Sometimes, you get hit with a wave of grief out of nowhere.
I’m not sure I have figured out how to deal with my grief in the aftermath of the pandemic. Having lost three loved ones this past year (which could have just as easily been five), I sometimes feel frozen in time, struck by the parallel universe I now find myself in.
I always thought of grief as the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (not necessarily in that order).
But what I failed to realize is that you never really get over grief. It leaves a void that can never be filled. And although you take comfort in the happy memories and the love you shared, there is an emptiness where that person was that will likely remain with you for the rest of your life.
You learn to live with it — to eventually accept it. But it is always there.
When I stood in line for my booster, I was reminded of the hope I had the last time I walked the halls of this community center – the elation I felt at the prospect of seeing and spending time with loved ones again without fear of death.
After my brother’s short-term visit last November, I didn’t see another friendly face for three months. I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s alone. And while I created coping mechanisms and relied on a community of support virtually, that isolation had serious ramifications for my mental health – some of which I am probably still processing.
One of those community members who helped me through it was my 89-year-old Papaw, who’d recently discovered the wonders of gifs, emojis, and text (and who surprisingly shared a similar love of ABBA). He lost his life to COVID in September. So, as I approach this holiday season, it is hard to reconcile another winter without him.
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.
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
Humans are averse to change. We resist loss of control and excess uncertainty. No one likes living in ambiguity. And a few months ago, my entire world seemed replete of nebulousness. So, that left me with two options: accept the nebulous and make the most of it or ignore the nebulous and fall the victim.
There were three areas of my life that seemed to be in upheaval:
I had three months before my lease on my apartment was up. This meant I would prioritize career, which would then influence home and lowest on the totem pole – my dating life. That would just be a bonus. Continue reading
When I was four-years-old, I saw a commercial for Disney World and decided I wanted to visit Cinderella Castle. I started telling my extended family that my parents were taking me to Orlando (much to my parents’ surprise). One year later, my dad took my hand and walked me through the breezeway beneath the princess’ towers.
But somewhere between five and 30, I lost that unwavering confidence. I never considered myself beautiful, smart or strong. I was quiet and invisible. I worried that if I appeared too confident, others would think I was vain and shallow. I had to be perfect, of course, but others didn’t need to know how hard I worked at that perfectionism. I never wanted them to see how inadequate I truly was.
So, even though I had built a successful life for myself on the verge of 30, I felt completely dissatisfied and unhappy. With such a skewed self-perception, it’s mind boggling that I had even accomplished that much. I pretended to fly under the radar in my career, knowing full well I was capable of more. So, with the help of a life coach and a supportive network, I re-entered the job market. Continue reading
January has always been a difficult month for me. With less sun and warm days and days off to look forward to, it’s easy to fall into a depressed state. I’ve been sleeping a lot more, and I have less energy to do the things I love.
The difference this year is I acknowledge it’s January (so simple, right?), and I know where my lack of energy is stemming from. For the next three weeks of the month, now that I’ve recovered from the holidays, I am making a commitment to write every day (not necessarily on this blog). It doesn’t have to be much — yesterday, I wrote two sentences — and it can take the form of any medium.
But I hope by making this commitment to myself, I can keep the winter blues at bay and find some fulfillment on the most challenging days. Sometimes, a little self-compassion and confidence can go a long way.
A few months ago, I was feeling a bit lost on my personal and professional paths. I was being particularly hard on myself for getting wrapped up in what I called “failed initiatives.” I had put myself out there, and I felt rejected. So, taking a cue from Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer when it comes to self-compassion (she wrote the book on it), I wrote a letter to myself, from the perspective of a close friend (I’ve included an excerpt below). Continue reading
I’ve never been a big fan of “a year in review,” even in blog post form. But seeing as how I never send holiday cards, I thought it would be fun to attempt such a narcissistic task in the most light-hearted way I know how, as dictated by my six-year-old black and brown tabby, who is currently rolling around on the floor high on catnip.
Here is Norm’s 2018 Year in Review:
A few years ago, Norm (my six-year-old brown and black tabby) developed severe allergies that resulted in excessive biting and licking of his skin. We put him on a series of steroid treatments to relieve the itch and help the wounds heal until his allergy shots have a chance to kick in (which could take 12-18 months).
The only downside to so much steroid exposure? It increases his risk of developing diabetes. When I learned this vital information, I looked down at Norm and said, “Sorry, bud. We can only have one diabetic in this family.”
Fortunately, Norm has not developed diabetes. But that doesn’t mean the rest of my family has been so lucky. In the nine years I’ve had Type 1, I’ve watched friends and family endure the trials that come with gestational diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
For a quick refresher: Continue reading