind him how proud I am and wish him the best day possible. On those mornings, I sip warm ginger water and get work done before my three-year old stirs from the floor above.

I savor it, all of it. I savor the best me that’s showing up for her kids with patience and love. I move into the space of the morning with hope that a start that strong surely means ease will be my co-pilot for this workday.

And sometimes she lingers. Sometimes she grants me entire hours of control — however untrusting I may be about her lasting presence.

Other days, I’m on my own. Ricocheting off feelings of guilt and rage and sorrow instead as they stop by to visit unannounced. Ushering those feelings down to the pit of my belly, I do my best to carry on.

We own a children's book called A Visitor for Bear. In it, a reclusive bear embarks on his typical morning, ritualized with tea and quiet and solitude. His door wields a sign that reads “NO VISITORS ALLOWED” because (like so many of us) he likes it that way.

One fateful morning, as he lovingly places his tea cup and saucer just so, he hears a tap-tap-tap on his door. It’s a mouse: “small and grey and bright-eyed.”

Bear, deeply disturbed by the interruption, points to the sign and sends the mouse on his way.

But each time this naive creature gets back to the business of his breakfast, the mouse reappears — in his tea kettle, in his bread drawer, in a cupboard. And each time, more distraught than the last, he protests the mouse’s presence. Until, finally, weeping and pleading, Bear agrees to let the mouse stay for a single cup of tea.

I’ve read this story dozens of times. I’ve enjoyed the sweet smile of a toddler as I recite the animated dialogue of poor Bear. In the past few months, though, I’ve come to understand this story in a largely different context.

What was once a delightful game of hide-and-seek that ultimately ended in friendship now hits home with a deeper wisdom. This persistent little mouse calls forth a story of the Buddha.

In it, the Buddha (much like Bear) finds his peaceful moments disrupted by the demon Mara.

Mara, who loved to challenge the Buddha with unsavory feelings.

Mara has, it seems, been meddling in my days, as well.

Instead of pointing to a naively-lettered sign, though, the Buddha acknowledges Mara, going so far as to invite him in for tea.

I've come to understand that’s what we're being called to do in these unwelcome times. We're being called to bravely say “I see you” when confronted with the muck of this moment. We're being encouraged to show courage and accept that which we would prefer to deny. To be brave enough to face it, with open eyes and a wider-heart, because shutting the door will not make it all go away.

And so, when my best self looks a hell of a lot different than I’d like her to, I witness her for all her perceived imperfections. And breathe.

The stakes are high right now. We know that.

The data keeps pouring in — spikes in depression and anxiety, the loss of income, a floundering sense of control. Exhausted parents — namely women — leaving jobs en masse because the weight of balancing it ALL is just too much to sustain.

Yet I’m one of the privileged. A person who is allowed to wake up in a space that has all at once become a home, a school, and an office. I’m one of the lucky few who has the choice to stay in my house and "make it work" (whatever that means anymore). I'm one of the unicorns, surrounded by a team of women and mothers who understand the awesome burden that is 2020.

This shit is HARD, though.

And I’m feeling it.

I’m sensing waking hours slip through fingertips. Watching each day dissolve into an indecipherable blur of care-taking and work commitments. I’m feeling the rage and sorrow cracking that door open at the most inconvenient times.

I see you, Mara. Won't you come in for tea?

Guest post by Sara Crolick, studio BE COO

Feature photo by Eva/Adobe Stock

Sara Crolick is a publication and management specialist who has spent nearly a decade working with companies and individuals to revamp existing content, create new content, and streamline internal systems both operationally with the publication process and within team dynamics. Prior to joining studio BE, she served as Managing Editor at MeetMindful. Her writing has been featured in elephant journal, Thought Catalog, and Huffington Post. She now serves as COO at studio BE.