Author: KeAnne

Library science graduate. Full-time web developer/marketer/data manager. Mommy to a preschooler. That makes me busy, busy, busy!

Worry Stones

I used to be so big and strong
I used to know my right from wrong
I used to never be afraid
I used to be somebody
I used to have something inside
Now just this hole it’s open wide
I used to want it all
I used to be somebody

Nine Inch Nails “Down in It”

I mentioned my affinity for astrology in an earlier post, so I’m not going to feel bad (much) by telling you that I have become devoted to worry stones. I have a primary one that is by me daily. It says “Relax”, and I bought it for myself in Asheville in 2019. I liked the sentiment but put it into my nightstand drawer for almost two years. This year, I finally took it out and placed it next to my laptop so I could see it. And then I started picking it up and rubbing my fingers across the letters etched on it. And now it has become comfort.

Truthfully, I have found myself taking it with me everywhere when I need the reassurance. And it is reassurance. I never thought a rock with a word etched on it could help, but it does. But then there are a number of things in the last few years I never thought about, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised. Comfort can come from the most surprising places or things.

I’ve bought worry stones for others. I don’t know what they really think of them, but I hope, at least, they know that someone out there is thinking of them and that these stones bring them some small comfort.

I can’t remember if I talked in detail about the anxiety I have developed the last few years. I, well, I have. I’ve always been a somewhat anxious person, but it has become worse. Worse to the point that when it is at its zenith, I can’t leave the house. And now that I am the sole caregiver, that anxiety is heightened. That’s the fun thing about anxiety: anxiety begets anxiety. And couple that with preparing to return to the office, hiring, busy work times, workers in the house doing a variety of much-needed jobs…I could go on, but you get the point. It leads to a lot of anxiety. I have always suffered from depression, but I have told many that with depression, I can function. Anxiety has brought me to my knees, and that’s a terrible feeling.

It has not been a few good weeks for me. I could feel the anxiety building, and as I said, anxiety begets anxiety. And believe me, I am medicated and therapized. It’s also incredibly humbling. You feel so out of control, and it is difficult to talk about, especially to those who don’t experience anxiety. There is this odd dance of “I’m still competent, yet I cannot do this thing.” And “sometimes I may overreact to things that seem small and insignificant.” I feel under a lot of pressure, and I’m trying SO hard to make it look like I have my shit together or at least keep my shit together. I will acknowledge it, but I do not wish to be debilitated by it.

I know a lot of that pressure is self imposed. No one is perfect. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, especially when you are possibly least able to do so. Last time I checked, though, life doesn’t consult you on a fucking thing. It is what it is. But I am trying.

And…my body has decided to let me know it has needs too. I developed dry eye syndrome two years ago and have been wearing glasses for all this time. My eyes have a regimen to treat them that is impressive actually: drops every few hours, eye exercises and warm compresses for 20 minutes a night. I haven’t seen much improvement yet, but I’m not fond of my glasses, so I’ll be seeking follow ups.

And then there’s lymphedema. Apparently I have developed it. Most of the time, cases are caused by cancer treatment – which I have not had – but it turns out there is a small subset of people who are genetically predisposed and primarily women in their late 30s and 40s. It’s – I’ll be frank – utterly humiliating and certainly not attractive and also painful and irritating. Swollen feet. Swollen ankles. Sensitive feet and ankles. And there really isn’t a treatment for it other than massage, compression garments and elevation. And on top of returning to work and trying to do everything else, I’m dealing with this. My shoes don’t fit. I’m already anxious. Can’t wear my cute skirts. Guess who never thought at 44 she’d be researching compression hosiery?! Lose 40 pounds, now require compression hosiery. On the plus side, I did ask my occupational therapist to try to identify compression items made in NC. Might as well, right??

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I have beach trips planned for the summer. I’m talking to friends about other trips. I’m having my hardwood floors refinished. I’m making improvements around the house. I am trying to continue the march forward even though some days it feels like it’s happening against so many constraints. I’m trying.

April was a good month. I bought myself a ticket to see David Sedaris, and I bought a good seat. Center section, fourth row. I’ve decided that if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right. It was an excellent seat, and Sedaris was hysterical and awesome. I’d wanted to see him for years. Then, on April 28, I attended my first concert in decades. I went to see Nine Inch Nails (row X, center section). It was a great concert. I have seen them before. In 1995, I saw them with David Bowie. Then I was, “oh, I’m seeing NIN and David Bowie is there.” Now I’m like, “I saw Bowie!!!”. It was a good show, but I definitely couldn’t stay for all the encores although I did drink wine out of can. That was weird.

So I’m trying. As always, some days are harder than others, and I feel empathy for Atlas, Sisyphus and Prometheus. But I also try to give myself – and others – grace. This life shit isn’t easy. Not at all.

Marking This Anniversary

Today is two years exactly since I took home my work laptop and prepared my spot at the dining room table as a “temporary” office. And prepared myself for Daniel to be home for “two weeks” as we were told.

Well, here we are. It’s 2022. Daniel is back in school physically, but I am still here at the dining room table in loungewear, Crocs and (hopefully) fun t-shirts. I’m shocked. Stunned. I never – like most of us – thought that something like COVID would happen in my lifetime despite devouring books and movies on pandemics and knowing it was simply a matter of time (theoretically).

And Daniel has not been immune – ha ha – from the experience. His concerns about cleanliness and germs have been heightened to an alarmingly and frankly annoying degree.

I used to mark each pandemic quarantine week on the wall calendar, but sometime last year, I stopped and never resumed. But I keep the paper calendars (from Biltmore, naturally) and they are a nice time capsule. I marked today as “two years exactly since quarantine.”

It’s…it’s been a rough two years as I’m sure most of us could say. There have been some highs but mainly a lot of lows. I wasn’t prepared for this. None of us were prepared for this. I have gotten through it via humor from YouTube, reading, memes, and well…interacting with as many of you as I could. And work. Work helped a lot.

I know I’ve had quite a bit of personal tragedy during the pandemic, but sometimes it becomes difficult to extract one from the other. Jimmy did not die from COVID, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to separate his death from the last two years. It’s all tangled up together and part of my pandemic experience and memory.

And as I acknowledge this milestone of two years exactly in being impacted by COVID, I’m also preparing to return to the office. No more time at my dining room table and my less-than-ergonomic dining room table chair. Starting 3/21, we will return to the office once a week, working up to more days in the following weeks.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. A lot has changed for me personally. And I love my loungewear and dining room table. But getting back to the office and seeing people – sans mask – could be very good. Also, I am craving the pho near my office. I’m not going to lie, though. I feel a bit like the people emerging from Plato’s allegory of the cave. And I also hope that COVID doesn’t continue to smack us in the face with “surprises” like the variants of the last year, but it has been a wily foe.

I did not have pandemics or spousal death or Russian invading Ukraine on my decade Bingo card. But here we are. It’s…a weird time. Weird.

But I might also be able to buy some new work clothes?!?! I haven’t bought new clothes in two years.

Still a weird time. I thought last year that maybe there would be return to normal. Now? No. We will return to…something. But it will not be the normal we have been used to. It will truly be a new normal, whatever that means. This pandemic has changed us. And I’m equally curious and trepidatious about what this new normal will be. I thought this article from The Week summed it up well.

Happy COVID-versary. What do you get someone for two years of a pandemic??

A Case of the “Uns”

I promised myself and I think you all that I would try to be honest and open about feelings and situations as I navigate through this new reality.

Or maybe I promised only myself. I don’t know.

So this week, I have accomplished a lot on some major items on my to-do list. I hired a handyman to make some much-needed repairs around the house. And it looks great! Is it perfect? No. But it is much improved and much needed. Benign neglect eventually shows. Hopefully these improvements will change that. I have other people coming out next week to do a few things, and then the week after next, I have people coming out to repair the screens on my back porch that children and asshole squirrels have torn.

Squirrels really are assholes. In addition to my screen, they like to nibble on wood and dig up and eat my flowers. Assholes. Don’t let their adorable appearance fool you. They are assholes.

But.

Despite all the good things that occurred this week, I am having a rough night. Maybe it’s fatigue. Maybe it’s just the busy-ness of the week getting to me. Maybe it’s fucking perimenopause because why not??? I’m teary. And emotional. And feeling sorry for myself. I’m having a case of the “uns” as I call it. Think of any adjective: pleasant, intelligent, attractive, loveable, etc. and put “un” in front of it. That’s it. That’s what is going on with me. I feel UNpleasant; UNattractive; UNloveable; UNintelligent; UNimportant. UNremarkable; UNworthy…you get the point.

Why?? Again, I don’t know. I’m sitting here marking items off my to-do list like crazy. I’ve been on calls with district offices trying to help ensure our program is portrayed as well as it can be. I’m planning a retirement party for a dear colleague and team member. I’m wearing real shirts and lipstick every day!

But. I feel the “uns” in the back of my mind. And there is a loneliness associated with it, maybe because I have only myself to talk about these feelings with.

The truth is that I have always had a case of the “uns.” They have always been there as I was growing up. I tamped it down, subjugated it, pasted on a smile and went on my way. I’ve mentioned before that I feel as raw and vulnerable as I did when I was a teenager lately. Well, the “uns” were a part of that time of my life too. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. 44 going on 15. That’s pleasant. Give me acne, and I really am back at 15.

But, at the same time, maybe there is a purpose to these feelings. Maybe they are part of the same forces that are helping me to crack the shell that has been around me and hindering me from feeling. It’s true that these aren’t feelings you necessarily want to feel, but they are feelings. I am feeling something. And it’s acute enough to make me cry through 5 kleenexes on a Friday night.

It’s cleansing in a way. I feel better. Sad, but better for letting these feelings manifest. And I get to realize that I have primarily myself to count on. There is no one riding in on a horse to banish these feelings and take care of things. And that’s good. I need to rely on myself. I need to trust myself. Having feelings and crying on a Friday night is not a bad thing. It’s both discovery and healing.

I’m an only child, and in some ways, there is an inherent loneliness that comes with that. Or maybe not – I have only my experience to go on. But I did and do feel lonely as an only. Lonely Only, right? But at the same time, it’s familiar. I have only myself to count on. To rely on. To depend on.

I can do this. I’m up for the challenge. Me, myself and I. We’re strong enough.

Thought Experiment

Last week a friend mentioned a scenario during driving at night that made him think of his 16-year-old self and how the feelings from then are very different from the feelings of now. I thought that was interesting, and being me, I ran with it. So I have two questions for you to ponder:

  1. What do you think your 16-year-old self would think of the life you have?
  2. How do you think you would feel if you lived the life your 16-year-old self envisioned?

When I think of my 16-year-old self, I acknowledge that I was both mature for my age and quite naive and sheltered. My younger self would be proud that I left my hometown. That I went to college and graduate school. I have a much better job and have achieved more things than my younger self could have imagined.. My 16-year-old self wasn’t sure what she was going to major in, but what I’m doing now would seem like a foreign language she didn’t want to take. But I love it.

My younger self would be surprised and maybe a bit disappointed (I am, too, sometimes) that I had only one child. I don’t think she knew much about infertility other than what she read in her great-grandmother’s magazines when she was a child. Another way in which I was both precocious and naive. But my own precocious only is loved. Very much loved.

My younger self would not have imagined a pandemic, quarantine and subsequently, the death of a spouse at an early age. Hell, I’m not sure my current self can encompass all of that yet.

But I hope my younger self would be proud of how resilient I am. I’ve been through infertility, pandemics, death of a spouse, diagnoses…and I’m still standing (and I just knocked on wood and threw salt. Please do the same). Sometimes people think that these adversities are bad things. I don’t see them that way. Yes, they suck. Don’t get me wrong. But, I feel like they have molded and shaped me into a better, stronger person. When you know darkness, you appreciate the light that much more. When you feel at your lowest, you appreciate the highs exquisitely. I’m not saying I would have asked for those experiences, but I accept and value them. They are formative experiences. And I hope they have made me into a better, richer person.

Conversely, I don’t think I would have liked the life my 16-year-old self envisioned. It was free from adversity. It was spoiled. It was charmed. And life isn’t like that as I have learned over and over again. Her life was wish fulfillment. And I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. It’s just…well…unrealistic. And my 16-year-old self didn’t know that.

Would I change anything? No. I believe strongly that life lessons are taught for a reason or at the very least, you can learn from what you experience. It’s a journey.

Some churches and very rich private homes have spaces dedicated to a labyrinth. You can walk the space and pray or whatever. I like that idea. I’d walk the labyrinth because it symbolizes a purposeful, yet possibly meandering journey and an overall depiction of wholeness. I get that. I really get that. I know where I want to go, and I know where I’ve been, but it may take me a while to get there. And that’s OK.

Wolf Moon

It’s the first full moon of 2022, and it is referred to as the “Wolf” moon. I kind of like that. It sounds a bit feral, a bit mysterious, a bit wild. And (at least here) it is cold and windy out, and I can imagine a wolf howling in the dark night. It has a few other names, too, but I like “Wolf” moon best.

My, isn’t someone feeling poetic tonight?

Astrologically, full moons are important and symbolic. They represent culmination, hidden information coming to light and literally illumination on situations or relationships. They symbolize seeing things clearly. And they are dramatic, chaotic and intense, stirring up emotions. Sounds fun, right? Has it been a full moon for the last two years?

And you might be thinking, “Astrology. Huh. KeAnne, isn’t that a bit ‘woo’ for you? I thought you were a rational, logical person?”

Of course it is. I mean, it’s not like I know my natal chart, rising sign or the location of other key planets (Virgo sun, Gemini Rising, Mercury Virgo, Venus and Moon in Leo, Mars and Jupiter in Cancer). Not like I own a deck of Tarot cards and have given readings before (see college, 1995-1999). Not like I have a crystal ball. Not like people expect me to keep them apprised of when Mercury Retrograde occurs (that would be now. Started January 14 and will go until early February).

I’m not sure I can explain it. There is a part of me that is fascinated by the unknown, by mysteries. Maybe even rational, logical me likes to think, as Hamlet says:

β€˜There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’

I consider it a feature, not a bug in myself. And frankly, those Tarot card readings in college gave me much greater insight into psychology and, well, therapy than anything mystical. Still haven’t ever seen anything in the damn crystal ball. Good conversation starter, though.

But. The point of all of this is the mystery of the full moon, the chaos it brings and what it illuminates. I haven’t made it a secret that my household is full up on therapy. If the cats could get therapy, I’d arrange it.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year. A lot. It’s given me a lot to think about and process. Today I had a major epiphany in therapy. I’m not going to go into the details because that is private and personal (I do have SOME boundaries!). But some situations, perceptions and behaviors were illuminated.

When I grapple with how to describe my therapy journey – and my journey in general – over the last year, I return to fiery imagery and themes: the phoenix, a crucible, and most recently, thawing. Lots of thawing. I feel like some parts of me have been frozen and frozen for a very long time. But they are thawing. And that’s horribly messy and confusing for someone like me who does prefer to feel in control and felt like she had a good understanding of herself.

But it turns out that maybe the thawing is revealing key parts of myself that I had put up barriers around. And they are good parts. And maybe barricading them away didn’t make me feel like my best self. Actually, I felt like a rather horrible self. And as the thawing keeps progressing (I’m trying really hard not to think about Global Warming and melting glaciers as I write this), I am discovering myself. And I like what I am discovering. The worst feeling in the world is not liking yourself. The best is finding something to like. Because if you don’t like yourself, who will?

So Wolf Moons, and full moons, and epiphanies and melting frozen parts…somehow it is all related and makes sense in my mind. It was a good day. A painful day. I had some anger. I almost cried because that is what I do now (what are warm tears but melted ice?). But at the end of the day, I was happy to reacquaint myself with this part of me. Welcome back. It won’t be easy, but we’ll get there.

Chimney falls and lovers blaze
Thought that I was young
Now I've freezing hands
And bloodless veins
As numb as I've become
I'm so tired
I wish I was the moon tonight
-Neko Case

Catharsis?

Whew. lt’s late, and I’ll probably regret this post tomorrow, which will be in 18 minutes as I start this. Or maybe not. I mentioned in prior posts that I talk, talk, talk…the words just spill out of me…word vomit everywhere. It’s quite confessional. I like to think that maybe the universe grants me some sort of absolution as I spill everything in my brain or maybe I am guilty as I am with so many others of the hubris of thinking that the universe cares what I am thinking and have to say. Someone recently told me I was an open book, and I couldn’t decide if that was a compliment or not. Kind of like when someone in high school told me that I reminded him of the characters on Seinfeld. They weren’t exactly likeable.

So, I promised updates in several posts. It’s difficult to come up with how to refer to something as momentous as the date of your husband’s death. Anniversary seems…not right. I know that “anniversary” can be used to refer to anything notable, but I think it has a mostly positive, happy connotation. So a friend coined “Deathiversary” and I think that is perfect. I threw it out in the last post.

This may be a long post.

Friends, what I experienced from mid-October to December 1, I now refer to as Deathiversary Season. I was expecting a day, not a 6-week period. I think what happened was that I didn’t expect the anxiety around the knowledge of what transpired to build and build. Negative anticipation. I know now. I know now what happens on each of those days. We made it through Halloween and had a good time even though I had to give myself several pep talks over the course of the day as I gutted and carved pumpkins with my unwashed hair. But D had a good time, and that is what is important. The next day…I hadn’t slept and neither had D, so we decided to take the day off and withdrew from the world that day. I had foolishly thought I would work. Silly me. So we stayed in bed and cuddled and did nothing.

The next day, November 2, I flew to Denver to visit a friend. I’m still a little shocked I did it, but I needed to get out of town and what better than to go to the other side of the country? It was a short trip, but great and much needed. I consider that a bold act (and maybe that tells you a lot about me and my sheltered existence), and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I won’t deny – it was weird as hell to be back in an airport and flying with a mask. I had become very familiar with travel due to work in the years prior to COVID, but I realized my “travel muscles” had atrophied. I felt like I needed to re-learn everything. But it was a great trip of which I will always think fondly.

And then the rest of November. See, that’s what caught me off guard. November. I was a disaster that month. My anxiety remained high. I found myself staying up way too late. And then I couldn’t sleep or slept very little. And I cried a lot. Like every night. That’s all I did…cry and not sleep. And I think it was because November is in general a loaded month: Jimmy loved Thanksgiving and there were other anxieties building on anxieties around milestones and gatherings and … there was just a lot. I can’t even adequately explain it. But hey, I binge watched Ted Lasso while standing in my kitchen each night and adored it (seriously, watch it if you haven’t). And I still woke up, got Daniel to school and worked. Not looking for a medal; I guess I want to emphasize I wasn’t a complete basket case. I try to save being a basket case from 10pm – 2AM.

And the final milestone. December 1. Our wedding anniversary. A day worthy of the term of “anniversary.” By the time that date approached, I felt more in control. In some ways, I considered it a bookend on “Deathiversary Season”. Last year was significant because our anniversary was exactly one month after he died. And this year? This year would have been 20 years. When the day came, I looked at our wedding picture on the living room wall and sent up a few good wishes and thoughts to…somewhere? And I felt lighter.

Tomorrow (oh, today now) is my last day of work for the year. This week has been rough. Lots of hands-on work that could only be done after hours because I was in meetings all day, every day. It’s Daniel’s last day of school too, and we’re going to go see the new Spider-Man movie after school. First time we’ll have been in a theater in years! And I’m drooling over the thought of popcorn. Yes, please. And all the “butter” I can put on it. Christmas presents are bought. We both received flu shots, and I received the COVID booster today. I’m of the opinion that I will take all the vaccine they want to give me.

It’s interesting because there’s also a darkness about this time of year (and I’m not talking literal darkness although, yes, it was fucking dark at 5PM today). If you think about it, Autumn in general and Halloween and Christmas are all about recognizing death and trying to find light and hope where you can. The cyclical nature of the year always strikes me. You have the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and each day afterwards, it becomes darker earlier an infinitesimal amount until you reach 3/4 through December and the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. But after that day, each day is a infinitesimal bit brighter. It sparks lots of imagery and philosophical musings, but I’ll spare you because I’m trying to rein in my thoughts (not everyone needs a glimpse into the Scream painting that is my mind).

I decided that I wasn’t sure I felt like listening to my usual Christmas music, so I made a playlist of eclectic songs with the help of friends. It may have gotten a touch out of control because it is almost FOUR HOURS!!!! Go big or go home? But I listened to it in its entirety as I was working, and I think it’s quite good. Knock yourselves out if you wish. I think I mentioned how important music has become to me the last year. It has. It really has. It started with putting an Air Pod in and listening while I did stuff around the house. And then it progressed to listening to new music suggested by friends. And then next thing I know I’m creating Spotify playlists. And then I’m creating a 4-hour Eclectic Christmas playlist. And THEN I’m listening to Taylor Swift songs friends suggested, and I’m crying and wondering why I avoided her and her amazing songwriting ability. She has replaced Radiohead as my go-to “gonna wallow and cry” artist. It’s kind of funny because a friend and I were talking earlier this week, and we both admitted to having songs that just wreck us and instead of avoiding them, we listen to them over and over and over. It’s like picking a scab: you know you shouldn’t, but you still do it.

You may be thinking, “KeAnne, are you depressed?” Well, yes…I have 125 mg daily that agrees with you. But no. But yes.

This has been a rough week. I’m down two key positions, which means I am both in meetings all day, plotting strategy and whatever nefarious things everyone thinks we get up to (I wish…rather mundane), and then after hours doing hands-on work. Many, many late nights this week. I don’t mind. I’m happy to do what my teams need. But it’s exhausting. I was asked this week why I was working so hard, and my response was that I can’t not. It has to get done. Some deadlines can’t be moved.

But today (or yesterday I guess) was emotional. Probably fatigue. Probably stress. I put on my “make me cry” playlist (Yes T. Swift is on it. And so is Radiohead), and I’ve cried off and on all night. And it’s so dark outside. And I felt so lonely and alone. And I know that’s not true. The gifts waiting for me at my desk (office day! real clothes!) demonstrate that people care about me. The cards in my mailbox. The gifts from friends across the country. And it’s demonstrated in a million other ways. I guess I’m trying to tie my feelings today to the above paragraphs about the darkness of the season. In some ways, there is an inherent loneliness built into this time of the year that our celebrations are trying to stave off. Safety in numbers at the very least. But there is a part of me that has always been attracted to the darkness and that feeling of being alone (not that I want to be alone). So my goal is not to allow myself to wallow in it. I have magic to make for D.

Some days I wonder if I am 15 or 44. They are both similar: skin issues; hormonal issues; drama (relationship and drama in general); listening to sad songs on repeat; staring in the mirror, wondering if I am attractive; crying; lots of work to do. Of course the 15-year-old doesn’t necessarily have to be the one to clean up the cat vomit in the living room (thanks for getting the message about being part of the team, cat!).

Good lord, this is long. I’m sorry. No, I’m not sorry. This is my reality. There are good days. There are bad days. I think I mentioned in an earlier post – or maybe not – hell, I can’t remember – that I identified with a crab: hard exoskeleton but soft underbelly. In many ways, I feel like the last year has been a crucible that has burned off that exoskeleton. I feel quite raw. But I also like to think that maybe that time in the crucible is helping me to be a softer, kinder person. A more genuine person. These are parts of myself and feelings that I kept hidden out of fear of being vulnerable. And I like it! I like feeling and doing kind things. But…did I miss my opportunity? Do people still value kindness? Or am I out of step? Should I just stick to cerebral stuff since it is what I am good at?

I’m OK. I’m OK. I promise (see 125 mg a few paragraphs above). We all fall on black days from now and then. Next post will be trying to prove I have a sense of humor and involving Christmas ornaments.

And I’m ready to suffer, and I’m ready to hope. (FL+TM)

Got the suffering down. Now let’s go for the hope.

Meanwhile…

Believe me, I have a lot to say. Almost too much. I think some people may be rather shocked by how MUCH I have to say, but I’ve always been chatty. Always. My first teachers commented on it frequently πŸ™‚

It’s funny because I don’t think I come across as especially verbose or chatty (or maybe I do?), but get me in the right situation, and I am super chatty (some of you know that better than others). But yes. I have a lot to share. We had a major anniversary as well as what I consider the end of “Deathiversary Season”. That’s not a pretty term, but it describes a not-pretty 6-week period of time this year that almost broke me. It was brutal. I’ll blog about it later. It was awful. I’ll return to that in another post.

So what have I been up to? Well, good thing I didn’t have to decorate the tree since it has been up in the living room for around two years! I know. I know. The cats love it. I have already had to extricate our youngest cat a few times. But hey…that keeps it interesting, right? I did buy three ornaments for it which will be part of another post.

I’m feeling rather generous right now. You’re behind a paywall? Sure, I’ll subscribe. Plus about 10 other sites. You have a favorite campaign? I’ll donate. It isn’t sustainable in the long term, but I like being able to give. I feel very strongly about paying it forward since so many people were so kind to me in the last year. It’s just money. That sounds horribly entitled, but I like being able to donate to good causes and to friends who are collecting. I’m trying to send good energy out into the world. If it comes back to me, wonderful, but it’s more about sending out good energy.

Gah. I sound like I am all over the place. Maybe I am. I am trying to be a better person. A better mother. A better daughter. A better friend. A better coworker. I’m not exactly sure how those will manifest, but I will let you know.

I had to decide whether to end this blog here or decide to let it go on for several…several…more paragraphs and I decided to stop….while I was ahead? Ha!

Thank you for indulging me. And I will definitely be back with more to say.

Shake it Out

Well, here we are. The last week of October. I thought I’d be OK. In control. But I’m not as much as I’d like to be. I thought it was Mercury Retrograde weighing on me because I really felt it. Uncomfortable in my own skin. Pulled, contorted, strained, weighed down. But here we are. My own personal D-Day. I can feel my anxiety rising daily. I’m struggling just to keep it together when what I really want to do is burrow under the covers and stay there. House a mess? Check. No cooking? Check. Clothes unfolded? Check. Child late to school? Check. Oversleeping? Check. Irritation? Check. Sensitive? Check. Crying? Check.

And my thoughts are so jumbled and muddled. My therapist told me a few weeks ago that I intellectualize emotions and feelings instead of letting myself experience them. I try to explain what I am feeling instead of letting myself indulge in them. But I do feel them; I find it difficult let myself to be an emotional person. To be seen as someone who has feelings.

You know who I envy? People who don’t give a fuck what other people think. I’ve always cared too much. It has improved, but I still care too much. I had a conversation on Friday night about my feelings, and I’m not completely certain it went well (not the fault of the conversation, but talking about feelings can be difficult). But I know that I cried – like ugly cried – afterwards. The kind of crying that left my eyes extra puffy Saturday and experiencing an emotional hangover.

We all have history and formative experiences and god knows I have thought a lot about mine. Probably too much. Analysis is my forte. Feeling is not. I’m not going to subject any of you to my TED Talk on why I am this way. I guess I should get to the point. I think my thoughts are jumbled around vulnerability and shame (yes, yes, off to read Brene Brown). After that conversation on Friday – or frankly, any conversation in which I let loose like that – my first reaction is embarrassment. I’ve revealed too much of myself. All the ugly parts. The parts that indicate that no, I very much do not have my shit together. You know, the parts that reveal me as a flesh and blood human who is not perfect. And the fear about whether people will still like me or respect me if I reveal that I do have feelings. But I AM human! I DO have feelings! Why is vulnerability such a difficult state for us to occupy? How did we get here?

I think of this verse Rizzo sings in “There are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease:

I could hurt someone like me
Out of spite or jealousy
I don’t steal and I don’t lie
But I can feel and I can cry
A fact I’ll bet you never knew

But to cry in front of you
That’s the worst thing I could do

And to finally, finally get to the point. I have a lot of thoughts about this week. Can I express those emotions? Should I express those emotions? Can I be that vulnerable? Is it allowed? And yes, I know it is technically. But am I allowed to feel and express these things truly? Or should I keep a stiff upper lip? What is the statute of limitations on grieving in our society these days?

It is funny to be writing this after last week’s somewhat “rah rah” “Entropy” post. Well. I feel what I feel when I feel it. THAT I have definitely learned in the last year. And I grapple with that dichotomy. I have good days and bad days. Last week was not a great week, and I have a feeling that this week may not be either. And I have to be OK with that. I have to accept that and understand that. More importantly, I have to give myself permission to feel. To let those emotions flow through.

This week is worthy of my feelings. If I feel dread, uneasiness, and anxiety every day, it’s OK. If I need to take a day and just be, that’s OK. From what I have seen, there is no manual for any of this (but if there is other than Kubler-Ross, message me?).

I’ll do what I need to get through it. Cry when I need to. And then “Shake it out” as Florence + the Machine recommend and prepare for Halloween. I have three pumpkins to gut (ugh) and carve (good luck?) and a child to make happy.

One step backwards. One step forwards. Every day.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Entropy

I’m not going to deny that the last few years were…not ideal. I feel like everything around me is falling apart both literally and metaphorically. I no sooner fix one issue with my house than another arises. Fucking whack-a-mole. Mondays suck because three jobs. Behavior…yeah. Mercury Retrograde. And I feel bad talking about it because it feels like all I do is talk about the bad stuff. Each week I say, “I’m tired of my own shit. I won’t inflict it on others.”

Entropy describes the last few years well. Things not getting done around the house. Easier to give into feelings and situations instead of trying to fix them. Entropy is fucking powerful, and it is easy to be dragged down by it.

I am usually a driven person. I do things. Sometimes I do too much. I was the definition of “work before play” and therefore, “play” typically never happened. And somewhere in the last few years, I lost that. It became easier to succumb and wallow. When you feel out of control, sometimes it is easier to give in and say, “why bother? No one else is.”

Well, now, I’m the only adult. I want to be better. To do better. My list is long. I want to reject entropy. I want to fortify myself against it. I CAN be better. And I know: I’ve been through a lot in the last year and should cut myself some slack or give myself some grace. But at some point, you have to stop making excuses and step up (woman up?). I need to be an example. I need to feel good.

“You’re turning into something you are not” – Radiohead “High and Dry”

Today we went to buy pumpkins. We bought a lot, and it was great. I also bought flowers to put in planters. I hadn’t done that in years. I love flowers. I don’t in any way claim to have a green thumb, but I love flowers. So I decided I would pot these flowers today. I did it. It felt SO good. It’s a small thing, but I felt like it was a tiny shield being erected against entropy.

One step at a time. One flower at a time.

Apparently Fridays Can Suck Too

It’s possible I might be in an especially raw phase. I cried at least 5 times this week. I just finished crying in fact. And I might cry more. The jury is out although it would be nice if they would give me a heads up.

I blame Mercury Retrograde. Yes. We are in that lovely period in which Mercury likes to fuck with us. I have an entire post planned on it if I can get past this week because I have a lot of Mercury in my natal chart, so I am essentially fucked.

I hope you don’t mind expletives. I am quite fluent with them these days. I always liked them and used them before, but now, it’s like my native tongue. Makes me think of when I returned home from college the first few times. My aunts and my mom looked at each other knowingly as the expletives rolled off my tongue. A look I learned to decipher as, “oh, so cute! College girl thinks she has grown up!”

I don’t like to feel that anything is overwhelming for me. At all. But I’m also human and apparently have pesky things called feelings, and they can be hurt and trampled on too. That really destroys my vibe as someone who is above that sort of thing, but here we are.

And 12-year-olds are especially good…exquisitely good…at picking out your weaknesses and trampling all over them gleefully.

He’s apologized. I’m sulking and trying not to cry again. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine. I am both 15 and 44 and that’s a weird place to be.

It’s just…one minute you are going along thinking – not that you have it together – fuck no. Never that. But that you are managing things. You are getting by (that is a bar set very low). And then, something emotionally sideswipes you and you realize you have nothing together, your life is shit, and it’s like a bucket of ice-cold water has been dropped over your head. Everything you believed is a joke. You know shit. This week has been an entire week of this. And believe me, my expectations are very low. And somehow that hurts even more.

And when you try so hard to look like you have it together, that you are keeping everything together, it’s like an extra low blow. Especially when you are trying to look towards the future and try to make plans – you know “be optimistic”: the universe guffaws (maybe in a nicotine-deadened croaky voice), “ha ha ha. Why did you ever think you could do anything like that? Achieve anything like that? You are FUCKED!”

Like I said. Expletives are my lingua franca these days.

Just think of me as a crab: hard exoskeleton, soft underbelly. That’s what I feel like.

***

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Today is Manufacturing Day. I’ve posted about this day for many years, but please think of the manufacturers in your area and thank them, support them, vote for legislation friendly to them. Manufacturing is so important to our economy and, frankly, fascinating! Someone said on a call today, “manufacturing has changed!” And that is so true. It is very different than what it used to be, and I want us to get to a point where we can visit plants again (damn COVID) so people can see what it is like now. I could think of a zillion types of tours to plan to showcase the various products made in NC, and I know my colleagues across the nation could do the same. I love Manufacturing Day. It inspires me, and I love trying to figure out best how to highlight what all we make. And the truth is that if we as a nation no longer make things, we are doomed. If I, a prissy English major who had never been exposed to manufacturing prior to 2000, can find it fascinating, I guarantee that you can too.

***

And welcome October. It’s time to get out my Halloween villages and set up a few things. I love October. I love the leaves changing. I love knowing we are getting to the end of the year and the shortest day of the year. It appeals to something primal in me. I have 20 pairs of Halloween socks. I love it. Today, October 1, also marks the 11th month since Jimmy died. I am stunned it is month 11 already.

Life and feelings ebb and flow. Flow and ebb. Emotions come and go. Go and come. You do your best. It’s all you can do.

And, well, fuck it, right? You knew I couldn’t end without an expletive πŸ™‚