It’s okay

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I know myself. I know I will feel this global crisis at a molecular level because that’s how I feel everything. I’ve been called an empath but, regardless of labels, I can only say I suffer from the human condition very deeply. I am a minuscule fragment of the blanket that covers us all and that blanket seems to be unraveling when it should be binding itself tighter than ever.

Over the last week, I have done my best to follow the guidelines of social distancing and self-isolation. Sadly, the one thing I did not do was to ignore social media. Although there are so many positive posts and people sending uplifting messages of hope, there are countless people who Just. Don’t. Get it. This is MY forum and, for those who DO get it, I want to tell you it’s okay.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. The world is closing down around us and the sudden onset of panic is inevitable. Those who embrace the steps we need to take to flatten the curve will welcome the closure of all non-essential services. Those who don’t grasp the significance of those steps will continue to spew nonsense and put the rest of us in jeopardy.

It’s okay to feel emotional. I went for a forty-minute walk today, with musical theatre tunes blaring in my ears (thank you, Collabro), and I cried for the duration of my walk. I cried for those who have already succumbed to Covid-19. I cried for those who will still fall victim to this new pandemic. And I cried for the people who think those of us who are taking this so seriously are misinformed.

It’s okay to be scared. I’m petrified. I’m not so scared about the disease itself, but I’m truly frightened for the result that will come because of the ones who choose to believe that their actions will not have a harmful effect on others. They will. Your inability to see the larger picture is utterly disheartening and inevitably harmful.

It’s okay to be mad at people who just don’t get it. Not everyone thinks the same way but, as my mother used to say, we need to take the higher road. For all of you who choose to think this is nothing, think again. Communities, cities and provinces are shutting down to thwart the spread of this disease. Put yourself aside and think of the bigger picture. You could prevent dozens of people getting sick by staying home. By simply not going out in public and potentially spreading this virus, you can prevent the influx of people gathering in our hospital waiting rooms and reducing the number of fatalities by lessening the amount of human contact. Sure, you think you may not be infected but what if you are asymptomatic and spreading the virus without even knowing.

It’s okay to be silly. I’ve put my Christmas lights back on. It may be a ridiculous gesture but, to me, it’s a symbol of happiness. This small, albeit frivolous act gives me a ray of hope that everything, one day, will really be okay.

My first encounter with anxiety

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This post is raw, for me, and somewhat poignant, but writing is my catharsis and words are my crutches when I feel crippled.

I have many friends who deal with anxiety on a daily basis but, although I send messages of encouragement and love, I have never had any real idea of what they go through being trapped as a passenger on a debilitating emotional roller coaster. Recently, that changed.

I am a woman of a certain age. This is a time in my life when everything I once put faith in, in terms of knowing myself and my moods, flies out the window. I can honestly say, over the last two months I have had to look in the mirror several times to make sure the reflection I saw was mine. I wouldn’t call it an out of body experience but there have certainly been occasions when I was so far from being myself, it scared me. I’ve had moments I didn’t want to leave my house. I’ve had times when simply doing the dishes seemed like such an arduous task I let them sit for a few days until I could collect enough of myself to get the job done. I can’t describe the panic any other way than to say I was the polar opposite of who I have been my entire life. Last weekend, it took every ounce of strength I had to get out of my fleece onesie and conduct myself like I have done every day of my life.

My first reaction was to not talk about it, to internalize the feelings that I felt were too awkward to discuss, and weather the storm by myself. I eventually shared my feelings with my family but it almost felt like I was making a mountain out of a molehill. To those who have never had to deal with anxiety, that molehill very quickly became Mount Everest and I still felt like I was facing that daunting slope on my own.

Anxiety gripped me with such a force that it shook me more than anything else I have faced in my past, and I have faced innumerable challenges in my fifty years on this earth. I felt out of control, a victim to some foreign emotion I have never had to confront and I was unprepared for this new enemy.

Round one has come to its conclusion and, thankfully, I feel like myself again. But I know this is not a one-off and I am dreading the next time my hormones cast me into a churning sea that threatens to pull me under its encumbering tide. The only positive thing I take from this experience is that I know there are people who will listen, people who may not completely understand but are willing to just hear my words and offer a shoulder to lean on. Unless they truly understand anxiety, they will never know exactly how I feel, but they continue to be a ray of hope for me.

Trust in your family and friends. They have your back even if they can’t put themselves in your shoes. I offer my ears and my shoulders to those who face this demon on a daily basis. I have only glimpsed what you see so much more frequently than I have seen and I can offer nothing more than my embrace and my ability to listen. Only now do I have a tiny window to be able to see into a world you face each day and I applaud you for your courage to tackle each day with a renewed strength.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cat Came Back

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I remember this song (the title of this post) from my childhood but it never had as much meaning as it does now.

Those of you who read my blog know I had to put my dog down on January 3rd. It was a terrible start to a new year and a new decade. My emotions have been raw, to say the least, and it took every ounce of my strength to really process that loss and keep putting one foot in front of the other. My dog was my world.

Fast forward to last week. My boss and his wife were going away and the person who usually tends to their cat during their absence was also going to be away so I naturally agreed to look after Lulu. In the temperate weather, she is an indoor/outdoor cat. She loves to roam the property and in the winter months she is content to limit her time outside to a couple of hours. I let her out last Tuesday morning and she was there to greet me at noon when I arrived to let her back in the house. Last Wednesday was even milder and she was anxious to get out and enjoy the early spring weather but when I arrived at noon to let her back in, she was nowhere to be seen. When I went back at four o’clock, she was not waiting for me on the porch.

For the two days that followed, we checked the porch many times, searched the area and continually shook her container of treats hoping she would return, but all our efforts seemed to be in vain. I was devastated and finally had to make the call on Friday morning to let them know Lulu had been missing for two days.

The gentle temperatures plummeted at night. Spring was a thing of the past and the icy talons of winter had their grip on us once again. We hoped for the best, but we feared the worst. My boss’ son was home over the weekend with friends and there was still no sign of Lulu. I was gutted. Not only was I still dealing with my loss but was now dealing with the fact that I felt responsible for the loss of another family pet.

My boss and his wife arrived home late on Monday and were greeted by an empty house. They spent yesterday shedding many tears for Lulu and trying to process the fact their family pet was gone. But the cat came back! After six days, Lulu appeared at the sliding glass door yesterday. She has shed a few pounds, but she is home. I cried when I got the text and am still fighting back tears. Lulu is home.

 

 

When you just have to sing show tunes

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Musical theatre was a big part of my childhood. Once upon a time, our tiny community centre was host to many fantastic productions of popular musicals and, in my teens, my friends and I could be found in the front row, hanging on every word and every note of those shows. We became such a part of the production that we were welcomed into the rooms below the theatre each night after the show had ended to hang out with the performers we came to know and love.

Music has always been a focal point in my life. My dad had a wonderful voice and my mom, although she admittedly could not carry much of a tune, also embraced the sounds that were able to transport her into another world. I easily followed in their footsteps. There is nothing more magical than being able to lose yourself in the arrangements of a musical soundtrack that can send you to a place where simple words have no meaning unless they are delivered in a four-part harmony.

This year did not start well for me. Every creative outlet I had turned its back on me and I struggled to return to a place of happiness after suffering a devastating loss. The light that held out its hand to me, the light that pulled me out of the darkness, was music. I began to listen to familiar songs that held a special place in my heart. Musicals that had long-since buried themselves in my past came rushing back and made me remember the joy I felt when those notes awakened my senses.

After spending many hours on YouTube, replaying songs from musicals I could sing in my sleep, I found Collabro. Five, now four, very talented young British voices that echo my love of musical theatre took me from a place of innate sadness to a place where joy still lives, and that joy has now cultivated a seed that has been given a chance to grow and thrive. Songs I knew so well, and songs I am now discovering, are taking me from the depth of despair to a place where life has been given new breath all because I am, once again, finding myself in a place where I found such great comfort.

Cradle your contentment. Sing show tunes. Embrace those things that may make others look at you sideways but bring you joy. Judgement is subjective. Happiness should be indestructible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I find myself in times of trouble

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I love to be in my kitchen. On occasion, I still make cakes and each time I bake a chocolate cake from scratch, the smell from the oven eventually permeates my home and I always say out loud, “it smells like my house”. It is a strange thing to do, but a habit I cannot seem to break, nor do I want to.

I have always loved to be fixed comfortably in front of a mixing bowl or a cutting board. This is my refuge and a place I find the most contentment when I am dealing with emotions that are too big for me to process. I lose myself in the pleasure of chopping and blending, mixing and pouring, and it gives me a sense of peace I have not been able to find anywhere else, with the exception of my writing.

I remember the moment twenty years ago when I was looking for a place to rent after returning from out of province. I had been told about a house that had not yet been advertised and my parents and I drove to this house, parked at the end of the driveway and awkwardly trudged through snow up to our mid-thighs to get a better look. The snow was piled so high around the house that it was easy to peer into the windows to see the layout. The kitchen was the biggest room in the six-hundred square foot home and I knew it was meant to be mine. Before the house had even been advertised as being for rent, I had signed a lease with the landlady and moved in on April first.

Even though I was only renting, I knew this was my forever place. Four years after being a tenant, I ultimately wore my landlady down and convinced her to sell me the property I called home. This haven I am able to call my own will never make the cover of any magazines, but it is mine and it is the place that cradles the memories, good and bad, I have made over the past twenty years.

I have been single, married and divorced while living here. I have lost my best college friend, both of my parents and my furry companion of twelve and a half years while living here. And while nervously standing on the batter’s box staring down the many curve balls life has thrown at me, I have been living here. The roof and the walls of this home wrap me in a protective shield and I am indestructible here.

So, when I find myself in times of trouble, I will seek asylum in this tiny shelter with my feet firmly planted in my kitchen. I am afforded the dignity of dealing with my reality while being protected by this small fortress in the middle of nowhere and I can’t, in the foreseeable future, picture myself anywhere else. I am going to let my kitchen work its magic, embrace the words of wisdom these walls have to offer and just let it be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If only the trash could always take itself out

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This blog is my forum, my asylum, my place to say things I want to say without the consequence of having to defend my words to anyone.

While trying to get my brain back into writing mode by entering a short story contest, I was notably derailed by social media. I still have time to make the contest deadline on Friday but my brain has been so consumed by my intense feelings and my desire to work through them that I do not have the ability to string a series of words together other than to defend myself against words that were written hastily towards me with an underlying malice, intended or not.

I made an innocuous post on Facebook on Sunday night stating my intention to book my “staycation” in March and get my next tattoo that will have a great deal of meaning for me. The first response to my post took me by surprise and left me feeling like I had to defend the words I had written. Without going into great detail, I was hurt more than I anticipated and knocked down by a friend I have known for many years. But the overwhelmingly supportive tribe in my small community quickly lifted me up and made me dust myself off.

Words have a great deal of power. The people who brandish strings of words without thinking about them before they write them do not realize the devastating effect those words can have on those who are the focus of their bitter diatribe. But being offended by those words gave ME the power. Being offended by those words made me move on and continue to be an adult. And being offended by those words made me fully aware that, thankfully, I was not the only one outraged by those words.

Shortly after the deluge of responding opinions from the people who support me, the author of the comment who started this whole mess “unfriended” me on Facebook. One of the remarks I received truly stood out and is the most fitting line to be the title and the conclusion of this post, and I thank her for that.

“If only the trash could always take itself out”.

 

 

Time doesn’t heal, it just changes your perspective

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I presumably share more things on this blog about my personal life than people want to read. But starting this blog eight years ago gave me a forum to write about whatever I choose to write about and if you, who are following, still want to read along, I thank you for being a part of my journey.

The beginning of this new month, new year and new decade has not started well for me. I had to say goodbye to the truest form of devotion I have known and I miss her presence every single moment. One day at a time, I have had to forge ahead and rewrite the scenes as I go. I thought I would be performing the original script for many more years to come, but such is not the case and the blank pages are waiting for a new story to unfold.

Slowly, I am beginning to build my new life one sentence at a time. As I construct those sentences, they become paragraphs and those flowing, connective words will eventually become a new story. It is an arduous task, but one I have to undertake with a strong will and the faith that good things wait ahead for me.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have begun to focus more on myself. I have selfishly decided the needs of the one (me) might (if only temporarily) outweigh the needs of the many I have been focusing on for a very long time.

Time doesn’t feel like it is healing me, but merely making me look at things with a fresh, and possibly transitory self-indulgent, perspective and, for once, I am giving in to that prospect. I go into the unknown with the understanding that time holds me in its furtive embrace, willing me to see things in a new light.

Side line – as I was writing this post, I was called out on social media for wanting to get a “look at me” tattoo to honor my faithful companion of twelve years. I was made painfully aware that the money I will spend on having her memory etched onto my skin could be seen as a frivolous expenditure and money better spent on causes that could use that donation. My rebuttal to that notion will be as brief as I can make it.

For the past four years, I have spent every Sunday, weather permitting, from November to April, bringing together volunteers to make crockpot meals for our local food bank so the clients can have healthy, home-cooked meals at least once a week. The time spent choosing the meals, making the shopping lists, picking up all of the ingredients and preparing the meals has healed many parts of me and has certainly changed my perspective in many aspects of my life.

Time will never heal my losses. It won’t bring back my parents, my best college friend or my dog. But time will give me many opportunities to put my best foot forward and help in the most essential ways I feel I can help. Time will allow me to engage those volunteers. Time will help me shop for those groceries. Time will help plan those meals and orchestrate the process from food preparation to delivery. And time will help me heal the gaping wounds of my losses by getting tattoos that help me surf the gigantic waves of the grief I encounter from losing those close to me.

Thanks to that hurtful message on social media, time has, once again, changed my perspective. I have time to ignore that viewpoint. I have time to wipe my tears and realize it shouldn’t affect me as much as I let it. And I have time to focus on the good in me and let that good change my perspective on someone I thought was a friend.