You don’t know me

Today I went for a walk.

I reeeeeeally didn’t want to. It’s raining, and it’s super cold. Which is shitty because if it were just a few degrees colder, it’d be snow, and that would make all the difference.

But no. It’s cold and wet and I forced myself outside because I’m told it’d be good for me and because I’m desperate to feel better.

I wake up most mornings these days feeling like there’s a sack of flour on my chest. I don’t know why. It’s become automatic at this point. Sometimes, a lot of the time, I forget what it’s like to feel relaxed. Truly, simply, relaxed. Calm. Peaceful. Content.

It makes me sad. It makes me frustrated. It makes me feel despair. It makes me feel broken.

It makes me feel like my anxiety and depression is my fault. Because I’m type A, numero uno on the enneagram, I like feeling in control (or at least having the illusion of control). And if I’m in control, that means that things are my fault. That I should be able to feel a certain way or not feel a certain way if I want to. That if I can’t feel a certain way, then I must be doing something wrong. Only I’m doing ALL THE THINGS. And I still feel this way. And I’m fucking exhausted.

So, clearly, logically, it’s not my fault. Go figure. I think that’s been the single most impactful intervention my therapist has said to me in the past 6 months. That my anxiety is not my fault. You know what? No one had ever told me that before. I don’t think it had honestly occurred to me until then. Well, shit.

At the same time, the part of me that knows this isn’t my fault wants some more fucking credit for all the shit I’ve been doing. And when a professional implies that I should be doing more, or that I’m not doing enough, I implode. Do you know how hard I’m working?! I want to scream, Don’t you get how much effort I’ve put into getting healthy?!

My therapist asked me if I’m journaling. Fuck you, was the response in my head. You want me to do one more thing? Like I’m not already doing enough? You don’t know me. (Those of you who are Brene Brown fans and follow her podcasts will especially get that last line.)

My psychiatrist wants me to get some kind of exercise every day, if I can. Is that good advice? Yup. Is it always feasible? Nope. Do I want credit for busting my ass to get to 3 classes a week and taking walks in the freezing rain? You bet I do.

I’m realizing that I want to be taken care of. As a mom and a woman, I take care of everybody else’s shit. All day errday. I don’t get people cleaning up my messes or kissing my boo-boos or telling me what a great job I’m doing. And I’ve been seeking that out from paid professionals in my life. In the past 6 months, I’ve employed a physical therapist, a chiropractor, an individual mental health therapist, a psychiatrist, a couples therapist, two yoga instructors, a pilates instructor, and a partridge in a pear tree. That’s me asking for help. That’s me getting the care I need and I deserve.

And through this process, I’m realizing just how closely linked to shame my anxiety and depression are. I’ve never had them stick around so long before, and it’s freaking me out. It’s exhausting. I am depleted. Something must be wrong with me. And I want a parental figure to say I’m doing a great job. Look at all the hard work you’re doing! I see it and I give you credit. It’s such a primordial need; such a young and vulnerable feeling.

I took a walk today in the freezing rain. I closed my rings today. That good enough for you? Am I good enough?

You want me to find time to journal on top of everything else?

Here’s your fucking journal entry.

Wait and Ruminate

I’m spinning out today.

Some days I feel fine. Great, even. Others it feels like the sky is falling. Today is the latter.

I woke up with a cloud over my head and, because I live in a glass cage of emotion, immediately began sifting through the contents of my brain to figure out why. I came up with a few reasons, and my guess is that by embarking on this blog post, I’ll discover one or two more in the process.

Recently some people close to me have gotten their first dose of the vaccine. This triggered a simultaneous range of emotions. First, I am happy for them. I want them to be healthy and protected. I was also filled with jealousy. And I’m owning this as a reflection on me, not on my loved ones. If I were in their shoes, I’d have gotten the shot too. In a heartbeat. This is about my longing to feel safe again. I see others around me getting what I desperately want, and of course it’s going to trigger a reaction. It reminds me of how I felt when friends or acquaintances announced pregnancies when my own fertility status was unknown and precarious. I remember telling my therapist that those yucky feelings were getting in the way of my happiness for my friends. It’s my own junk that I have to work through, made more difficult by the fact that I have no idea how much longer I have to wait.

This is all compounded by my firm, often stubborn, adherence to standards of fairness and justice. Oregon leadership has decided to vaccinate educators ahead of seniors, and it makes my blood boil. They have decided that opening schools is more important than saving the lives of our parents and grandparents. Even so, many school districts are charging full speed ahead and are partially or fully opening even before educators have had the chance to get both shots and have enough time to build the required immunity for full protection, all in the name of getting kids into school buildings for 8 weeks – behind masks and plexiglass and glued to desks and working on computers. All this, while thousands of seniors wait and die waiting for vaccine doses with their names on them.

I have never been more glad that my parents do not live in this state. I’m angry now, but if I had to watch my parents wait through this, I’d be absolutely livid and out of my mind with fear for their safety.

The other fairness piece is that my immediate family and I have been social distancing as health experts have advised. We have sacrificed a lot in an attempt to ensure our family doesn’t get sick and that if we do, we won’t get anyone else sick. It’s hard for me to sit here, feeling like I’ve been a good girl following the rules, and watch other people enjoying extracurricular activities. I understand that my ability to social distance to this degree is a largely a function of privilege. My husband has a white collar job that he can do from home. We can afford for me to stay home and do unpaid childcare, unpaid tutoring, unpaid-keep-the-house-from-falling-apart. We have stable housing and a reliable internet connection, etc. etc. It’s because of this privilege, including that I’m young and white and healthy, that I can afford to wait longer for the vaccine than almost all other populations. As it should be.

At the same time, we’ve also made many, many choices to stay home when we very well could have gone out and socialized and taken risks. In that sense, I can’t help but feel anger and resentment when I see others get vaccinated who haven’t “followed the rules,” whatever that means. My “fairness and justice” button is large and sensitive.

And so I continue to wait and ruminate and worry and doom scroll. (Not to even mention the slow-motion race we’re in to vaccinate people ahead of these more contagious covid mutations and that’s not even mentioning the Brazilian or South African strains that may not respond to current vaccines…welcome to my brain.) I remind myself on a daily basis that I am safe (what a relative word that has become) – and some days require more intense persuasion than others. That I am doing what is right for me and my family. That this hellscape will not last forever. In theory. You know.

Sit with the ache in your heart

This Thanksgiving marks the one year mark since I have seen my parents in person.

This is the longest I have ever – EVER – been away from them and it sucks.

Last year was the first year my husband and I decided to host Thanksgiving. In years past, we traveled to California from Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with both our families (my husband and I are from the same hometown, so going home means we get to see everyone in one trip) and we made it a point to stay as long as we could. Travel is expensive, and since having one and then two kids, it’s a huuuuge pain in the ass. If we were gonna go anywhere, we were gonna stay and make the trip super worthwhile.

We opted to host last year because my son had started kindergarten and we couldn’t take the 2 week trip without him missing school. We invited a bunch of family, knowing we were deviating from the norm and that most would probably have other plans already. My parents were the ones who chose to fly up and join us. We had a fun visit and a pretty chill Thanksgiving meal. My mom helped out by making her amazingly cheesy shredded potato casserole. I struggled to take a selfie of everyone sitting around the table, but somehow I managed. We had no idea it would be the last holiday we’d spend together for a very long time.

My parents had another visit planned around…I wanna say…April? We all mutually decided to cancel; it wasn’t worth the risk of anyone getting sick. My mom has a preexisting condition and so her health is at a higher risk than most. Also, both of them are over 65.

Ever since, we’ve been FaceTiming but y’all know that’s not the same. My son is able to write real letters now, and we do that from time to time too. My daughter would contribute her spirited artwork. There’s just no way to write enough or color enough to fit yourself into an envelope and mail all of you to where you need to be.

For me, this Thanksgiving will be one to grieve a benchmark of time spent apart. We’ll be grieving the loss of safety, normalcy, etc. I’ll also be giving thanks that, although apart, my family is all in good health. Our sacrifice, and the sacrifice of everyone around us, is for good reason. It’s so that we can all be together again in the future to celebrate and share our lives and swap germs and not take that closeness for granted ever again.

I know this lockdown is hard, probably one of the hardest things we’ll do as a global community in our generation, but resist the temptation to let down your guard and get too close to those not in your household this holiday season. Think about the long-term consequences. Think about how you’d feel if a social gathering landed a person you love in the hospital. The risk is not worth it. I encourage you to sit with the loss. Sit with the ache in your heart. I feel it too. The good news is that it won’t last forever.

This Thanksgiving, I’ll be thinking about my parents and making plans for the future. Because if everyone does their part, then we’ll all have a future to celebrate together.


Day 24

The Parental Matrix

It’s an interesting experience to watch movies with my parents, especially ones that involve twists and turns, or are just a little out there from normal, everyday life (don’t even get me started on The X-Files, for instance).

Last Saturday night, I braved watching The Matrix with my mom and dad. I took slight creative license, but the core flavor is still there.

—–

The agents are chasing Neo through his office

Mom: Why are they wearing sunglasses indoors? Do they know how silly they look?

Me: I think it’s supposed to make them look scarier, Mom. Good to know that tactic wouldn’t work on you, though.

Neo wakes up, looks confused

Dad: Ok, so we’re not supposed to know if he was dreaming or not, right?

Me: That’s correct, Dad. Just hang in there.

Neo hangs in the air as he trains with Morpheus

Dad: So how does he do that?

Me: He’s in the Matrix. It’s not real life, and he can bend the rules.

Dad: Got it.

It’s the spoon-bending scene

Dad: Hold it, so how come he was able to bend the spoon?

Me: Dad, the couch you’re sitting on isn’t real. The woman in the red dress wasn’t real. Remember what the little boy said? THERE IS NO SPOON!

Major fight scene between Neo and Agent Smith

Mom: So how come the sunglasses guy didn’t die just then?

Me: Because he’s an agent, kind of a computer program. The person he was inhabiting just died, but the agent didn’t. He’s in the Matrix.

Neo was just shot multiple times. It was very dramatic.

Dad: Wait a minute, so why didn’t he die from all those bullets?

Me: He’s in the Matrix. The bullets aren’t real. None of this is real!

Dad: But I thought you could still die in the Matrix.

Me: Very good, Dad, you can. But he’s The One, so the rules don’t apply to him. Kinda like Jesus.

Mom: Only Jesus didn’t wear sunglasses indoors.

Melissa and Brian Say Stupid Shit

Sometimes Brian and I crack tongue-in-cheek jokes about how we’re getting old.

We complain about the undergrads and their loud parties at 10:45 on a worknight.  Our bodies don’t process alcohol as efficiently as they once did- more often now with pyrotechnic consequences.  We no longer understand what the kids are into these days, what with their Biebers and their bath salts.

Sometimes we even half joke/half lament about how our parents are slowly but surely turning into their parents.  One rather hilarious and more frequently occurring conversation we overhear is our parents trying to decide whether they have seen a certain movie or not.  Celebrity names are thrown out (or not thrown out, and instead it’s “…you know, that guy with the thing on his face.”) and plotlines are halfway remembered and merged with others (“You remember, when that submarine blew up and then the lady kissed the monkey!”)  We watch with smug amusement.

With that said, welcome to another edition of Melissa and Brian Say Stupid Shit.

—–

Brian and I are catching up on some Daily Show we missed during the week.

B: “Wait, haven’t we seen this before?”

Me: “Yeah, I feel like I’ve yelled the same things at the TV not too long ago.”

We keep watching for a few more moments.

B: “We’ve seen this before.”

Me, agreeing with him: “Wait, how long have we been watching this before we figured it out?”

I grab the remote and pause the DVR.

Me: “Eight whole minutes!  Man, we’re getting old.”

B: “That’s a six.  You can’t see that?”

…and this is what humility feels like.