Fears, doubts, anxiety, loss… 2020 is not a year I’d prefer to re-live. Back when COVID-19 turned our world upside down, and it seemed we were experiencing A Westworld of Our Own, I wrote:
I think that is what I am grieving now – for the person I once was and for the possibility I once envisioned for myself. That person cannot exist in 2020. She is gone.
It is true. The person I had hoped to be in 2020 never was. But the person who came out of 2020 was a lot more whole than I gave her credit for. And that is because of people like you – family, friends, and peers.
I came out of one of the loneliest months of the year joyful and hopeful. I learned that I often feel lonelier in a crowd than I ever do alone. Routine saved my sanity. And so I start 2021 feeling loved and supported.
That was my year. Norm, my eight-year-old black and brown tabby, has his own recap. Continue reading
Last week, I was summoned for jury duty in a state I haven’t lived in for 10 years. I learned that Norm might have cancer (fortunately, it was only hypercalcemia, although that’s another long-term adventure in and of itself).
These are strange times indeed.
October is usually my favorite time of year, but for the last month, I have been drowning in low energy and apathy. The momentum is gone. And I’d like to say I’ve spent this time in isolation developing my next novel or setting up a new side hustle. But no, I can only say I’ve spent these last seven months watching a lot of tv, completing a few puzzles, and discovering some new hacks for DIY nail art.
When my mental health reached its lowest, I gravitated towards my support network and discovered they, too, were at their lowest. Nobody was going to come out of this pandemic unscathed. I felt hopeless then. But then my behavioral health training kicked in. While I could not control my external environment, I could control my internal one.
Today is my 11-year anniversary with Type 1 diabetes. This week has been a rollercoaster (though I am amazed at how much I can accomplish on so little sleep). Apparently, I’ve been holding in a lot of stress. Shocking. But bodies are perceptive that way (blood sugar levels included).
I haven’t seen a familiar face in four weeks (excluding video chats). The time has surprisingly gone by fast. But even if I am enjoying my newfound freedom and the productive self-isolation sessions, there is something missing beneath the surface. And that subtle ache pulls at me – materializing in my nightly, often anxiety-ridden dreams and blinking at me through the sun slants of the window pane.
I am not quite whole. I have felt broken before. And at times like these when I need to be reminded of my own resilience and feel empowered among circumstances outside of my control, I consult my favorite cinematic moments – scenes that are not necessarily award-winning but still inspire me and encourage me to find the strength to carry on.
Many of these movies (spoilers ahead) focus on a leader or woman (or sometimes that inner voice) overcoming adversity (often through innovative approaches) and subsequently inspiring others through their courage to stay true to who they are, follow their dreams and stand up for what they deserve. Continue reading
When I started watching Westworld last month, I hoped the show would serve as an escape from the world that is now our reality. But the despair and rage exhibited by the hosts – from the lack of their ability to control their own destinies – started to mirror my own.
The worst day of my life was the day I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was alone in the hospital room, isolated and cut off from connections. The thin hospital gown and sheet did little to protect me, and I was then too shy to ask for more blankets. With the IV placed in my dominant hand, I couldn’t write or work on homework like planned. I was stuck with my own thoughts and the mortality of my existence.
It’s what I imagine many patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are grappling with, as well, but on a much larger scale. And being on that high-risk list with no idea what my body will do confronted with such a virus terrifies me to the point that I feel butterflies in my stomach every time I have to go outside. Continue reading
Yesterday, I left my apartment for the first time in eight days.
It was sunny and 68 degrees outside. I went for a run, passing the US Marine Corps War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon – fenced off and under construction – and Arlington National Cemetery – the first time I’ve seen it closed to daytime public. I then found myself along the heart of the Mount Vernon trail, surrounded by bikers, runners, walkers and strollers taking in the calm quietude of the Potomac River and a view of the Washington Monument. You wouldn’t know there was a pandemic going on, except for patrols closing off the paths to DC and the cherry blossoms.
Eight days seems like a long time to be shut in a 700 square-foot apartment with a cat whose expression mirrors, “why are you still here?” But this past winter, I spent a considerable amount of time alone – re-conditioning myself to enjoy “me” time again, so that I could recharge and improve my overall well-being. Unbeknownst to me, that time alone conditioned me for such a strange time as this. In fact, I kind of wish I had more time alone. With all the virtual meetings, chats, and happy hours, I’ve rarely had time to myself.
But I wouldn’t change the wonderful network I’ve spent the last 33 years cultivating. So many of you reached out when all of this started, knowing I was high risk and making sure I was okay. I heart you for that. All of the diabetes blogs, commentaries, and posts I’ve read tell me not to panic. But that’s easier said than done. I am grateful I have a pet like Norm. When the anxiety starts to escalate, I stop what I’m doing and throw hair ties his way. His enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life eases my heart rate. Continue reading
I didn’t think it was possible to burn out when happy. Sixty days ago, I learned otherwise.
I had gone three months without a free Saturday night, and while not a bad way to live life, for me, it was … odd. But this was not the only symptom. I could never seem to focus, constantly multi-tasking or procrastinating on my phone.
I bought this phone for its enhanced picture-taking capabilities (or if you’re like me, a chance to improve my sleuthing videography skills) and its bigger screen, so I could be more efficient when, let’s say, I needed to pay bills on-the-go (or more likely spend endless hours swiping left on my dating apps).
But while there is nothing wrong with the phone (minus the fact I dropped it in the toilet six months ago, and its audio is still a little “off”), there was definitely something wrong in my life. The difference is I didn’t think everything was wrong with my life. I knew I was happy, but I was also exhausted and never feeling like I could fully “show up.”
So, two months ago, I decided to break up with my phone. And while I didn’t publish this then, I’ve decided to post it now as a testament to its grandiosity but also – it worked. Continue reading
January has always been a month of reset for me. And although I once thought it was the time of year when I was most susceptible to depression, in fact, it’s the time for me to retreat and recharge. It’s a time of introspection and massive self-awareness. It’s a time to process all the pain and hurt and rejection. And ponder on what steps led to the wins.
This year is no different. The difference entering this new decade is that I acknowledge that this is a time for me to curl up into a ball and shut the world out for a while. The rejection is hard. 2019 was a year I came into embracing my full authentic self in all avenues of my life. And while I have no regrets, showing that vulnerable side of myself, even to strangers, meant accepting the possibility of rejection and being okay with the outcome regardless. Continue reading
I love my life.
I used to hate when people said that. There was no such thing. Life comes with the good and the bad, and if you love all of it, then you’ve been poorly deceived (or altogether privileged).
But a few years ago, I felt utterly unhappy with my life. Every time I thought I had found something good, it dismantled into a pile of sour mulch.
Take Norm, for example. Pets are supposed to make your life better, right? Not when you spend hours tending to their allergic reactions and thousands of dollars trying to make up for the fact that they’re allergic to 15 different things in the environment completely out of your control.
But that’s the thing about mulch. It shouldn’t have an offensive smell. If it does, then there’s some toxic buildup at play. And what happens when the mulch can breathe? It suppresses the weeds and eventually improves the soil’s fertility.
You didn’t come here for a gardening lesson though. You came here because, perhaps, like me, you want to know how to be happy. Continue reading
I wouldn’t say it’s been an easy two months. As much as I’ve tried to focus on the positive and take the space for recovery, there is a lot of healing to be had. Happiness is a fleeting moment. The toxic stress of uncertainty lies underneath its glimpses of hope.
But as I’ve told countless family and friends, even with this drastic change, my life now holds more meaning than it did just a few months ago. My everyday feels meaningful, even without purpose. Because for the first time in the societal reigns of financial liability, I am free to just be and re-learn all that once defined my childhood joy.
That doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven myself for getting into certain situations. This is part of my healing journey, and as my best friend so aptly reminded me, often a symptom of trauma. We blame ourselves more than the abuser, and it’s a cold, little heart. But rather than focus on the trauma, I choose to focus on the frame of opportunity.
Some days are easier than others, but just a few weeks into this new path, Norm – the six-year-old tabby that continues to astound me with his resilience – gave me a window of hope. Continue reading
Last week, I was running through weeping willows along DC’s riverside. These trees reminded me of drives through Cherokee Park on Sundays in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Cherokee Park was designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, known for Central Park, Biltmore Estate and many others. I’m currently reading about Olmsted’s part in the design of the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as Chicago World’s Fair) of 1893 in Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.
And while this past month has not been plagued by the monstrosities of H.H. Holmes, deemed America’s first serial killer, it has been a whirlwind of events – a pattern, it seems, of this year in general. With all the upheaval that has taken place in my life this past year, one could say I’ve been ready for anything. And I’ve taken the changes in stride. Continue reading