Life Hits Low Sometimes

Living through a pandemic is forcing people to come to terms with their lives in ways I’m not sure many take the time to consider. So many of us wake up relying on routine to get us through another day. One little misstep has the potential to offset that balance, ruining an entire day, and potentially the days of the people you’re isolated with. When your routine is no longer there to hide behind, we find ourselves wondering….What do I do now?  There’s a loneliness that settles in and the feeling that you’re completely missing your entire life. There’s a whole world out there you were so used to living in (and yet I wonder how many actually took the time to experience it before this isolation). Now that it’s illegal in many places worldwide to live in the society we came to know, we’re forced to experience the world around us from the confinement of our own minds, and that can be a dark and scary place. When we finally come to terms with what we’re missing, we often turn to social media to vent, to seek some validation that we’re not the only ones who are struggling despite the distractions we occupy our time with, or we project our own happy faces through photos we post online despite the fact that, most of the time, we’re just keeping our head above the water. The response that is now turning into the new default button is, “Thank your lucky stars you aren’t Anne Frank right now.”

Wow…Thanks. You’ve really turned my whole outlook on life around.

Anne Frank had her entire family there in interact with, despite the fact they were being hunted down. I’d like to point out, in a way, we’re all being hunted down by something that could kill us. Viral infections do not discriminate. Single people, I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to buck it up and get over it. We’re all dealing with this, too. You’re loneliness is temporary and if you inadvertently contract this disease when there’s nobody around to call, you’re just going to have to deal with the consequences of your lifestyle choices and foot the ambulance bill you might not be able to afford. Even if you don’t get sick with the virus, that’s enough of a reason to survive that bitter empty loneliness, right? Are you even employed right now? Has anyone called you this week? It would be so easy to end it all right now, but thank your lucky stars you aren’t Anne Frank.

Anne Frank had a family that never laid a hand on her, as far as I know, nor were they verbally or emotionally aggressive with intent to hurt. People quarantined with abuse, I’m sorry, but you can go outside and shop for food, which is a grace to be taken advantage of. Your ability to get out and take a little walk outweighs the fact that your living in a house of horror. The eight hours away from your abuser that the typical workday used to provide was enough of a cushion for you to bear your lifestyle, but now what? Even if they work from home, the constant belittling and harassment doesn’t stop just because a computer screen sits before them. By the way, does anybody even know you’re being abused, or are you still keeping it to yourself? Domestic abuse isn’t so bad because you get to spend a few minutes a day going for a walk. Thank your lucky stars you aren’t Anne freaking Frank, who couldn’t even open the front window!

The thing is, we are constantly comparing and contrasting levels of depression and we as a society accept this! Our culture has this push for all these social pressures to be happy. Fake it until you make it reality. It’s socially unacceptable to cry in front of strangers. It’s socially unacceptable to make oneself emotionally vulnerable because our feelings make the people around us uncomfortable. I was reading Little House on the Prairie last night and Laura’s little dog, Jack was lost crossing the Mississippi River. She swallowed hard repressing her fear and grief because she didn’t want to make Pa feel bad for not letting Jack ride in the wagon with the girls. Another example of repressed feelings from this book happened when Pa and Ma started stacking logs to build their home. Pa accidentally dropped a log on Ma’s foot, spraining it. After Pa asks if it hurts, it reads,

Ma’s face was gray and her mouth was a tight line. “Not much” she said.

“No bones broken,” said Pa. “It’s only a bad sprain.”

Ma said cheerfully: “Well, a sprain’s soon mended! Don’t be so upset, Charles.”

Ma carried on with dinner on her sprained foot that night because we’re meant to repress pain. How can anybody expect to live an authentic life if nobody is ever allowed to feel it? I’m not saying Ma’s attitude was wrong, or that she should have raised hell, making him feel worse or anything like that, but whats so shameful in admitting that you’re hurt and this accident has become a minor inconvenience, or that it would be nice if the girls could be a little more helpful preparing dinner so that Ma can mend properly? I find this to be so relevant in today’s culture of feelings. We’re so worried about hurting someones feelings that we hurt ourselves. We don’t ask for help out of fear for becoming an inconvenience, when in reality, the person we wanted to ask finds out we needed something and the general response is, “you should’ve asked, I had no idea something was wrong.” But then there’s also that seed of doubt that’s now planted that leaves them wondering how strong their friendship really is if they weren’t considered a priority to confide in when they were feeling low. By holding in your feelings, you’ve now hurt yourself and that person, effectively doing the very thing you were actively avoiding! We’ve normalized talking in riddles to the point where we’re positive we can detect weird vibes from a text, despite what the text actually reads, and if, god forbid, we actually text exactly what we mean, the reader goes looking for a riddle! Everything about the way we interact with one another is so disingenuous, it leaves me wondering, how many are treating themselves the same way with their own feelings?

Even during this time of isolation, we continue to compare ourselves to those on social media. Despite the fact we have the option to unplug, the idea of being completely isolated from the outside world is an uncomfortable thought. We have the desire to stay connected, yet we don’t always like what we see or how we feel about ourselves as a result of that connection. As for me, I love to see what people are creating, and what others are doing to rework that new sense of normal, but the thing I love to see the most is the internal growth I see in so many people. It’s kind of beautiful to witness life flourishing even when the outside world stops moving. It inspires me to push the boundaries of my own self implemented limitations. I’ve been able to push my body into new yoga poses I didn’t know I could physically achieve after so many injections and physical therapy sessions regarding my spine. I’m learning skills in the kitchen I had no idea I had the potential to unlock. I’m reading so many books with my children! I’m listening to peaceful music with no words more regularly because I’ve noticed that lyrics have the ability to affect my mood. Television and movies have the ability to impact my mood and it affects the way I think and process the world around me. Setting a calm and peaceful tone has completely changed the dynamic in my household. My children now join me for yoga when they feel like it, which is often. There’s a reverence in it that makes them want to be part of it, most of the time. It soothes the soul, not only for me, but for them and it shows when they remain in that scared silence after we’re finished and I continue on with my rosary. The kids are never really that interested in prayer in general, but the rosary is especially difficult for them because they just don’t have the attention span to deal with the repetitive prayers and meditations that run about 20 minutes in length. At least, that’s what I thought. After reading Eat Pray Love at the beginning of this quarantine I’ve learned that yoga forces your brain to concentrate on clearing your mind and breathing while your body stretches into unnatural positions. Diving right into prayer after yoga stills your whole body, mind, and soul. There was one line that stood out in the book and it read something like, “You can’t possibly focus on meditation if your hip is hurting” and yoga realigns your spine, making the chore of sitting still effortless. During this time of prayer and meditation, I’m flooded with so much peace and tranquility, the kind I thought I had to go all the way back to Bali to feel again. It turns out “being” really is a state of mind. You don’t have to lie in a tropical paradise to feel removed from the stress of the clock, or the thoughts of other people in order to reconnect with yourself. I think more than anything, this time of isolation has called to our attention how disconnected from ourselves we really are. Regardless of this pandemic, I’d be taking the time to better myself.

Before my state shut down, I made the decision to give up depression for lent. That sounds stupid because how can that possibly be a sacrifice? Well, part of giving up depression means giving up the triggers and I felt bound to my triggers. People are my trigger. It hurt me, and I’m sure it hurt a lot of the people around me, but I blocked a lot of phone numbers and made it impossible to interact with certain people because despite the fact that I care about them, I can’t handle their toxic inability to respect my boundaries and the thing is, I let myself cross my own boundaries with them because “they needed me.” I had to separate myself completely in order to heal myself and work on me in order to foster a healthy and responsible relationship with these particular people and myself. There was tremendous guilt in doing that. It felt very cowardly, much like running away, but at the same time if you’re a recovering alcoholic, you’re not going to open yourself up to a home where they hand you drinks you didn’t ask for nor do you want. For me, it’d be like the recovering alcoholic who doesn’t want any part of that, but doesn’t want to hurt their feelings or offend their hospitality by refusing to go. I also find that when you walk into a home where that kind of behavior is normalized, they bombard you with, “so, you think you’re better than me?” That’s what it’s like for me, but with my emotions. I don’t have the tools to tell people that I can’t be there for them. I don’t have the skills to admit when I need somebody because I’m struggling to process and manage my own emotions, but when I do reach out, the conversation I intended to have about my own thing turns into their problems that are way beyond my emotional maturity level to deal with, but I’m a good friend, so I listen. Instead of getting a chance to vent myself, not only do I hold in my own emotions that I couldn’t handle in the first place, I now have somebody else’s grief on my shoulders and the weight is heavy. It makes it difficult to live in the moment. My mind is running wild and I find myself saying, “I’m sorry kids, but mommy needs some space” more often than I say, “sure kids, I would love to read or play a game with you.” Feelings are stupid, because they’re basically just chemicals in your brain, yet because I wouldn’t allow myself to vent them in a healthy way, they held me captive and controlled me. Feelings are inconvenient, yet nothing is more of an inconvenience than cancelled plans or the bad attitudes produced from them.

Back in February of 2020, some heavy stuff went down between my husband and myself and it came way out of left field. I did not see it coming. I came to an impasse and needed to make a decision. I could stay home and really simmer in the bitterness and let the anger explode like hot oil, exposing the kids to foul language and a very toxic situation, or I could blow my entire travel budget I’d been saving for years from my two contracting jobs—Money intended for my first solo adventure overseas. Honestly, a small part of me died inside because I obviously decided to blow all of my hard-earned money on a vacation with the kids far, far away at Universal Studios. I had the money and the time, so I told everyone that it would be reckless to book a flight on my own along with other reservations six months in advance, only to learn we’ve been matched and we need to clear our calendars for adoption. I’d lose thousands of dollars in that case. This story that I defaulted to was not untrue. It was a valid fear of mine. We had lost so much when Wow Air went bankrupt and it really sucked. We missed out on so much and it was devastating and I didn’t want that, in essence, happen again. That’s ultimately why I made the call to drive, that day, sixteen hours without stopping to Orlando, Florida as we made our reservations along the way. Despite the fact that I was fuming with anger at my spouse, he offered to help me drive so that I could avoid spending more on lodging along the way and spend more time in the parks. We’d alternate driving and sleeping. I would’ve been stupid not to accept his offer. I called up my friend to tell her everything that was going on and I think she thought I was absolutely insane. She was concerned to say the least by my sudden and seemingly erratic behavior, but she agreed to take care of my fur babies while we were gone. It was mostly quiet on the way down, but that was okay because the music played loud enough, rendering any and all conversation unnecessary. The kids were so excited they didn’t even notice the fact that mom and dad were awkward. It was a genius plan. The kids and I were to be dropped off at the entrance while dad worked from the hotel. He hurt me bad, so neither of us felt bad about the circumstance because he knew what he did. It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had in my entire life. I got to spend quality time with my littles’ exploring new foods and adventuring on wild rides. I even had time to process my feelings while we stood in long lines. Depression makes the wait time in lines seem like nothing. The kid’s spirits were up and they were playing hand clapping games and word games together and I was so proud of their behavior. They don’t usually get along that well under the hot sun and sore feet, but God was good to us. After a while, the kids really started laying it on thick how much they really really reeeaaaalllyyyy wanted to come back with dad. We’re probably never going back. After adoption is finalized, it’s unlikely we’ll ever travel large again outside of tent camping in national parks around North America as a family unit. I also felt bad for leaving him behind, to a very small degree, because long after we were able to patch things up again, I knew I’d feel guilty for forcing him to stay away from us, so I invited him to tag along the night before the last two days. He came both days and we spent much of each day broken up. Our son escorted him to the things he HAD to see and I took our daughter to the kiddie parks they didn’t want to see (which turned out to be pretty amazing. Don’t overlook kiddie parks). We spent the first day at Island of Adventure and the second at Universal Studios where we’d come together around dinner time, skip dinner, then do the things the kids and I wanted to do a second time. After the parks closed, which was pretty early, I’d send Hubs out for takeout and then we’d all have dinner and take turns taking showers in the order in which we finished our meals. We went to sleep right after, so there wasn’t much time for interaction, which was both a blessing and a curse. I had a lot I wanted to say, but obviously wouldn’t with the kids right there. When our week was up, we jumped back into the car and noticed our daughter wasn’t feeling so great. Somewhere around the top of Georgia we noticed her body break out with a rash, so we had to google a 24 hour walk in clinic. The nearest that would still be open right off the highway, was located somewhere on the Tennessee border. I went into the exam room with her while the boys stayed behind. I received a text from Hubs while I was in the exam room, reading, “We’re at the tire place next door. Our front wheels were about to explode as they were worn down to the belt. They close in 20 minutes and they’re the only ones still open. Walk over when you’re done.” My daughter was diagnosed with something I know for a fact she picked up at the park and her meds were sent to a pharmacy at the intersections at the end of the block. Talk about a cosmic coincidence. I never would’ve noticed the tires on my own, and I would’ve cracked under the stress of a sick child alone, 3 states away from home, so despite the fact I didn’t want him there, I will always be grateful he was there (and no, this doesn’t make me fear solo travel). We were able to get the kids some fast food, drugs, and have the car serviced all at once (for the most part) without exposing a whole bunch of people to her illness. Tennessee will always have a special place in my heart. The people could not have been kinder or more understanding to our situation. As we started back on the road again, I was so sick of music and happened along a true crime podcast called, “My Favorite Murder” and it was the most perfect thing I needed to hear on that long drive home—Comedy and murder. The perfect combo fitting for the mood that I was in. Needless to say, things did not exactly go back to normal for us as a couple after the trip and it forced us to deal with the things that made us profoundly unhappy. When you’re in the adoption process, you’re forced to enroll in TBRI (trust based relational intervention) training. It’s all about childhood trauma and how you as parents need to come to terms with your own childhood traumas before you take in children with serious trauma because you can’t help others heal if you’re still broken. That’s where the trouble between us started. We both knew where the stem of our dysfunction came from and we both knew what to do to remedy the situation with no idea how to actually execute that plan. Needless to say, we’re both in therapy for very different reasons and it’s bettering us as parents as well as individuals. Honestly, I’m really excited for us to meet one another at the end of this journey unburdened by the past. So, regardless of this pandemic we find ourselves in, I would be taking this time to discover more about myself and my children. It’s overall been positive, but there are some very dark days. There’s a meme going around that calls these days, “the hell zone” and it’s 100% accurate.

The thing that I’ve learned the most from this entire experience, is that the opposite of love is not hate, but the using of another. Apathetic usage of another person is the worst way one can be treated because it lowers your status from a person to an object, and that object is expendable. In fact, in the book of Genesis, after the fall of man happened, immediately Adam and Eve’s first inclination was to cover themselves with loincloths because they’re eyes were opened and they understood that their bodies could be used by one another. Shame and insecurity were the very first side-effect of sin. Second was the fact that Adam blamed Eve for his own sin. So, there you have it. Insecurity and blaming someone else for your own actions is what comes of sin. Apply that to what is going on in the world, suddenly the arguments over the way this pandemic is being handled, kind of makes sense. Politics is a great way to blame someone for a biologically made problem and a great distraction from dealing with oneself. There’s a sense of shame that comes over us when people call us out on our BS and it makes us wonder if we’re on the right side of the way this should be handled. With all honesty, I’m proud of my Michigan governor and the way she’s handled everything despite the protests. I understand why people are upset. They’re restless and the media keeps telling them that the government is flexing its power over the people in some communist conspiracy. The fact of the matter is, people will always be their own worst enemy. Ignorance is bliss…but is it really? Look at the chaos ignorance is causing. The truth will set you free…but does it? I feel like the ignorant hold the strongest militant opinions while those who know truth are chronically depressed, trapped in a cage of their own mind, realizing how futile any attempt at enlightenment for the ignorant can be. And yet, everyone feels trapped! Is there a right way out of this? I don’t know. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m sure looking back on all of this, the answers as to what we should have done will be made clear. As for right now, I’d rather walk on the edge of caution. Nobody ever regrets being too prepared, but everyone regrets when they ignore the warning signs and fail miserably as a result. Right now, I’m grateful for the time to disconnect from all of my outside responsibilities so that I can focus on my needs and the needs of my family, and most importantly, the needs between Hubs and I without the need to explain our absence.

It has never been normal for me to have a mental breakdown in front of someone. Despite the fact that I’m now thirty, flirty and thriving, it still isn’t! This makes my really upset sometimes because my friends and family members can call me out of the blue in tears, but when I do it, it seems like an inconvenience and it seems to make them uncomfortable because who is this person? This isn’t like you. Um, hello double standard! So I downplay it and pretend I was just being dramatic and hold it in. Can we please normalize uncomfortable feelings so that people like me (the ones who appear to have their shit together) can break down once in a while? If you take anything from this blog entry, I hope you take this: The person you look up to the most and respect also needs somebody to lean on. They don’t always have everything figured out and life is not easy for anybody, despite how wise or happy they may seem. They’re just better at masking their feelings. Masking is unhealthy for everybody, so why pretend those who are “good” at life are okay? It will never be okay. I am not always okay. Take the time to listen to people. Don’t ask them how their day went, engage in an actual conversation. Give what you get. Just because quarantine ends, doesn’t mean you should stop contacting people. It also doesn’t mean your self-growth should end, or that things should go back to normal. Why would anyone settle on the mindless mundane routine? Decide to be a better version of who you were yesterday and keep doing it. Help others achieve that by calling them out on their own toxic self-harming behaviors if the thing they complain about is in their power to change. Stop holding things in before you explode on someone who doesn’t deserve it, and be upfront about how you feel. Mr. Darcy was a social pariah for doing just that, and he was the hero of that novel because of it. Find qualities in yourself you admire and strive to make them the dominant part of your personality, and for the love of all that is holy, stop comparing yourself to Susie Sunshine. She doesn’t break down during inappropriate times the way you do, and after all, nothing feels better than a good cry.