A Year Later, As the Story Goes…


Of course, it popped up in my memories today. All of them. Facebook, Google Photos, Instagram…they all found it absolutely imperative to remind me that, one year ago today, my little corner of the world shut down–just like everyone else’s. First, school closing was announced until April 13. Then, this morning a year ago, it snowed. Snowed heavily enough for my daughter to go out to play in it and for me to take a snowy tromp out across the field behind our house. The next day, I took my last dinner and a movie outing with a bestie. Then the world screeched to a halt, and I haven’t done it since. I may miss it but this is not a post about what I miss. Not really. Not entirely. More like it’s about what’s missing.

A year ago, I posted about stopping. Could I just stop? Stop and embrace the unknown of what was next? Stop and rest? I decided I could, and I did. I found new avenues of connection, encouragement, and expression. I held hands with dear ones, students, and strangers across the digital gap, turning my talents into new strands of gold. Despite the hardships of lockdown, which I detail out quite honestly in my personal journals, I don’t remember being afraid. I don’t remember the paralysis of worry and fear. In fact, in some ways, I thrived in that odd spring.

Here we are now, a year later. Progress is being made, medical measures are now available for safety, the world has begun to move again, in some cases very quickly, and, now–NOW–I feel as though I am in survival mode. The avenues I had discovered and thrived through last spring feel barren and cold to me now; they have become things that I no longer have time or energy for. Tricks and emotional hacks that have lost some of their efficacy; the shine has dulled, the gold seems to have flaked off.

And that hurts. It hurts more than I care to admit at times.

A year later, I am honestly avoiding people. I am avoiding socializing. A friend messaged me the other day to let me know that they were glad to see me on a Zoom gaming session last week and, as grateful as I was for that and as much as I did have fun for the most part, I felt an internal balking at making it a consistent thing. It takes so much to participate in life now. So much energy, so many spoons, so much emotional risk. I find myself hesitating at things that I would have leapt at in the Before Times, such as seeing friends in person that I haven’t seen in a long time. I find myself thinking twice about saying yes now; so much so that the hubby has taken to telling me, “Say yes. Yes is your answer,” when I bring up invitations. So I am trying to say ‘yes’ more. Do I always say ‘yes’? Absolutely not. Sometimes I just cannot handle the idea of sitting with someone in person and talking; other times, it’s all I want in the world.

A year later, I feel depleted, shrunken rather than grown. I feel hunched and inward-facing rather than outward-facing, though I still pour out out of sheer habit sometimes, which is a very strange dichotomy in which to be. I am hesitant to hope, to look forward to things, because disappointment looms. Large changes drain me because this last year has been one full to overflowing with them. So, like Tony Stark, I concentrate on what I can do. (“You’re a mechanic, right?” “Yeah.” “So build something.” “…Okay.”) I am giving everything to the point of exhaustion to work/teaching, because that is what I can do. It’s frustrating as all get out. I will not call it rewarding because that is not where I am right now, but it’s my job. It is what I have to do, and the kids in my classroom need something I can hopefully give. We are all closed-off to an extent right now but…I can try. I will cry and curse and collapse, probably, but it is what I can do right now. So I do it. I am unsure as to whether anyone truly understands the withertos and whyfores for me in this, but…it is where I am. I don’t know if it is helping me, I know it is not a long-term answer, but I cannot help but hope it is helping. Someone. Somehow.

I was not emotionally prepared to be this emotionally unprepared a year later. I feel more fragile than I did last spring; more hesitant, shyer, and more anxious. I feel less seen and, in some cases, less willing to be seen. Like I want to hide and hibernate until I am ready to be in the world again, when the climate is right again for me, whenever that may be. But, as I am not a tardigrade, that is not an avenue that is open to me. So I will keep on. I will try the avenues that are open to me and try to give myself and others a fighting chance at making it.

If you are in this place of emotional unpreparedness, too, you aren’t alone. Know that. The world has not ended; this struggle will, though, I hope. Just hold on, okay? I’m right there beside you, holding on, too. Even if it is just by our fingertips. Feel that? That’y my pinkie touching yours. You aren’t alone.

If you are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out. There are avenues open for you, friends.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Bracing from Buoyancy to Letdown


Last week, I rode a high brought on by the spectacular live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar that aired on NBC’s network on Easter Sunday, starring John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Brandon Victor Dixon. I had never seen a production of JCS or listened to any of the soundtrack before, so this was an entirely new experience for me. Godspell I was familiar with, but I had never gotten to know JCS, although I knew of it.

All last week, the strains and melody of “Everything’s Alright” were the undercurrent of my days. I even found myself singing the first stanza of the song to a student who was nervous and stressed about a test they had in my class. All week, this musical—this story of Judas, Jesus, and deep, soul-searing humanity—buoyed me up and kept me afloat. The actors’ faces have shown up in my dreams. Their voices have filled my quiet moments, my heart and soul birthing prayers from the lyrics they breathe and belt.

Jesus Christ Superstar has been a Godsend of a soul lift, one that I have needed deeply and dearly. It has been a difficult few months, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I have felt heavy, off-center, not myself. Nothing has felt aligned—not my emotions, my prayers/time with God, my sleep, my libido, my energy, my reactions and responses, nothing. Often, all I want to do after a full day of teaching is hide in my room with my earbuds in and not speak or have to spend spoons on anyone. Of course, unfortunately, this means my family suffers from my lack of presence and being present. For weeks, it’s been this way, this off-centeredness, so to feel the buoyancy of this beautiful musical was nothing short of a miracle. As we head into a new week, though, I find myself fearing.

I fear the letdown. Buoyancy like this doesn’t last as the novelty becomes commonplace. I fear the shine falling off, the powerful lyrics becoming ordinary as I listen to them over and over. I fear that the off-centeredness returning, the heavy tiredness settling on my shoulders and sapping my spoons and energy. It is like the winter weather, which seems to refuse to let go as, morning after morning, now into April, I wake to snow on the ground where previously there was none. Like that unexpected snow, I silently worry that the low places will return, and I’ll crash back to earth again. That sudden stop hurts, like a lot.

This past weekend, as I embarked to the grocery store on my own (a rare thing), I kept my earbuds in as I did my shopping, humming and mouthing lyrics to JCS’s pieces, and there was a freedom there. A soaring amidst the mundane, and I realized how much I have missed it. I’ve missed feeling freedom. Freedom to be me and enjoy what brings me life and joy. Even though I am afraid that it won’t last, for now I will hold onto it. Hold onto that freedom, that soaring, those miracles amidst the mundane. I will keep on singing, sharing, and hoping that this is just the beginning of feeling like myself again.

An Unfair Comparison


Author’s Note: This blog post is not aimed at anyone, nor is it an exercise in shaming persons – man or woman, great or small, or what have you. It is simply a post born of a thought and worked through into a premise as I work through my own issues with self-esteem and comparison. You are under no obligation to read it.

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Dear You,

Now, I know that you have read the letters and blog posts that tell you not to compare yourself to others, to not look at their bodies and think yourself fat or unfit or unattractive or what have you. They tell you to remember your power, that you are great/beautiful/handsome/wonderful just the way you are, man or woman. You shouldn’t compare yourself to anyone else; you are individual, you are unique, you are special. Comparing yourself to someone else is unfair to you. And I agree.

But what about me? Yes, me. That one, whether nebulous or specific, that you’re comparing yourself to.  It’s unfair to me, too, you know.  Just as it’s unfair to you when people compare themselves to you. When you compare yourself to me, you not only undo your individuality, you undo mine, too. Such a comparison, at its heart, presumes against the individuality of both the comparer and the compared. It assumes that you and I, or you and someone else, are the same in all things. When you compare yourself to me and wonder why you don’t look this way or do this or have that, you aren’t allowing for one very fundamental detail:

We are not the same person.

Between you and me, there is a plethora of differences – differences in body type, health, family history, maybe ethnicity, life developments and changes, jobs, particular emotional stressors, children or no children, and on and on. So it’s not only unfair to you when you compare yourself and hinge your self-esteem on someone else, but also to the person to whom you are comparing yourself. We are all in this together, but we are all fundamentally different people and far too individual and unique to be comparing ourselves to each other. I am not like you and you are like no one else. So let’s be fair to ourselves but also to others and let them be the special, unique, wonderful people that they are, too.

Thanks, Me