The Day Off I Absolutely Needed

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When you only get one day off a week, you must pack as much activity as you can into an exceedingly small window of time. Yesterday, I did the opposite. I changed my regular day off from Monday to Sunday to spend a quiet day at home and watch the stream of an online concert that was both mentally and emotionally soothing. (apart from the tears because the music was SO lovely)

I have mentioned in previous blog posts that I have become slightly obsessed (in a good way) with a musical theatre boy band called Collabro, a group who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2014. These boys have gone above and beyond during the mess that is 2020 and have constantly kept in contact with their fans through social media as well as other platforms. For the first time since March 15th, these boys put together a live, socially distanced, online concert for their fans and it was brilliant.

This year can only be described as an emotional roller coaster. I feel like I have been a prisoner in the first car, slowly chugging up the track and not being able to prevent the eventual crest over the hill, the rocketing descent into utter chaos and the visceral sensation of true fear. But each day I remind myself to remember the plateaus during the ride, the moments when I can catch my breath after the turbulence and the moments of serenity before the track pulls the car up the hill for another round of torture.

Despite the state of the world right now, I seized the day yesterday and fought my way off that roller coaster for a short time. I was able to spend the day at home and not talk about, or think about, Covid-19. I did not have to wear a mask or maintain a social distance from anything. For one day, my life felt somewhat normal and it was bliss. It was the day off I absolutely needed for me to get back to me.

 

How live-streaming helped me live again

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Covid-19 has taken a huge toll on me, not physically but, mentally. After cresting the half-century mark last year, I am blessed to be able to say I had never struggled with anxiety or depression. What I would have first described as a distraction slowly burrowed into my brain and riddled me with emotions and a sadness I had never had to deal with before. Having been an extrovert by day and introvert by night, I became overwhelmed by the isolation that came with being advised to stay at home and only go out in public when necessary.

Looking back on the past few months, I should have known I had been affected more than I care to admit. The things I loved to do in my spare time became a burden and I forgot the pleasure I felt when I cooked a wonderful meal for myself or sat down at my computer and let words cascade down from the heavens to help me write the novel I am working on that has been untouched since March. The passion I once had for my hobbies became non-existent and that made my sadness feel even more powerful.

But life has a way of kicking us in the pants and it chooses interesting ways to send us compelling messages that cannot be ignored. I spent forty minutes watching a live stream on Patreon by someone I greatly admire. During his video, he emphasized how important it is to put ourselves first and to take time each day to do small things that bring us back to ourselves. His message couldn’t have been louder or clearer. I had been so focused on things that had nothing to do with me that I had all but forgotten to focus on myself and the things that are important to ME.

I have not posted on my blog since April 27th. It pains me to say that. This space has always been my sacred space. This space has let me be myself and free the words that want to be freed whenever I feel the desire to let them loose. But those words have been muted by the blanket of stress I have let weigh me down. NO MORE! Today I take back my power. Today I let the words oppress my thoughts and unleash themselves. Today I will create a spectacular meal for myself because I am the number one thing in my life. If I don’t take care of myself, how will I ever have the energy to take care of anyone else? Thank you, Jamie Lambert. Your words did not fall on deaf ears.

 

When I can’t cope, I cry and then I cook

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A lot has happened in my little world over the last three months. I won’t bore you with the details as most of those have been documented in previous posts if you want to go back and read through them. Imposed quarantine and my immense fear of the Coronavirus aside, the calendar year of 2020 has felt like a battering ram and I am the feeble wooden gate, splintering with every blow.

I have always been the person who was very quick to hatch a Plan-B. I don’t dwell on the details of what just happened. My brains kicks into overdrive and I immediately search for a plan of action to move forward. But something in the way my neurons have always fired in the past has recently changed. For the first time in my life, I feel completely overwhelmed and uncertain about where I go from here and that, for me, is the true sign of how affected I am by what is happening in the world right now.

I try my best to process all of the information presented online but when those reports become too staggering to deal with, I purge my accumulated emotion and I cry. I make no excuse and I don’t fault myself for my behaviour, I just cry. Once I have released the intensity of those feelings, my focus shifts and I want nothing more than to be in my kitchen. I have recently renamed my kitchen my “solace room” because it is the only place where I can feel a true sense of peace.

Today is no exception to that rule. My dueling crockpots and my Dutch oven will be filled with a myriad number of items that will produce the combined aromas of onion, garlic, bacon and a collection of other ingredients that will eventually become an assortment of soups and stews I will share with others. One person, in particular, will have his freezer filled with these items as a dear friend has just been diagnosed with advanced brain cancer and is awaiting the plan for his course of treatment.

So, this morning, I am shutting out the socials, and the rest of the planet, to bring my focus into a world I can control, into a world where I can be helpful even if it is on a very small scale. And as the onions caramelize and the bacon is rendered, I know I will cry more tears today because it is what I need to do. I can only hope when this pandemic is over and we are able to live our lives again, I can say I was able to recognize the best parts of myself and know that I gave everything I could to make things a bit better for the people I love when they needed it the most.

 

 

I don’t care where it came from

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Emotion has always been the driving force behind the need to write my blog posts. Putting words to a page allows me to process emotion in a way I feel most comfortable. This post is going to allow me to vent some frustration and attempt to understand the vast divide between the people who get it and the people who never will.

It is currently Monday afternoon, as I write this, and in the past thirty minutes I have admonished myself for habitually touching my face several times. It shouldn’t matter since I have been staying home and have obsessively washed my hands approximately thirty times since noon, but I’m still trying to do my part to flatten the curve.

I have cried so many tears thinking of the front-line workers in essential services, the truck drivers, the first responders, the police, the fire departments, the paramedics and the many doctors and nurses who are forced, too frequently, to decide which patient deserves to be put on the only available ventilator. Day in and day out, they enter a war zone to save as many lives as possible.

Shortly before I felt the desire to write another blog post, I received a comment on Facebook from an old acquaintance (who I have since unfriended) sharing his theory that the virus is lab-made and everything will be fine in a week. His rhetoric was written in response to a meme I had posted about adhering to the government-imposed social distancing and self-isolation. He continued his nonsensical comments by saying he would not allow the government to tell him how to run his household and the “hype” surrounding the virus isn’t warranted.

Let me just say this, and I apologize for the profanity that will follow….at this point, I don’t give a shit where the virus came from. It could have been created by a university student, bored in their molecular biology class for all I care. My biggest concern is that it is here, and it is killing people. The “hype” surrounding this virus has crippled our existence and forced those of us, who understand the concept of how this virus spreads, to stay home and hone our skills on social media, pick up sewing again, read the book we have been meaning to read or to teach ourselves how to bake homemade bread. My family lives two minutes away and it would be SO easy to drop by for a quick visit, but those visits are now reduced to me say hello from my car window across the road from their driveway.

I spent a great deal of time calming myself before I wrote this post. It would have contained an exaggerated number of expletives had I not taken many deep breaths before putting my fingers on the keyboard. The “hype” surrounding this virus has already killed upwards of 74,000 people, and those are just the registered deaths. Those who have succumbed to the virus were people like you and me. They had families and friends, and their deaths will not go unnoticed.

This isn’t over. This virus isn’t finished with us. More people will die and they could be people we know and love. And if I follow the inane thought-process of the ignoramus who is not following the guidelines of staying at home, I hate to think how much soap I would need to wash my hands of the blood of those I may have inadvertently infected with my utter disregard for the severity of this pandemic by NOT staying home.

My government does not run my household. My heart and my head run my household. And if I, for one second, thought I could potentially help even ONE person by staying at home, you can bet your ass, I will choose staying at home. Every. Single. Time.

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was that day

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Once a week, in the midst of our current global situation, I prepare myself for a full-on ugly cry because I know it always lurks in the shadows. I embrace the reality of what we are all going through and become a victim to its weight, enough so that I let it bring me down and send me into wracking sobs to purge the emotion I feel. It is the release I need to climb out of the darkness and allow myself to see the immense light that keeps us all going. And there is so much light.

Yesterday was that day, for me. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t counting down the minutes until I could cry, I just cried, and it came at the most unexpected moment. I had just watched such a joyful live-stream on Facebook and I cried tears that were filled with more happiness than sadness because I realized that all of us are struggling and trying to make the best of an unprecedented situation. We are all just doing the best we can to make it through, one day at a time.

Life, online, is our new reality. My recent presence on social media has increased at an alarming rate, but this is our now. Social media is our way of holding tight to the people who bring us joy and keep us grasping at snippets of a life we once knew and, one day, we will know again.

Life after Covid-19 will eventually return. It will be a very slow process and one that we will venture into with distrust, at first, but it will return. I’m sure most of us will be wary of shaking hands or giving hugs, but life will slowly evolve back to where we were and we have to have faith in that truth.

I send so much gratitude for those on the front lines, from medical staff to essential services. I send my undying appreciation for those who are self-isolating to flatten the curve. And I send my plea for those who take this situation lightly to rethink your actions and embrace this pandemic seriously. This virus is unforgiving. It is severe. And I would hate to think, one day, you could look back and think yesterday was that day, the day I could have stayed home and really made a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

And how does that make you feel?

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With December rapidly approaching, I am anticipating many social media posts about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. What seemingly started as an innocent way to get children to behave during the month of December has morphed into an epic competition to see which parent can get more creative with the benign holiday character.

Many blog posts and articles have been written with very strong emotion regarding this cherubic creature. Parents either love him or their contempt is so strong they hold ill feelings towards those parents who embrace his presence.  Some argue that he is the Elf on the Shelf, with a strong emphasis on the word shelf. He may stealthily maneuver his way around the house in the darkness to take refuge on another shelf, but that is his only purpose. Others, holding tightly to their innovative genes, have created a list of 101 ways the Elf can get into mischief during the night.  Spoiler alert – most of those creative ideas require extensive clean-up the following morning although I’m sure the children would be thrilled to see what mess the Elf made while they slept.

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Had my life been different and I had kids of my own, my children undoubtedly would have been in therapy either during or shortly after the Christmas holidays.  I blame my choice of reading material but my sense of entertainment tends to lean towards the macabre.  Picture Dean Koontz or Stephen King finding indecent ways of displaying the Elf and you have entered the world that my Elf would have had to endure.  There would have been crime scenes, possible Elf DNA and an abundant amount of Police tape. This is the stuff that my dreams are made of, the stuff that helps me write my books. But this is also the stuff that would have a child sitting in the waiting room of an analyst’s office at least once a week.

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For those of you able to remember to innocently and creatively display your Elf each evening after your children have fallen asleep, I applaud you. You are creating memories that your child will inevitably pass on to their children.

As for me….perhaps I will get out the Elf my brother gave me and track his bizarre habits in a journal.  CSI – Elf on the Shelf.  Hmmmm…..I may be on to something……stay tuned.

Just go where the road takes you

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Spontaneity does not run deep in my veins. I am a planner and I always have been. My brain is wired to know what to expect and is also programmed to be able to come up with a Plan B on very short notice. Up to now, it has served me well.

There are very few times in my life when I feel comfortable not having a plan in place. The days when I get into the car and just drive, with no destination in mind, are some of those times. There is freedom I feel being in a car that has no purposeful end in sight. If a dead-end sign is nowhere to be seen, any road is fair game. This blind journey is one of my greatest pleasures.

The arteries of paved streets could take me anywhere and I always take comfort in the fact that my car’s navigation system will be able to put me back on the road to home. But the most enjoyable part of this pilgrimage is seeing the sites I would never have planned to see if I let my brain plot the course. Landscapes paint themselves on a canvas as I drive and I am awed by places I never knew existed. The world becomes a vast collection of vignettes after I take the time to slow down and recognize the beauty that is in my peripheral vision.

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I need to allow the aspect of that freedom to take over more of my life. While structure is a welcome friend, improvisation could be that lonely kid on the playground who I tentatively get to know, but becomes the best friend I ever had.