WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

Pieces of Me August 8, 2021

Photo by Ismael Sanchez on Pexels.com

Something I’ve begun to learn fairly recently is that opening up, showing vulnerability, admitting my limitations, being authentically me….it helps. It helps to talk about the not-so-shiny feelings I struggle with. But it helps even more when friends, acquaintances, even strangers reach out to me in response to some of the topics I’ve shared about here and elsewhere on social media. Raw stuff. Stuff that I had previously swept under the rug and tried to ignore or deny. But the more I share, the more I realize that I’m not alone. My insecurities, my fears, my anxieties; they’re not unique to me.

About a week ago, I was scrolling Facebook and came across a post from a new podcaster. I’m not familiar with the creator or the podcast so this isn’t a plug, necessarily. But the post I saw resonated with me so I shared it. If you’ve got a minute (literally, one minute) and you’d like to check it out, it’s available here. But if you don’t, here’s a recap: The video shows a man speaking directly to the camera about his experience in therapy. He recounts telling his therapist that he feels he needs help to be great; he’s only good on his own. A good employee, a good father, a good husband, a good friend. His therapist says, “Employee is someone you are for your job. Husband is someone you are for your wife. Father is someone you are for your son. Friend is someone you are for your friends. Who are you for yourself? Who are you outside of those roles?” He then admits to the camera, “I’m not sure there’s much of a person at the end of all that.”

BAM! Mic drop. That one minute anecdote succinctly sums up what I’ve been trying to find the words to say for damn near four years now.

Within the past year, my husband and I concluded a conversation we’d mooted since our daughter was first born. The big “should we have another child?” conversation. We’ve opened the dialog periodically over the years, in good times when parenting feels like a breeze and in bad times when I’m certain we’re failing. The end result has always been a decision to table it for the future. I’ve found various excuses. “When she’s out of diapers. Once she’s out of daycare. When we’re in a bigger house. After I’m settled into a new career.” There’s always been a reason why the time wasn’t right. Until sometime mid-pandemic when I tearfully and honestly admitted to my husband, “I don’t want any more children. I’ve lost too much of myself in motherhood and can’t emotionally do it, starting over from scratch with a new baby.”

I felt like a terrible mom for having even thought it, let alone breathed life into it and actually said it. I felt that it implied my daughter has somehow taken something from me or that I don’t love her or appreciate the family my husband and I have created together. Let me be clear: Motherhood has been the most terrifying endeavor of my life but also my most rewarding. Watching her grow into the 8-year old she is today—from learning the basics like talking and walking to developing her own personality and opinions—I’m incredibly fortunate to have a front row seat for all of it. The prospect of ushering her into adolescence and eventually adulthood looms ahead of me, an insurmountable task. But I have faith that it’ll become slightly more tractable with time and experience.

But it’s true. I’ve lost a piece of myself when I became her mom. Just as I lost a piece of myself when I became his wife. And their friend. We—because I’m confident I’m not alone in the way I was brought up—are taught from a young age that you’re supposed to hop on this sort of life escalator as soon as possible. Finish school. Find a job. Nail down a spouse. Buy a house with a picket fence. Pop out 2.5 children. Work until you die. Anything outside of that isn’t normal. It isn’t right. You’re doing it wrong unless you do it this way. And I’ve bought into every last bit of it, happily cleaving off parts of Sierra and bestowing them upon others.

I’ve recognized for a while now that my identity is too wrapped up in others. That I’m long overdue to disentangle myself, to a degree, from the roles I fill for others. To reclaim some pieces of me, patch them back together and mod podge them into place if I have to. Part of me proffers that these weird existential ramblings going on in my brain are related to the pandemic; surely COVID has caused many of us to take a step back and examine what’s important in life and what we’d like to improve upon. Another part of me wonders if it’s my age; maybe all 30-somethings go through this, no matter what’s going on in the world at large.

Regardless of why I’m feeling the things I’m feeling, I’m feeling them. And I’ve taken some steps towards reclaiming myself. But I realized this weekend that my work is far from over. I was at a party at my cousin’s house, celebrating a couple of birthdays. “You two have met, right?” my cousin asked simultaneously of me and a woman across the campfire from me. We both replied at the same time, but gave different answers. Mine was, “I’m sure we have. I know I’ve seen her at parties here before.” Hers was, “No, I don’t think so.” After a brief explanation from my cousin, the woman remembered me. Turns out, she hadn’t recognized me because I’d walked into the party with two kids (my daughter and my nephew), neither of whom were seated with me at the time, and no partner; hubby wasn’t feeling well so he had opted to stay home. Without being flanked by my daughter and my husband, I was unrecognizable as an individual. Which proves my point.

So. Friends, acquaintances, even strangers, this is a topic I’d love to hear from you about. How have you maintained (or reclaimed) your individual identity while still fulfilling the roles you’ve taken on in life? I’m humbly asking for guidance.

 

The Lowlight July 26, 2021

Sunrise at Wildwood, NJ

Mondays can be tough. This Monday, though, is made tougher by the fact that it’s my first full day back home after a week at the beach. My brain is still in a vacation fog fueled by funnel cake, lack of sleep, and a harrowing drive home that spanned over 5 hours and included a GPS-guided detour off the highway and through New York City for reasons still unknown to me. But I digress.

While away, I did what we all do on vacation. I enjoyed my time with family and tried my best to capture a few images each day that represented the memories we’d made. I’m often bad at that. Remembering to take pictures, that is. I’m even worse at remembering to be IN some of the pictures, too, but that’s a story for another day. This time, I did okay at both. The end result was a nightly post to social media sharing the handful of images from that day. If we’re connected there, you probably saw my posts. Maybe even ‘liked’ or commented on a picture or two. The pictures show happiness. Family. Laughter. Relaxation. Fun. All the highlights of a memorable vacation.

But let’s drop the pretense for a minute here and level with each other. Vacation isn’t all just highlights, is it? There are the moments when no one can pick what they want for dinner or the kids are crying for no good reason. Maybe you’re sunburned. Chafed. Overtired. Perhaps the shoes you packed weren’t the best for walking, after all. Maybe the excursion you wanted was booked or you just ran out of time to do it all. Certainly, there are lowlights of vacation, too, but we never really talk about them. Until right now.

My favorite picture from vacation wasn’t taken by me. It was taken by my husband. Here it is:

Fireworks at the beach

My daughter and I were watching a fireworks display on the beach. It was the end of a long day of fun that included a morning bike ride for her and sleeping in for me. We’d gone on a speedboat dolphin tour with a group of family and friends, spent some time poolside, done some souvenir shopping on the boardwalk, and were about to head back to our hotel with a variety of fried sweets to share before bed. When I look at this picture, I take the overly critical stance that I always do. I see that my hair is messy and windblown. I see the flab at the back of my arm and my hunched posture. I wish I looked more motherly, maybe angled toward my daughter rather than away from her. Maybe with an arm around her. But you know what else I see here? Strength.

Since this isn’t social media and I don’t have to stick to just the highlights of my vacation, I’ll admit that had this picture been taken from the front, you’d see that I had a tear-stained face. Because when you’re like me and struggle with bouts of anxiety, you try hard to leave it at home but it finds its way into your suitcase every time. And mine followed me onto the boardwalk that night.

About 90 minutes before this picture was taken, I was browsing shops for trinkets to bring home to loved ones. The three of us—my husband, my daughter, and me—were happily walking together, chatting about what we hoped to buy. We were excited about the fireworks display that would be happening soon and were plotting what we’d grab for a sweet treat before heading back to our hotel for the night. As we shopped, the crowds thickened in proportion to my patience thinning. I grew uncomfortable. Cranky. Anxious. I told my husband that I was going to walk along the shore to have some quiet time and that I’d meet up with them for fireworks a little later. I encouraged him to continue on shopping with our girl and skipped down the wooden steps to the sand.

About 60 minutes before this picture was taken, I slipped off my flip flops and marched, barefoot, across the beach to the water. The sun was already down. It was a full moon, hovering large and pink on the horizon. I walked toward it until I felt the water at my toes. And then, I began walking along the shore, feet sinking slightly into the packed sand, waves lapping up the footprints in my wake. I breathed, deeply. I listened to the water. I watched in semi-darkness as birds alighted at the very edge of the water to drink before flying off. I cried.

About 45 minutes before this picture was taken, I paused my walk to face the ocean and the moon. I sat in silence for a few minutes and let the tears flow. I thought about life and love, childhood and aging, hopes and insecurities. I thought about my relationships. I thought about the work I’ve put into myself, my mental health, over the past year and a half. I talked to my mom, needing so badly to feel her spirit just then.

About 30 minutes before this picture was taken, I had made my way from the shore back to the boardwalk and found a bench overlooking the beach. I texted my husband to let him know where he could find me. I struggled with negative thoughts; I had let my anxiety win by pulling me away and ruining family time. I cried some more. I texted a couple of friends who I turn to in moments like these. I breathed and trained my eyes on that moon, trying to rein in my emotions. Trying to fight the urge to escape to the safety of my hotel room waiting just one block away.

About 15 minutes before this picture was taken, my husband and daughter hopped off the tram car beside me. He kissed the top of my head and whispered, “We’ll always have your back.” I didn’t try to hide my tears from my daughter, who stood between my knees and asked me why I was crying. Instead, I answered as honestly as I could. I told her I wasn’t sure. I asked her for a hug so she wrapped her arms around my neck and let me rock her. “You know that nervous feeling you sometimes get in your belly?” I asked, knowing that she understands anxiety. She nodded. “I’m feeling that. And it’s making me feel really sad for some reason. I’m just really glad you’re here.” She rubbed my back and held me and eventually sat down behind me.

Moments before this picture was taken, the fireworks display began. The fireworks display that I almost missed out on. She and I sat there, with Chris beside us, and oohed and ahhed as colors exploded in the air. I felt her back against mine. I heard the care and concern in her voice. I felt the safety in having my husband there.

I’m so thankful that my husband thought to snap a picture just then. Had he asked, I’d have declined. I’d have waved him off because I was crying and looked a hot mess. But he didn’t ask. He saw a moment he wanted to remember and he acted. I’d like to pause here to urge you: Take the picture. Even if you’re not looking or feeling your best. Take the picture, too, of your partner. Especially if your kids are with them. Even if it’s not social media worthy and no one ever sees the picture but you and them. Honest moments like these should be celebrated just as much as the posed, happy ones.

The greatest souvenir I could’ve ever taken home from my vacation? A reminder that it’s okay to not be okay.

The moon looked so much bigger and more vibrant in person

 

The Learning Curve: An Erratum July 16, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 4:58 pm
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Roughly eight years ago, I published a post called The Learning Curve. It was a list of 10 things I’d learned about parenting in my 28 day tenure as a mom. <insert eye roll here> To be fair, at one point in the post, I acknowledged that my future self would mock my naiveté. (This older and wiser version of me prefers that spelling—naiveté—to the spelling I used in 2013—naivety.) And before I go any further, I’d like to pause here to acknowledge the same; that the future, more-experienced-mom me is going to roll her eyes, too, and have much sager words to offer. For now, though, I’ll submit to you my current “top 10” list of stuff I’ve learned about parenting over the past eight years. Which honestly feels much longer, perhaps because I’m looking at it from the back end of a global pandemic.

Silly faces make EVERY picture better.
  1. You’re going to eat your words. – All of them. Every last “I’ll never let my kid…” and “I always… / I’d never…” you’ve ever even thought with your pre-parenting brain. Open wide because here comes the airplane. At some point, even if it’s just a one off, you’re going to let them… and you sometimes… / you might….
  2. You only think you’re the one in charge. – Sure, you’re the parent. You make the rules. But time and money are both controlled largely by the kid. That weekly date night that was non-negotiable before kids suddenly relies on finding a sitter. That weekend excursion with your girlfriends now has to be planned around dance competitions. That glass of wine you used to indulge in after work now has to wait because you’ve got to drive the kid to and from soccer practice.
  3. Your house is always going to be messy. – There are going to be toys. And books. And craft supplies. And sports equipment. And Legos and Barbie shoes and endless little bits of cut up pieces of paper and random pieces of board games you didn’t even know you owned. NONE of it will be where it belongs. It’s going to need to be picked up before you can clean. Unless you try to clean around it. Which, let me be clear: You will try. On the days that you do put things away and clean, it’ll be short-lived. So short-lived, in fact, that the desire to do it again will be tarnished by the disappointment in how long it lasts. The stretches of messiness will get longer and longer, spurts of clean becoming more and more rare, until eventually you just embrace the chaos.
  4. Get used to repeating yourself. – Kids have selective hearing. That’s a fact. Whether or not they hear you is determined mostly by whether or not there’s a screen on in their proximity and whether or not they want to hear what you’re saying. You’ve opened a fun size KitKat from your secret stash (also known as last year’s Halloween haul)? They’ll hear the crinkle of that wrapper from the neighbor’s house. But it’s time to brush teeth and get ready for bed? They might be seated next to you on the couch and still won’t hear you. And the things they do hear will eventually become things that they “forgot” or “didn’t know.” So you’ll have to tell them again and hope they hear you. Rinse and repeat for all of eternity.
  5. Screens aren’t really all that bad, in moderation. – No, I’m not advocating parking your kid in front of a screen all day, every day. I’m merely suggesting that they’ll survive a little screen time, even as a toddler. There’s lots to be learned from lots of children’s programming nowadays. The app store has tons of games that help with fine motor skills, vocabulary, logic…you name it. Without a screen, kids in 2020/2021 would have missed out on over a year’s worth of schooling. Technology is here to stay and we have a responsibility to our kids to teach them how to use it all properly.
  6. Making friends is going to get weird. – The friends you used to have pre-kids may still be there. But they’ll be off doing whatever their kid wants to do every weekends because they, too, only think they’re in charge. So you’ll have to consider making some new ones. The likely choice here will be the parents of the kids that your kid hangs out with. You may have nothing at all in common with them other than having kids who like to hang out. Or you may have tons in common and get along great…until your kids have a falling out or are no longer on the same team and suddenly your friendship suffers for it.
  7. You’re not doing it wrong. – You’re going to feel like you are. Often. But you’re not. When you need parenting advice, turn to those whose advice resonates with you. And find people who can remind you that you’re doing a good job even when you’re sure you’re not.
  8. Don’t expect appreciation but know it exists. – You know that scene in Frozen II where Olaf opines about “this will all make sense when I am older?” Of course you do, because you have kids. Well, I trust that the same is true with kids and appreciation. Right now, you may be stress eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and stewing over the fact that your kid not-so-kindly reminded you that you forgot to buy more tape at the store—seriously, where the eff does all the tape go?!?!—but didn’t so much as thank you for going to the PTO meeting, doing three loads of laundry, and schlepping them to their sports practice. (Okay, I’ll admit, that sounds oddly specific. I digress.) But someday, they’re going to look back their childhood and appreciate your involvement in the things you did. Not an empty tape dispenser.
  9. You’re going to miss this. – Whatever “this” is, it’s not going to be that way forever and when it’s not there, you’ll miss it. So when you’re dog-tired and feel like you have nothing left to give, take a breath and remind yourself of that.
  10. Motherhood is amazing. – This is the one hold-out from the 2013 post because it’s still true. I know because she and I laugh together in a way that neither of us laughs with anyone else. And we have secret kisses akin to secret handshakes; including not only the standards (regular kiss, butterfly kiss, “bunny” kiss, etc) but also some of our own creation like the slow-motion kiss and the whisper kiss. I know because when she’s hurt, it’s me she looks for. And at the end of a long day her rough behavior melts into a teary hug while we talk about what’s bothering her. I know because she drives me BONKERS but is also my favorite person in the universe.

To learn more about the inspiration for this post…

 

Surthrival and Socks March 8, 2021

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 4:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Day 27: Write about something that’s kicking ass right now.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Leon C. Megginson

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

One year ago, I was packing up a few necessities from my desk at work; performance reports, letterhead, a flash drive with some commonly used forms, log-in information for my remote connections, shipping supplies, vehicle titles for on-lot assets. I was attending the last PTO meeting held in person at my daughter’s school; the dozen or so of us huddled around the library table, trying to plan for the unknown of what “two weeks” of remote learning would look like for our school community. I was trying to source face masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper while also shopping for enough staple grocery items to get us through the quarantine. I was trying, and failing, at managing my anxieties over our “new normal” which felt like anything but.

So here we are. A full year later. I’ve learned lots of new words and concepts, thanks to the pandemic. Social distancing. Cohorts. Pods. Contract tracing. PPE. I thought I’d learned all the new vocabulary that COVID was going to teach me but then I saw the word “surthrive.” It’s one of those words that feels self-explanatory to me, calling to mind lots of vibrant, powerful images. Pinterest moms converting play rooms into color coded “distance learning” centers. Artists channeling their feelings—fear, grief, hope—into something beautiful. People finding new and inventive ways to socialize in a world where it’s not recommended, even frowned upon. But what about me? Have I surthrived? Well, if a house that’s more disorganized thane ever or laundry baskets that lean heavily toward pajamas are signs of surthrival then my answer is a resoundingly emphatic YES.

All kidding aside, our one year Coronaversary seems like a good time to reflect on the good that’s come out of this wild time. And maybe ‘good’ is a bit of a lofty description. Perhaps ‘goodish’ is better. Positive little silver linings to an otherwise dumpster fire of a year. Ways that the pandemic has forced change for the better. Here are some of the worthwhile lessons that I’ve learned in 2020/2021:

  • Family is everything. This includes my chosen “framily,” too. They’re the people I rely on to pull me out when my brain is playing tricks on me, telling me that it’s going to rain forever. The ones I can reach out to in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep because too many thoughts are racing through my mind. The ones I choose to share my Thanksgiving table with when the local government restricts gatherings to ten people or fewer. The ones I avoid getting together with, despite missing them like crazy, purposely to protect them. The people whose laughter and tears and sometimes stern words have carried me through one of the toughest yet most transformative years of my life. Being separated physically by my family has been difficult emotionally. But that emotional discomfort has really been eye opening. They’re my crew. And no matter what, near or far, we need each other.
  • Just go with the flow. I never set out to be a stay at home mom, yet here we are. A big part of my identity has always been wrapped up in work and, before that, school. Success, the value of me, was measured by grades or commissions. Now? A productive day is one where I’ve managed to keep the house from being ripped apart and successfully overseen my daughter’s remote learning without completely losing my shit. And lemme tell you, they’re not all productive days. There have been several times this year when her school had to close unexpectedly due to too many teachers quarantining to open the building. There was even a week that her daycare closed for the same reason. Pre-covid, those unexpected speedbumps would’ve derailed me. I’d feel flustered as I scramble to make arrangements for someone else to care for my daughter so I could still go to work. But this year has taught me that my professional life is just one facet of who I am. And it’s not even in the top ten of most important things about me because it’s changeable. And even when it changes, I’m still me. And the me I am today, knowing this now, is a more relaxed me. I’m truly embracing the concept that some things are just out of our control. And worrying about those things is futile.
  • Don’t take life too seriously. I read early in the “two week” shutdown, which has spanned the past year, that kids need some extra slack to help them through these uncertain times. The recommendation was to loosen up on rules. Maybe not pay so much attention to screen time limits, especially since their iPads are their classrooms. Be fun and spontaneous. Show them a bit of whimsy. Make home feel relaxed and magical. Somedays that means an impromptu dance party in the living room. Other days, it’s a family movie night complete with copious amounts of junk food. It’s laughing a little louder at jokes that aren’t really that funny and slowing down enough to really enjoy snuggle time before bed. But you know what else it is? Fun socks. A year ago, I exclusively wore black socks with dress pants and white socks with jeans. And that’s only when I’m not wearing flip flops, which, let’s be real, is what’s on my feet about nine months out of every year. But this past winter, I opened my sock drawer and pushed aside the bland, predictable choices opting instead for the fun ones. Toe socks. Grippy socks. Fuzzy socks. The more wild or comfy, the better. Last night’s were crocheted from blue yarn and had Snoopy wearing santa hats dangling from a bow at the ankles. Right now, they’re leopard print and soft as clouds. Gosh, if there’s one thing from this pandemic that “sticks” moving forward in my life, I hope it’s the socks.
  • Life is hectic even when there’s nothing to do. I remember being in college, long long ago. I remember taking 18 credits, holding down two on-campus jobs, and rushing off to an unpaid internship while also maintaining a long distance relationship with my (now) husband, forging friendships with new friends, and taking the three hour drive home as often as I could. And throughout those years, I remember thinking how easy life would be when I “only” had to work. Transitioning into adult life after college felt just as hectic, though. Work, home ownership, marriage, parenting…it all started to pile up. And I remember musing that things would be so much easier if I just had time to do X, Y, and Z. Then BAM. Covid closed down the world and suddenly there was nothing but time. Now my multitasking includes all the same household stuff it always has but it’s amplified by the fact that we. never. leave. home. There are meals and endless snacks to prepare, laundry and dishes that seem to never dwindle, plus letting the dog out and in and out and in a dozen times an hour. There are also the same parenting stuff to do, again, amplified by ALWAYS being home. There’s “home schooling” and advocating for my daughter, reminding her to do basic things that no one should need to be reminded to do, reminding her to clean up after herself, diffusing the meltdowns that pop up almost daily, and finding ways to keep her emotionally happy. There’s still school-related obligations, including PTO meetings (on Zoom) and helping to moderate the school’s Facebook page by answering the same dozen or so parent-posed questions, ad infinitum. And then there’s my dad to think about. Does he have groceries? Has the snow been shoveled from his walkway? Can I get him registered for his vaccine? (Spoiler alert: Nope. No available appointments for my 71 year old father with comorbidities yet the state keeps opening eligibility to more and more age brackets.) And finally, there’s checking in with other family and friends. Being a support person for my support people. So many hours and yet I’m still breathless at the end of the day, wondering where they all went.
  • Self care is mandatory. I didn’t mention myself in that to-do list, did I? But this past year has helped me see that taking care of my own mental health is vital to me being able to care for the ones I love. For me, that includes locking myself in my bedroom sometimes for an hour of quiet time. Reading more. Writing more. Binging more trashy reality TV. Discovering new music. Journaling. Hopping in the car to take a drive. Allowing myself space to cry if I need to. Learning something new. It also means trying to recognize and give myself credit for the good I bring to my family, our household, and cutting myself some slack on the days that I’m not my best. I’ve let too many years of my life slip by feeling guilty for ever putting myself first. That chapter is done. Simple as that.

LOTS has changed in the past year. And, all things considered, we’ve managed reasonably well. Vaccines are here. Transmission rates are down. Capacity limits and other restrictions are starting to loosen up. And optimism is poking through the holes, shining light onto a bright future of actual normalcy. It’s closer than ever before and I’m ready for it. I’m not the person I was at this time last year but you know what? I’m so thankful for that.

 

Drowning December 25, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:30 am
Tags: , , , ,

Day 25: Think of any word. Search it on google images. Write something inspired by the 11th image.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.co

Fifteen years ago, I was holding Momma’s hand for the last time. She’d been moved from the ICU to a “step-down” unit sometime between Christmas and New Year, giving me a sense of false hope. She was getting better then, right? Her head was propped on a tiny handmade pillow, a gift from hospital volunteers whose purpose it was to make families feel a little cheerier as they watched their loved one fade away before their eyes. My dad had left for work, that much I remember. I don’t recall if it was me or my sister sitting vigil at the time but whichever one of us was there had called the other. “I think you should come.” At some point, her best friend showed. And it was the three of us, huddled around her bedside. She was sleeping, I think. Or at least not lucid. I remember watching her breathing, holding my own breath for long pauses until she drew in her next. I remember panicking and calling for a nurse when I saw the flashes of blue in her face, across her lips. I remember medical staff rushing in as we stepped back to make room. I remember someone—a head nurse maybe—shout a reminder to her staff. “She has a DNR.” I remember watching all the monitors she was hooked up to, searching for proof that she was breathing. That her heart was still beating. I remember feeling helpless and lost. I remember someone, maybe me, calling my dad at work, telling him to hurry. I remember a panic attack and repeating over and over, “I need Chris.” I remember someone rubbing my back as I called him, begging him to come. No one had come out and said it, but it was understood. This was it.

I remember them pushing morphine through her IV and the way her eyelids fluttered as she opened her eyes to look around the room one last time. I remember holding her left hand between both of mine, crouched by her bed, murmuring to her, “It’s okay, Momma. We’re gonna be okay.” I remember holding it, still, after the staff had turned off the machines and told us to take all the time we need. I remember still holding it when my father appeared in the doorway, breathless. I remember the way his body crumpled when he realized he was too late, that she was gone. I remember feeling guilty that we’d been there and he hadn’t.

I don’t remember how long the five of us—me, my sister, our dad, Momma’s best friend, and my fiance—sat in her room after she was gone. She looked so peaceful that she could’ve just been sleeping, a thin white sheet covering her body. There were no more beeping monitors. No more labored breathing. No more blue skin. Just peace. I don’t remember what anyone said because, what can you say really? But eventually we found the strength to leave that room. To leave her. To try to learn how to go on living without her.

Every year on January 2, my sister and I still have dinner with Momma’s best friend to mark the day that the three of us clutched onto her as she left this world. But this year, the pandemic has made that annual dinner impossible. This past year has brought so many changes in routines, in traditions. But this one cuts the deepest yet, I think. This isn’t a shared experience that many people are missing all at once, like Thanksgiving dinner or the chance to have a birthday party. This is a very quiet, personal occasion that the pandemic is stripping from me. And I’m left angry. Sad. Alone.

I’m drowning. So much has changed or been canceled or taken away since March 2020 and it’s all felt overwhelming. I don’t recognize myself. I don’t recognize the world around me. Some days, I feel like the best thing to do would be to stop paddling, succumb to the waters. But it’s a new year. And vaccines are coming; several of my friends in the medical field have already received their first dose. For the first time in months, I feel a sense of hope. Hope that my second grader will be able to return to school five days per week. Hope that there might be concerts and plays to attend. Hope that a trip to the grocery store won’t cause anxiety forever. Hope that maybe we’ll be able to host a party again. So I’m going to stay home alone for dinner tonight, rather than spending it with the two ladies I really want to be spending it with. And tonight at bedtime, I’ll do what I do on the especially hard days—put some of Momma’s perfume on that tiny handmade pillow from her deathbed and cuddle it to sleep. I survived losing her. And I survived 2020. And I’m going to keep thrashing to keep my head afloat until I reach the shore.

See related: https://sks-whatevs.com/2012/11/14/a-moment-of-levity/

 

2020: The Year of Hard Lessons December 15, 2020

24: Write about a lesson you’ve learned the hard way.

Back in 2011, we here in Connecticut experienced Snowtober. If you’re not familiar, I’ll explain. It was Saturday, two days before Halloween, and the forecast was calling for accumulating snow. We all rolled our eyes and in true New Englander fashion insisted that “the first snowfall NEVER actually accumulates.” My husband and I did what most childless 20-somethings did that night. We put on Halloween costumes, loaded some friends into the backseat, and set out for the drive to our friend’s Halloween party. When the flakes began to fly, we kept partying, confident in our knowledge of how snow works. It’ll melt. The ground isn’t frozen enough for it to stick. It’ll blow over before it’s time to head home. A couple of hours into the party, though, the power went out. And a quick look out the window proved everyone wrong. It was sticking. It was accumulating. A lot. It was almost knee-high when we left the party. We cleared the windshield off in the black of midnight, the street lights reflecting off the surface of the snow that shouldn’t have been there. All the while, branches of the still leafy, snow-laden trees creaked and fell all around us. The roads weren’t plowed yet. Our little economy car slipped and slid the whole way but somehow, and I’m still not exactly sure how, we made it home safely.

The days that followed were hell. Most of the state was without power for about a week as crews cleaned up downed trees and repaired power lines region-wide. No power meant no heat for houses like ours, which relied on an electric furnace and wasn’t equipped with a generator. We gathered at friends’ houses who had gas heat. We leaned on our grill to cook food and heat water to keep the residents of our tropical aquarium alive. We joined so many others in town at the “warming station” set up at the middle school, where residents were encouraged to come warm up, charge devices, and take a hot shower in the locker rooms. We survived that awful week and to this day jokingly refer to the time as “our shelter days.” It was the worst week of my life and having lived through it, I insisted that I’d never wish it upon my worst enemy.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

And then 2020 comes strolling on up to the party and made me eat my words. I’m now a 30-something parent and let me tell you, a week without power in October sounds like a luxury vacation compared to the entirety of this year. We’ve had power throughout, which has been great; hot water, heat, a kitchen to prepare meals in. But we’ve had a global COVID-19 pandemic which brought with it masks and hand sanitizer that smells like grain alcohol and face shields and business closures and gathering restrictions and curfews and remote learning and social distancing and contactless deliveries and, for some reason, a toilet paper shortage. And did I mention that it’s been almost a year now? In March, it’ll be one. whole. year. A year of “the new normal” which I refuse to see as normal, by the way.

But with the year coming to a close, I, like many, like to take some time in December to reflect on what the year has taught me. What lessons have I learned from 2020?

  1. I don’t want to home school.
    Since she was in kindergarten, I half-wished that I could quit my job and stay home to educate my daughter. And 2020 brought me (almost) that opportunity; I was working from home for a good chunk of the year so that I could oversee her “distance learning” for school. What I learned, though, was that my bright, ahead-of-the-curve, super responsible student is a very different beast at home than she is in school for her teachers. She phoned in the last 1/3 of first grade and, so far, the first 1/3 of second grade. She puts in the minimum effort required for the assignment and after months of closely monitoring that all assignments are completed and turned in, I’m exhausted from the arguing and fighting and bartering it takes to get the work done.
  2. Time apart is just as important as time together with the ones I love.
    Specifically, I’m talking about the ones I live with. At first, I loved all of us being home together. Safe. Healthy. Insulated from the world. But pretty quickly, it all felt a bit suffocating. We’re three people plus a large dog who thinks he’s a fourth human, currently curled up next to me on the couch with a blanket swaddled around him. All living together in a tiny 1100 square foot house. There are very few places to go and none of them feel especially safe, to me at least. So we stay home, mostly. And staying home means toys and crafts are everywhere, always. The neatening up and cleaning is never done. Laundry and dishes? Flows that cannot be stemmed. I love my family. Let me be clear about that before I say this: Some days, I just need them to go away. Or I need me to go away. But…there’s just no. where. to. go.
  3. Physical touch is important.
    I’ve never considered myself much of a touchy-feely person. I don’t like coming in contact with strangers (like bumping someone’s shoulder in the store) or even acquaintances (like shaking hands at a business conference). When saying goodbye to friends and family, I’m often unsure if I should hug them or just wave and it usually results in me feeling awkward as I leave gatherings. But adhering to the stay-six-feet-away-from-other-humans “social distancing” protocols has been rough. I hug my daughter and my husband every day. Beyond that, I’ve hugged one other person (twice! I counted!) since March. And bawled my eyes out both times, elated to feel affection from someone outside of my household. When social distancing is a buzzword of the past, I’m hugging EVERYONE. And not just regular hugs. They’re going to be super long, awkwardly lingering hugs. Maybe with a leg thrown up on your hip if conditions warrant. If you’re a family member, friend, or acquaintance of mine, consider yourself warned.
  4. Connection in general is important.
    Game nights with friends used to be a group of us huddled around someone’s dining room table sharing onion dip, cocktails, and laughs. Now, they’re on zoom or otherwise online. Family parties, though not very frequent in the best of times, are non-existent currently. My involvement at my daughter’s school is next to nil, despite being treasurer of the PTO; only students and staff are allowed into the building and there are no extra-curricular events allowed. Parents are discouraged from waiting in the lobby at my daughter’s dance studio or on the soccer sidelines for practice so connecting with other parents is harder than ever. It’s easy to feel like an island, like I’m weathering this storm alone. I’ve done my best, and encouraged my daughter to do the same, by connecting virtually whenever possible. And though I lean heavily toward introvert, I’m looking forward to getting back to connecting in-person when we can.
  5. Loyalty should not be squandered.
    Fifteen years ago, I started working for my boss. I took the job “temporarily,” right out of college, “until I find something permanent.” But I ended up staying. It was a collection of related small businesses owned by the same man, whom I looked to like a father figure. For fifteen years, I looked to him as a mentor and appreciated being heard, “more than just a number” as I imagined I’d be a at a big corporation. It made it easy to overlook the unshiny parts of my job and of the company I worked for. I was unhappy. I wanted to jump ship. But I always talked myself out of it. I was comfortable. I felt a sense of duty and loyalty. And then, fifteen years in and without any forewarning or conversation since, my boss sold the company. The job that I’ve reluctantly kept for FIFTEEN YEARS is suddenly just not there anymore. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, unless I can find a way to pay bills with writing. But when I do start a new job, I’m going to go in with a clearer understanding that loyalty to a company that isn’t loyal to me is a complete waste of my energy.
  6. Change is manageable but instability is not.
    So many people are quick to assert that they “don’t like change.” Me? Bring it on. There’s something exciting about newness, freshness, change. The part I’m struggling with, though, is that the changes are coming too fast for me to fully adapt to before the next wave of changes come. And THAT’S what’s got me feeling discombobulated. A hybrid 2-day in-person school schedule rather than the standard 5? Okay, I can do that. But, just kidding…a fully remote schedule instead. But just kidding…hybrid. No, remote. No, hybrid. Can’t have more than 25 people in my back yard? Okay, no problem. Wait, now no more than 10? So can I have my family over for Thanksgiving or no? No? Okay, we’ll just change everything we’ve done since buying our house. No biggie. I can go where I want? I can’t cross the border into Massachusetts now? Okay, got it. I need to be supporting small, local business…great idea, yes! But I shouldn’t leave my house for non-essential reasons. Okay, no problem. My head is swimming, trying to be and do all the things I’m supposed to be and do, all of which seems to change weekly if not daily.
  7. You can’t fix stupid.
    I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout all this. My family is financially solvent, despite me being out of work currently. We’re all healthy; COVID-19 has not hit our house. [Excuse me while I take a moment to knock on wood.] We’ve been able to find the supplies we need when we need them, including toilet paper! But despite not having any first-hand experience with struggle during the pandemic, I still know that it’s real. I don’t have to personally see it to know that. The virus is real. Lots of people are dying. Many more are getting sick. And it’s not just us here in the United States; It’s called a GLOBAL pandemic for a reason. This isn’t just the US government trying to control us or find a way to microchip us without us noticing. What’s going on here is doctors trying to keep us alive. Scientists trying to keep us protected. We’re told to wear a mask and stay six feet from others. We’re told that vaccines are in production and will be available soon. And yet people, regular old people like me, are still parading around spouting absolute garbage as though they’re experts in epidemiology. I’m not an expert on any of this, either. So I rely on those that are. And ALL of my friends in medical and science fields are in agreement: Wear a mask, keep your distance, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. So that’s what I’m doing and what I’ll continue to do.

There are sixteen days left of 2020 and, let’s be honest, an undetermined number of days left of this pandemic. But I’m really hoping that 2020 and COVID has already taught me all the lessons they’re going to. Fingers crossed.

 

An open letter to our elves November 27, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 11:04 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Day 23: A letter to someone, anyone

Dear Sven and Lars,

Thank. Goodness. You’re. Here.

In true 2020 fashion, Sven and Lars arrived on a mask and brought with them a Grinch ornament.

From March, 2020 has been a complete dumpster fire of a year for my girl. She was six years old at the time and about two thirds finished with first grade. We told her, as the school had told us, that everyone would be home for two weeks and then we’d go right back to school. But those two weeks turned into two more and eventually stretched into finishing the school year at home.

Dance season? Very altered; classes on zoom from the living room, no competitions, no picture day, no recital.

Spring soccer? Didn’t happen.

Her seventh birthday was dashed, too. We’d normally throw a big party and she’d get to invite all the friends she wanted. There would be games and snacks and a cake (courtesy of my sister) worthy of one of those baking competition shows, all in whatever theme she picked. Instead, we ordered a to-go dinner, had a store bought cake that said “happy mother’s day” on top until her dad scraped the lettering off, and picnicked outside with the neighbors. Her friends who’d normally be at the party drove by in a birthday parade instead. But she smiled lots that day because you guys came for the weekend.

The stars of her seventh birthday

She had no field day, unless you count the slapped together one we hosted for a handful of friends and family in June. And we said goodbye to her first grade teacher through a car window and face masks. Her teacher placed a paper bag on my back seat which held all of her personal items from the classroom she’d left three months prior and we were on our way. No hug. No high five. Couldn’t. I cried on the way home.

Summer vacation didn’t feel very vacationy because there was nothing to do. Six Flags was closed. Movie theaters and bowling alleys: closed. The trampoline park? Also closed. Summer felt like more of the same. Waiting and hoping for normalcy.

Soccer started back up in the late summer, at least. As did dance. She didn’t balk about having to have her temperature checked, sometimes multiple times per day. She never complained about having to wear a mask or not hug her grandparents. She understood. She adapted.

When school started again in the fall, it was a “hybrid” schedule, which in our town means only two days per week in person and the rest of the week learning at home via iPad. Time in school means a mask all day. No water fountains. Recess is only with her “cohort” (the same seven kids in her class). No assemblies. No field trips. No Halloween party. No winter concert. Probably no field day again, though I guess we’ll see.

As of this Monday, school is fully remote again “for two weeks.” I’m trying to remain hopeful but frankly, I’ve heard THAT before. I’m bracing for finishing second grade at home and cringing at the thought of spending all winter cooped up at home with nowhere to go, ever.

We couldn’t have the Thanksgiving we normally have, either. We’ve hosted 12+ guests every year since we bought our house in 2008. But there were restrictions to gathering sizes this year and while probably not enforced, we complied. Realizing that Thanksgiving was different, she’s already started asking about Christmas. Will our family be able to gather for dinner on Christmas Eve? Can everyone still come over on Christmas morning for breakfast and opening gifts? Do we still get to go to Grandpa Lou’s and Grandma Sharon’s for Christmas dinner? “I don’t know, my love we’ll see.” I’ve said that to her so many times this year. And I’m sure she realizes by now that it almost always leads to disappointment.

So I’m going to need you guys to finish this year strong for us. She’s endured so much change and instability in her world this year. But you two visiting from the North Pole is one constant that she can count on. So be wacky. Make messes. Do some things that’ll bring a smile to her face when she finds you each morning. Keep the wonder and magic of the season alive, untainted by what’s going on out there in the world beyond our door.

So many of your elf friends spend the season with so many other families. And so many parents complain about having the extra house guest (or two if they’re lucky, like us). I just don’t get it. From Black Friday through Christmas Eve, you bring smiles and laughter to our whole family. How could any family lucky enough to host an elf NOT be excited?! Honestly, if you could stay all year, we’d love to have you.

Signed,

A very drained mom

‘Tis the season
 

Lessons from the Campground September 11, 2020

Day 21: What three lessons do you hope your children learn from you?

Labor Day weekend has come and gone and just like that, summer is over. I spent my holiday weekend camping out with a small group of family and friends in my sister’s back yard. It’s a tradition that began nearly ten years ago. And it’s one that feels so important to us all that we’ve kept it going and have no plans to stop. It’s two nights of “roughing it” in tents. Screen time is virtually non-existent unless you count pulling out a phone to snap a photo or take a video; and we’ve got lots of both, thankfully. Bedtimes (and rules in general, for the most part) don’t matter. Priority is placed on quality time with each other and making memories to last a lifetime.

Every year, inevitably, the adults find themselves huddled together while the kids are off playing or sleeping or chattering until all hours of the night. And we muse over the fact that we hope our children hold the memories created during our camp outs for a lifetime. This year, we went as far as to imagine what the weekend will look like far into the future, when it’s our kids serving us and their kids food from the grill. There’s no doubt that these weekends are important to every last one of us campers. Fun to be had. Lessons to be learned. Here are three of the lessons that I hope my daughter, specifically, will take from these days…

LESSON 1: Your tribe is important. Choose them wisely.

Obligatory breakfast feast photo of the kiddos

The camping crew is a mix of family and friends (which I’ll often refer to as “framily” or my tribe). And, sure, not all of my tribe make the guest list; in fact it’s the same crew year after year with no new additions without passing a group vote. (And there WAS a vote this year so there WILL be new invitees next year!) We come in all colors, ages, sizes. We listen to different music, which often leads to a battle over the Bluetooth speaker that results in a country ballad followed by a reggae beat. We don’t all agree on the definition of a perfect s’more. Our parenting styles vary. But none of that matters because we mesh on things like know how to make each other laugh, de-stress, and have fun. We come together and all do our part to help out from unloading the cars on Saturday morning to packing up tents on Monday afternoon. And by the time we all return home, our stomachs are sore from laughing, our feet are filthy from walking around barefoot, and our hearts are full of memories that are burned into the very fiber of our beings.

LESSON 2: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is always a crowd favorite during karaoke time.

During daylight hours, you can find us campers making up games with various supplies from my sister’s stash of camping gear. Sometimes we craft together. There’s always swimming and, for the past two years, “bull rides” in the pool that involve the rider climbing or jumping onto a huge inflatable bull while others attempt to knock them down. There’s always a few who pull their air mattress out of their tents and take mid-day naps in the sunshine. (Guilty as charged this year!) By nightfall, the music is blaring as we line dance and sing karaoke. No matter what we choose to do, there’s no judgment. We’re all just there to have fun. Laugh. Forget that summer is ending, school is starting, and the world feels chaotic and scary most days. In that backyard, our campground, cutting loose and enjoying some levity is what it’s about.

LESSON 3: Unplugging is vital to the soul.

The glow of a screen is no match for the glow of a campfire

The connections we make online are important, sure. Social media helps us stay up to date on what the kids are doing and where everyone is vacationing and, yeah, even sometimes what you had for lunch. But the freedom to unplug from all that–from news and streaming TV and a constant barrage of status updates–is freeing. The connections we make around a campfire are so very different. Whether it’s staying up until 2am laughing over newly created inside jokes or sitting around in a lazy silence together watching the flames lick the fire logs, there’s nothing like the connection and togetherness that’s felt around a campfire.

 

New love, forever love August 30, 2020

Day 19: Discuss “first love.”

“I’m having a midlife crisis.” The handful of people I’m closest with have had the distinct privilege of hearing me utter these words, usually amid heavy sobs or in a manic frenzy or while brooding about life in general. But am I really? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many days when I can do nothing but look around me and feel thankful for and proud of the life I’m fortunate enough to call mine. The life that I helped orchestrate through a series of careful choices and maybe a couple of reckless chances. And I’m in no way trying to detract from all the love and light and goodness around me. It’s there. I see it all. But despite all that, there are some days when I’ve got an acute awareness that many of life’s biggest decisions have already been made for/by me. Roots put down. Life cemented in place. More doors closed behind me than open in front of me.

This post has been about two years in the making. I’ve given it a lot of thought. Kicked the idea around in my head at all hours of the day and night. Searched for the right words that don’t make me sound ungrateful. Tried to formulate a coherent string of sentences that may help identify myself to others feeling the way I am. Unfortunately, this is as close as I’ve come. So here goes: On those really tough days, “midlife crisis” feels like the only descriptor adequate enough to define the profound feelings of…loss? Loss of youth. Loss of choices. Loss of opportunities to experience life’s big moments (and all of the feelings that are wrapped up in those experiences) just one more time.

One of those big life experiences is falling in love. And before I go on, it’s important to me to interject here and say a few things, beginning with that I am happily married. There is no doubt in my mind that I married my match and will live the rest of my life loving him. But this post isn’t about him. (If you want to read about him, you can do so here, where I gushed about him for our tenth wedding anniversary in 2018.) This post is about trying to find words to describe the differences between the love we have now versus “new love.” Because they are undeniably different.

The most succinct way I’ve ever seen the differences summed up came in a novel I read last fall, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. After reading, I jotted a quote, my biggest takeaway from the story. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me even more as time goes on. Here’s the quote:

“She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship…was the ultimate, the feeling they’d always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best–well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
excerpt from What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

There’s something to be said for new love, absolutely. For me, it starts with a spark of attraction that spreads like wildfire until a kaleidoscope of butterflies is flapping wildly in my gut. There are first dates and first kisses, tentative reaching and finding a comfortable rhythm. There’s giving and taking, yinning and yanging. There’s talking and listening and figuring each other out. An all-encompassing, breathless wanting. An I-can’t-get-enough need. My…sparkling mineral water certainly does quench a thirst, doesn’t it?

But no matter how exciting new love feels, those bubbles, that fizziness, it all eventually dissipates. Tattered, broken, unshiny parts are revealed. True colors poke through as if the harsh house lights have just flicked on after last call. And if you’re lucky, as I’ve been, you find the right tempo and the waltz truly begins. One two three, one two three. Count by count, all that feels good and right is boxed in. Fiercely protected. You lead each other through to the other side where love morphs into something more. A higher form. The French champagne.

And just as there’s much to be said about new love, so, too, is there about the kind of love we’ve got now, over twenty years after our first date. The forever kind. Love with the depth and breadth to encompass two lifetimes in one swooping arch. That kind of love is reliable, safe, comfortable, even easy after as long as he and I have been together. But when I use these terms to describe it, he turns up his nose at me, somewhat regretful that he’s no longer responsible for the butterflies and fizz. But it’s important to note that you can’t get to here, where we are, without having lived through the newness and beyond. Our love has gone through breakups and fights and more hard conversations than I can count. We’ve celebrated greatness, endured losses, faced hardships. We’ve created life and navigated parenting. We’ve supported each other in decisions that felt impossible to make, some with consequences that felt impossible to live with. And through it all, we’re still each others’ number one. And there’s no world in which I’d ever dare to replace or dispose of that. Ever.

Instead, I’ll close this with the valediction that he and I end every email, card, or letter to each other with. A phrase ripped from love letters between my paternal grandparents and inscribed on our wedding bands.

Always and all ways.

Me

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

What If….: Quarantine Edition May 5, 2020

(Day 11: Something you always think “What if…” about)

“We are the sum total of our experiences.” -BJ Neblett

We’ve all done it. Slipped down that rabbit hole where we question our past decision and dream about how life may have been different if only…. But I realized long ago that life as I know it life as I knew it pre-pandemic is pretty awesome. And if I were to go back and alter any single decision from my past, it could’ve changed the trajectory of my life in a way that would’ve led me to Not Here. So are there experiences that I wish I’d handled differently? Absolutely. But I refuse to waste any time regretting the experiences that have made me me.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of us have also invested time into thinking about our futures and all their possibilities. Guilty as charged! What if I wrote that book? What if I changed careers? What if we had another baby? What if we moved to a new town? Dreaming about a future even brighter and more fulfilling than my (pre-pandemic) present is exciting. It used to leave me with a heady confidence, a sort of the world is my oyster sort of vibrancy. Nowhere to go but up!

And then Covid-19 happened. And the first few weeks felt….unusual? But bearable still. Working remotely? I can get used to this. Home schooling? I’ve always wanted to try that. Stores and restaurants and theaters and seemingly everything else under the sun is closed? Think of the money we’ll save by staying home!

And over the next few weeks, my optimism started to wane a bit. Getting my school-loving smarty-pants to buckle down and get her work done comes with a fight every day. She misses her teacher. Hell, I miss her teacher. And the PTO. And dropping in for library time with her class on Wednesday mornings. Dance class on Zoom is a welcomed distraction for her, but it’s just not the same as giggling in the back room before ballet or chasing her friends around in an impromptu game of tag between jazz and tap. Cranking the volume on the TV for family movie night is all well and fine but really can’t compare to the big screen. Dance competitions? Canceled. Spring soccer season? Canceled. Dance recital? Not looking good.

I waited as long as possible before breaking the news to her about the fact that we can’t throw a party for her birthday just yet. She listened excitedly as I laid out the plan which includes a car parade instead of a party for now and the promise of a big bash as soon as we’re able. Like this summer. I could practically see the images in her mind of water balloon fights and sprinkler play and all the water activities she asks for every May but is told that it’s too cold to have at her birthday party. Like every other covid-19 related blow, she took that news in stride in such a way that I was both in awe and insanely jealous of her resilience. And I thought, what if she loves celebrating her birthday later? What if this is a blessing in disguise? 

Over the past few weeks, my what if-ing has taken a darker turn. What if things never go back to how they were? What if I don’t have a job to return to? What if our country plunges into another Great Depression? What if the stores never restock and we’re faced with food and supply shortages? My anxiety has been spiraling more than usual. I cry. Often. I worry and stress and let my brain create every imaginable worst-case-scenario.

Today’s announcement from the Governor of Connecticut was not unexpected in the least, though that didn’t make reading it any easier. Schools will remain closed state-wide for the remainder of the academic year; we’ll continue with distance learning. The last shred of hope I had that my girl could finish her first grade year in class with her teacher was ripped from me. No field trip, no field day, no assemblies. (Side note: I can’t imagine what the parents of seniors are feeling!!) Nope. When my girl returns to school, she’ll be a second grader. Entering a new classroom with a new teacher and a new batch of friends. Everything familiar from early March will be gone. What if we can’t even go back in September? What if she falls behind? What if she can’t cope with this blow? 

I reached out to my husband at work, which I find myself doing when the day feels too heavy to lift. And he did what he does every time. He reminded me that this isn’t going to last forever. That things will start to return to (closer to) normal over time. That we’ll get through this, together. He suggested I take some time for self-care, which I haven’t really been doing at all lately. He told me to pause. To be in the moment. And to not think about the next thing on the list or the next thing to be missed. And he’s right. There are too many unknowns at this time. What if-ing is futile because no one knows what things will look like when businesses reopen, when kids go back to school, when covid-19 is a blip in the history book.

So today, what if what I’m doing is enough? What if the fact that my kid’s school work is done and she’s still smiling is all I need to allow myself some me time? What if I don’t vacuum the house or fold the laundry? What if we order dinner so I don’t have to cook and the kitchen stays clean just for one day? What if I just breathe and not try to posit what the future beyond today holds? What if I lay all my worries and stress down? What if this, right here, is what I’m meant to be doing? 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge