Filling my cup

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This is the high season in the hospitality world for resort operators. While the start of the season was extremely stressful having to have so many safety procedures in place, we are succeeding on a daily basis and giving those who had been isolating in the larger urban areas a chance to socially distance while relaxing and unwinding in cottage country.

For most of the month of July, I have spent my energy filling cups that did not belong to me. My cup had a small reserve, enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other and do my job to the best of my ability, but it waited to be filled with the things I needed to bring me back to me.

During the busy season, I get one day off a week. Yesterday was that day. Instead of going out for socially-distanced visits, I chose to stay home and fill MY cup. I allowed myself to sleep in. I cranked show tunes while I cleaned my house and I got back into my kitchen for the first time in a long time. I love to cook, but Covid-19 had all but squeezed the life out of every molecule that gave me the desire to create food, until yesterday. It was a small step making Vegetable Soup, but it was a step in the right direction.

Each day I make an effort to fill my cup is a day I am headed on the path back to myself. Each moment I choose to find the beauty and the fun in the things I did before the coronavirus took over the world is an achievement I find worthy of celebrating. Life may not be normal for a long time, but those moments I can bring as much normal and joy back to me is a small victory.

As I type this post you are reading this morning, several hummingbirds visited my feeder and my juvenile groundhog friend, Chunk, munched on the quarter of a watermelon I left out for him. Life really is about the small things and those little moments filled my cup. I’m ready to start another week and face the challenges that may loom in the distance.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to leave it behind

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I internalize a lot of things and lately I have been bringing a great deal of negative energy home with me. The precious moments of solace I used to have at home are slowly being diluted and I am struggling to find the peace I used to have at the end of a long day. I know I need to leave it behind, but that is easier said than done.

Emotion is a fickle creature. As much as I think I can regulate mine, it has found a way to take the driver’s seat and I have been thrown into the back seat, a mere passenger in a vehicle that is recklessly careening out of control on what should otherwise be a smooth ride.

I have tried many avenues to escape the intensity of my emotions but I have come to learn this blog is my lifeline. This is how I process emotion. I write. I expel my demons into the void and hope I can free myself of the weight of the unhealthy aura I carry on my shoulders. My words are my own judge and jury and it is up to me to read them over and over again until I am convinced my phrases ring true and I rule in my own favor.

I need to walk away. I need to leave the negativity behind and free my mind from the challenges of my day. I need to close the door on the bad energy and open the door to my happiness when I get home. I am the only person who has control of how I let myself feel and it’s time to learn to leave the bad stuff behind and focus on the things I can control and the things that make me feel truly happy.

 

Coming back to myself

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I have not been myself lately, Aside from still battling the lingering effects of the cold I have had for the last nine days, my energy has felt foreign to me. I am usually a very cheerful person but I have not had that effervescent feeling for a while and I don’t know why.

Sure, we are seven weeks through the nine crazy weeks of summer at the lodge and those weeks lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, but this is different. This feels like something has shifted and I can’t quite explain it to myself, let alone describe it to you. Whatever this funk is, it has even caused me to shy away from writing and that is not normal.

Thankfully, today is my day off. When I feel out of sorts, the first thing on my list of things to do is organize my house. I purged my closet of the clothing I have not worn in the last six months and that helped me feel like I had gained some control of the chaos in my mind. As much as that helped to start the process, the best place I can go to feel grounded and to get some of myself back is my kitchen. I reorganized my fridge, made my salads in a jar for lunches this week and I have ribs cooking slowly in my crockpot for dinner. Just the familiar smell of those ribs is bringing me back to a feeling of contentment. My disconnection is slowly being reconnected the more I focus on the things that are important to me and forget the stress that lingers outside of my four walls. I would be doing myself a disservice if I continued to wallow in whatever this low tide is that has been trying to drag me down.

These words may not be the exact phrases I would normally choose, but I’m writing and that is the last piece of the puzzle to get me out of this feeling of despondency and bring me back to myself, one word at a time.

Je ne parle pas le francais…..

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When it comes to making decisions, I like to take my time to weigh all my options.  I am not a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of person so I choose to give a great deal of thought to the choices I make.  Last year, choosing to suspend my satellite subscription was the best choice I have made in a long time because it resulted in me being able to focus on my writing and finish my first novel.

This year, I wanted that ‘lightning in a bottle’ experience again so I contacted my satellite provider and arranged to have my service disrupted on the 9th of February.  I counted on that move to encourage my creativity and focus my attention on my new book.  I hadn’t counted on the Olympics beginning just as my TV programming was ending.

There are a handful of free channels still available on my Bell network and one of those channels is covering the Olympics.  Sadly that channel is a French station and, although I excelled in my Grade 10 French class, there is no mention of the little dog Pitou or finding a sweater because it is cold.  If, at some point, either of the phrases, “Il fait froid aujourd’hui, ou est mon chandail” or “Ou est Pitou?” should ever be uttered, those words will be some of the very few I shall have understood during the entire 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thankfully, emotion is a universal language.  While I cannot understand most of what the commentators are saying during the games, I can comprehend what the athletes are feeling after they have crossed their finish lines or completed their programs.  Exhilaration and anguish do not need words to be conveyed.  On Monday night, I watched Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their Free Skate in the Ice Dance Competition.  Once their program was completed, I muted my TV and simply watched their body language and their smiles.  I didn’t need anyone telling me how they felt because I could feel it just watching them.

Sometimes taking the rhetoric out of a situation allows us to truly perceive the emotion as it is meant to be conveyed – naturally, organically and wordlessly.  Je pense, ne pas etre capable d’entendre les mots m’a fait comprende encore plus.


 

 

The Grandmother Effect

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In the crusade to get my blood pressure back to a normal number, I have been having regular visits with my doctor.  During one of our discussions about why my numbers might be up, I disclosed a few things that have been making me feel anxious, things that never were even a blip on my radar a few years ago but now sound alarms like I am at Defcon 2.   I am nervous about driving at night.  I now take my dog to work as often as I can in the winter because I am paranoid about the heater in my basement catching fire and Callaway being trapped inside the house.  You get the idea.  My doctor merely smiled and nodded, leaned back, laced her fingers together and told me I was experiencing “The Grandmother Effect”.

Never having had children of my own, I was mildly perplexed as to why I would be showing symptoms of a phenomenon that I should not be experiencing.  She went on to tell me that “women of a certain age” begin to worry more about the things that had never bothered them before.  It comes part and parcel with the beginning stages of the dreaded menopause, or as a dear man in my life used to say, “the meno”.

Women’s bodies are finely tuned to develop certain idiosyncrasies as they reach certain ages and their minds are hard-wired to react to those stimuli.  I am certainly at an age where I could be a grandmother and, with an imagination like mine, I could begin to conjure up all kinds of horrific scenarios that may happen to the next generation of my family, had I had children.  Or perhaps I am projecting those fears in regards to my nephews and worrying about them as they navigate their way through this life.  As my doctor explained it further, I could truly comprehend why I was having these irrational feelings and worrying about things that had never bothered me in the past.

The “meno” is coming.  It is inevitable and a necessary step to get to the next plateau of my life.  I have experienced my first full-on hot flash in the middle of the night.  I can only say it was like being on fire but being soaking wet at the same time.  Sadly, the water didn’t extinguish the flames.  I have decided that, from now on, I will refer to any future hot flashes as ‘my personal summer’.

Knowing that my worries are explainable has helped to slightly ease the stress.  Now I can only peer into the opening of the “meno” tunnel and hope it is a quick trip to the other side.

 

 

If I say I’m fine….I’m lying

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Many memes and many jokes (mostly at men’s expense) have skirted around the fact that if a woman says, “I’m fine”, there is an emotional undertone that means something far beyond being fine.  My experience with the phrase ‘I’m fine’ has completely surpassed that, to the point that nobody in my immediate family uses those two words to describe their current state of being.

Both of my parents were alcoholics and suffered through a myriad number of complications through their later years.  It is an ugly disease with ugly consequences.  The worst part of watching the effects of alcoholism deteriorate a human body is having that person tell you that, while they are suffering numerous symptoms and contrary to every doctor’s diagnosis, they are fine.  Fine is no longer a word I use to describe how I feel and for very good reason – it’s bullshit.

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I sent a text to a friend yesterday to ask about their well-being and was given the response “I’m okay”.   Although it was not the tried and hated response of “I’m fine”, it ranked right up there and it made my Spidey senses tingle.  I knew there was more going on but I also knew not to push.

When you get a text message from someone you know on a very personal level, the inflection in their voice is heard loud and clear above the silence of a text message.  The only thing I can do is be here when they need to vent, to be present when they realize that I know they are not “fine” or “okay” and just be ready to listen.

 

One dark cloud can rain on everybody

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Moods are contagious.   When a mood is allowed to live and feed on the energy from which it was born, it is given the power to grow exponentially and infect everyone around it, like a slow-acting poison.  That mood can seep under the skin of unsuspecting people and change the trajectory of their day.

Last week, one dark cloud hovered above my surroundings and it spewed forth its acid rain.  What started as a relatively happy day slowly spiraled into a morning from Hell.  I was astounded at how quickly one bad mood could leech itself from its host into every organism with whom it came into contact.  I bore witness to a malignant energy infecting everyone in its path.

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A quick discussion with my superiors resulted in temporarily removing the poison from our work system and eventually the day became much brighter.  Within minutes of the cause of the discomfort leaving building, calm was restored and the dark cloud was lifted.  The miserable rain ended and the sun began to shine once again.

Although it may be a small cloud in a vast sky, one dark cloud can rain on everybody.   We just need to be strong enough to blow that cloud into a different sky.