There’s been a Christmas song rolling around in my head this week. In the song “Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter” Ingrid Michaelson sings,
“Looks like a cold, cold winter Plenty of ice and snow But we’ll keep the love light in our hearts aglow Looks like a long, long winter, Baby what do we care As long as we have this love of ours to share.”
I want to tap Ingrid on the shoulder and say, “You have no idea.” It has been a long, long winter.
I know everyone is exhausted by the threat of Covid. Masks are coming off and numbers are dropping, and still, situations in my life give me pause. The constant negotiating of assessment and risk wipes me out weekly. Rather than comfort me with numbers and statistics in an attempt to emerge, I wish people would call me and say, “This isolation must be hard. You aren’t alone. You are making good choices for your family.”
I wish I could adopt more of a ‘Baby what do we care’ attitude?’
I still care.
Ingrid goes on to sing,
“It’s gonna be cold outside It’s gonna be warm inside So we’ll cuddle up by a cozy fire side by side Looks like a cold, cold winter Summer is far away But until then I’ll love you more and more each day.”
A friend reminded me that we have seventeen days until the start of spring. Between now and then, I’ll celebrate family birthdays and shuffle towards another grief anniversary. Spring feels far away.
Heat, we’ve learned, comes from friction, an ignition, a burning of a source of something. What fuel has sustained these days with cold temperatures, dark nights, and lack of connection?
The old standbys still hold true. A batch of cookies in the oven, a pair of warm socks, a book to read at the end of the day, someone to kiss good-night. While most of the world seems to want to move on, and the next crisis is replacing Covid numbers in the headlines, I’m still here, growing and easing tentatively in to a new season of life. Hope whispers. Fear screams. I’ve always been soft spoken.
For now, nurturing means choosing solitude and all of the friction that comes with it. The hope that this warmth leads to comfort, rather than pain, is a beautiful thing. Say hello to the outside world for me. And until then, I’ll work on loving more and more each day.
A therapist once taught me a grounding exercise. When overwhelm wraps its scratchy arms around me, I have to start to count the things I notice. The practitioner told me to pay attention to my senses.
What’s something you see? What do you smell? What do you taste? What’s within reach that you can run your palms across? What noises can you hear? As you make note, repeat the phrase, “I am safe” to yourself in a whisper.
Repeat the process until the anxiety subsides.
I had an epiphany last week while staring at pictures of others gathering with friends and family. If others can gather safely without health consequences, perhaps I am entitled to the same experiences. I tiptoed into my closet to pick out an outfit made of fibers other than spandex and cotton. I used mascara. I blow-dried my hair.
I had a coffee date with a new connection. I flicked through clothing racks at T.J. Maxx. When I hugged my friend, seven months pregnant, for the first time since the first lockdown, I cried. Emotions bubbled up, surprising me as I embarked on the everyday, ordinary routines that I’d skipped for the sake of safety.
All the while I kept whispering to myself, “I am safe” on repeat.
In seasons of darkness, we’re told to look for light. I find myself squinting from the flares of light others have been basking in for awhile longer than me. I’m moving into the world stepping cautiously into ordinary spaces.
While my eyes adjust, I’m also practicing looking for signs of life.
Andy Rooney once said, “For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”
Curating happiness in a post-pandemic world requires much of the same skills we learned in our hibernation.
What are your senses revealing?
Potatoes are poking their way through the dirt and I witness tiny tomato seedlings in their determination to become something of substance.
Neighbors up and down the street create a symphony of mowers releasing plumes of green grass thanks to all of the rain.
I’ve watched the irises grow their cellulose stalks and unfurl their blousy arms with flare. Bringing the blooms inside, I stuck my nose near the center and inhaled.
I dipped corn chips into hot cheese tasting flavors only a restaurant can concoct.
My clothes are clean. Leggings are worn soft. My toes can be free in flip flops once again.
A cousin said hello to their new baby girl.
When is the last time something wonderful happened to you?
“I think you may be acting out of your anxiety,” someone gently said to me.
“It will be ok” says my husband on repeat.
Hugging myself, I try to create a semi-circle of grace to combat the feelings of self-loathing because yes, these past few weeks, my anxiety seems to be winning.
Being a sensitive person during a contentious election season is hard. Smack on the truth that 900 people are dying EACH day from a virus the government shushes and I want to scream, “How are the rest of you NOT anxious?”
Perhaps you aren’t. Lucky you.
I am anxious. Those three words make me sad.
We’ve got three weeks to go until Election Day. Another friend reminded me, perhaps, it’s time to tune out.
I wobble between wanting to be informed and being disgusted. I laugh at the memes of flies and dip into a place of disgust for sold out fly swatters and pictures of poop on white bread. The flags waving on my street spout hatred. The very hanging feels like a violent act.
How can I continue to contribute to the discourse when we’ve stooped on both sides? Is calling someone a piece of shit acceptable if it’s true?
In an attempt to self-soothe and whisper again to turn back to hope, I made a list of and the coping mechanisms keeping me grounded.
Here are five ways to survive as a sensitive person during election season in a pandemic world.
Figure out how you want to contribute to the cause. I wrote to a senator for the first time this month. I chose to disregard the canned response I received in my inbox full of reasons why that senator would act differently. Man-splained once again. I signed up to send 400 postcards to voters in areas likely to experience voter suppression. I bought a coffee mug. I’m done arguing on social media. But I’ll keep giving my dollars to campaigns and keeping my fingers crossed.
2. Remember I can’t control much
Even people closest to me think I’m overreacting. My cautiousness at entering hair salons and the short outburts reminding people to use hand sanitizer mask the underlying narrative I’ve got playing in my head. Soap and masks are good and necessary. But the air is tainted too?
I can’t control other people and their perceived ok-ness. I want to stop judging the kids at soccer practice and the parents who put them there. I want to be free of fear knowing people I love are forced to go back to work in rooms with little ventilation.
I can work on improving my own sense of grounding.
3. Schedule time to process
Whether I’m writing in a journal, or talking to a friend on the phone, or watching a video sure to make me cry, I have to find a place to press the pressure valve button. No one is experiencing this too-much-ness like I am. I need a place to own my own story. Blow off the steam. Dance in the living room. Scream. Let the tears fall.
4. Stop scrolling
Perhaps tears are good reminders I’ve been scrolling too much. No one is forcing me to open Instagram or the front page of the virtual New York Times. My wanting to be informed is hurting my spirits. Give my thumbs something else to do. Go on a walk. Pick up the ukulele. Write more postcards. Stop scrolling.
5. Count the beautiful things
The sun is up and the smoke has shifted. New playlists exist on Spotify. Wrap your hair around an iron to create the perfect curl. Milk still swirls in coffee and yellow leaves crunch at my feet. Candle light warms and ink spills onto paper. People are activating, donating, scrubbing, and sanitizing. Prayers are whispered. Grief is becoming a part of the national conversation. Red toe nail polish. Creativity whistles bringing good ideas and hilarity to our homes. Season six of Schitt’s Creek is now available on Netflix …
I don’t know what will happen in November. Maybe today’s death count will drop. Perhaps one more person will pick up a mask. Saying hello to the anxiety deflates its looming presence.
I’m here, as a sensitive person, reminding myself and others that even in the madness, beauty abounds. Help me remember to focus here instead.
I was doing my best to stay back from the people in front of me as my face covering kept slipping. My efforts to create the six-feet distance seemed silly as others swarmed around me in the busy store. Like a salmon unsure of how to swim upstream, I tentatively wrapped my little fins around me wondering if this big ol’ river was safe. As I followed my husband through the aisles, I looked ahead and watched a man pause.
As he stood still, I did too, waiting to move forward as I kept my space.
This man removed his mask, sneezed, and then put the face covering back on.
I was furious.
“You wear the mask to stop the sneeze!” I thought to myself “Ohhhhh my Gosh!”
I wanted to pull my hair, to yell at him, to shriek what the heck he was missing! I felt my muscles tense and my annoyance rise. I’ve never hated being around people more.
I stood still longer, silently praying thanks for my own face mask and wondering how long it takes for germs to disperse before I walked through his invisible, fearful cloud of possible germs.
I continued forward and was uncomfortable for the next twenty minutes we spent in Home Depot. Get in, get our supplies, get out.
I know I can’t be the only one worried in public places and at the same time, by the looks of things, there are thousands of people not worrying as much as me.
Our neighbors are gathering and stores are busy and friends are posting pictures of time spent on the lake. I’m still sitting, writing from my couch, wondering what dials will have to turn for me to feel safe again out in the world. I miss my mom and want a hug and wonder when my brother will be able to go back to work. This isn’t fun.
We drove back home and washed our hands and wiped down the cans of paint we purchased with off-brand, lemon-scented cleaner because Clorox wipes are still nowhere to be found.
Later in the evening, I turned on an old favorite movie, About Time. The main character Tim has the gift of being able to travel back in time and can re-live any day he chooses. There are consequences of the re-dos but mostly, his gift gives him the ability to live less anxiously, be more present, and delight in the extraordinary ordinary things around him. The things we worry about are easier to face if we know the outcomes don’t cause us pain.
I kept thinking while watching the movie, if I went back to today two weeks from now and stood in that same concrete, box store would I be kinder to the man who sneezed if I knew I wasn’t infected. I would have gone down a different aisle. I would have pulled Dylan closer and slowed my breathing. Or would I have chosen to avoid that store all together?
What would I do differently if I knew now what I’ll know in two weeks? The exercise is exhausting, isn’t it?
Here’s what I know now.
This is it.
We don’t get a do over. I don’t get to go back.
I may have to spend much of my thirty second year in my house, wondering, waiting, worrying.
When they say it is safe again, I’ll wander out and get emotional about sitting in a public park and plan vacations and toast champagne at weddings and still, new anxieties will present themselves. The world will give me something else to be scared of.
Moving through things doesn’t erase fears – the process of arriving on the other side means I’ll place my anxious claws into something else. Worrying and wondering just wastes my time today.
This is it.
How can I live differently here in these pandemic days while I wait?
I asked my friend to pray for me – may I have compassion for the people who aren’t taking this as seriously as I am. Compassion for myself and my family. May I be at peace. May I use my creative energy to invest in the things I love to do, even while home. May I honor the outbursts and fits and tears coming from the stress of this global melt down.
Our world is changed and my little world, here on the big blue couch with the sun streaming in, still offers a chance for peace. I may be missing out, but this won’t be forever.
The sun is up. The garden is being watered. The coffee is hot. Books begging to be read beckon. I’m breathing.
This is my life, here and now.
As Tim says, “We’re all traveling through time together every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.”
I spent the morning swirling as we received more news of postponed jobs.
In a meeting, my coworker posed the question, “How are you getting wound up in negative possibilities?”
I am so. darn. good. at. that.
At the start of the year, I challenged myself to use my imagination for more positive things. I didn’t know of the coming epidemic and I forgot about my resolution as I swam in the dark sea of what ifs.
So, after deep breaths and mental silence, I’m at it again. Focusing and remembering on the good things that make us laugh and bring us sustenance. Trying to imagine big, beautiful possibilities.
Sixteen seasons. And the producers renewed for three more years.
“You still watch that crap?” people ask me.
Yes, yes I do.
“It’s not crap,” I say, sticking my tongue out in their general direction.
The wisdom and wonders found in the writing of Grey’s Anatomy have woven their sentences and story lines into my life, into my traumas, and into my recovery.
As the sixteenth season came to a close, Meredith encourages Jo through a dark time. Jo’s traumas are not mine. Not similar in any way. But Meredith’s words touched a tender place in my heart.
Especially seconds 38 – 1:07.
“You’ve taken all this darkness and used it to help other people who are walking through the same,” says Meredith.
I hope so.
“You’ve turned the darkest experiences that life gave you and you turned it around and you turned it into light.”
I’ve spent a few years soaking in my own grief process, writing things for strangers to read. I now seek an outside perspective, more tools to help me process, label and understand so I can continue transform my darkness.
This week I started therapy.
I tell you not to get your sympathy nor to get your pats on the shoulders. I tell you because this world is hard. I tell you because I’m not ashamed. I tell you because if I can do it, so too can you.
Being human is hard. Talking about our negative patterns, our dysfunctional relationships, our emotions, our traumas, our hopes, and our potential is hard. There are kind and compassionate professionals trained to help us with the scary process of facing ourselves. They are ready to welcome you onto the sofa when you are ready to walk in the door.
Today, I walked in the door. And I believe therapy will help me continue to turn my darkness into light.
To believe this transformation is possible, for me, and for you, and for all of us aching out there – what a beautiful thing.
Favorite Quote: “Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.”
I’ve never had my breath taken away in the same way that I did when I visited the Norwegian Fjords. In the Summer of 2017, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Norway on a cruise. My Mom and I opted for a room with a balcony view so that we were able to look over the sea at night too, and my gosh it was incredible. For seven days, we sailed the Norwegian Seas; encountered some wonderful, smooth seas but also a pretty rough one on one particular night!
All four of the days where we visited on-land places were absolutely incredible, but the third day was the real showstopper for me. We were taken to the top of a fjord and the view was just breathtaking. I think the pictures really do say it all!
I love Norway. The culture and lifestyle is such a stark contrast from where I live in the UK. The industrial towns are sparse, roads are generally quiet and a lot easier to cross. Generally speaking, the noise is just reduced. Shops look pleasant and beautiful and the staff are incredibly friendly. The only negative thing that I can bear to mention, is that the prices of everything are incredibly high (£11 for a curry in a takeaway box!), but with the views and the culture in mind it’s almost worth the cost. Cycling in Norway is much more of the norm, houses are often painted vibrant colours including, white, red and blue. Imagine how incredible they look as the backdrop of your outfit of the day photos! (gosh, I am such a blogger these days.)
Whilst visiting Norway we were also blessed with the opportunity of viewing a glacier whilst in Flåm. We travelled by train up to the glacier and we saw so many stunning views on the route through the mountains. It astounds me that people can build houses that are so hidden away! I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to get your car up a mountain to your home, and even to walk!
All I have to say is that these people must be incredibly fit and healthy, but the views are
absolutely worth it. I’d dream of being able to live in such a place! Having never visited a glacier before, it was worth every single penny that we paid to catch that train as it was just something else. It baffles me how snow can accumulate on mountains due to it being so cold – it was the middle of August at the time!
As my holiday was a year ago, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to remember the smaller details of my holiday. But, equally, I remember how incredible it was and how excited I am at the prospect of going back there one day. The views, the shops, and the style of Norway astound me and I would be honored to be able to live there one day.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post! Have you visited Norway before? I would love to hear your thoughts and where you’ve visited!
Thank you to Katie for blessing me with such a wonderful opportunity to write
on her blog. If you fancy checking me out, I’m Chloe and I blog at Chloe Elizabeth about all things mental health/lifestyle/fashion. She’s also on Twitter and Instagram.
Another Twitter connection. Another delightful person working bravely to write, create, and appreciate gifts right under her nose. Check out this sensory guest post from Charlotte Underwood. I love how she reminds us we don’t have to venture far to find experiences that please the senses.
Her Favorite Quote: “Time passes, people move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. A childish mind will turn to noble ambition. Young love will become deep affection. The clear water’s surface reflects growth. Now listen to the Serenade of water to reflect upon yourself.” – Sheik
Nature is a gift that we receive every day and yet seem to ignore and maybe even act ungrateful for. It’s easy to forget that in our ever-increasing urban lifestyle, that we are on the doorstep of some of earths most beautiful creations.
I have always been infatuated with the beauty of nature and the little gems that the world provides us, memories of me playing in the mud, dancing under blossom trees and going on adventures through woods and dipping my toes in the hidden lakes of my hometown; these are the ones that showed me true happiness, love and awe, it reminded me of life.
Now, I must admit that as an adult with severe anxiety, I do tend to ignore the world that I crave all too much. I want nothing more than to pack up and travel the world, to see each of the wonders of the world and to experience every culture known to man; but for now, that is but a dream but one that I will achieve.
Until I am able to jet off, it doesn’t mean that I can’t make the most of my local area, we all seem for forget that our own towns and neighborhoods contain some truly beautiful sights. Be it the park that has contains a pond full of rainbow fish or a building that fills your mind with curiosity, when was the last time you actually took the moment to look and to ponder, to let that imagination flow.
My old garden and the memories of it has become my happy place when things start to get hard for me, because the environment it gave filled me with such warmth and safety; I’ll never forget it. I used to lie on top of my trampoline in the evening, with the sun glistening through the trees the enveloped my garden and caressed my cheek, I could hear the birds sing and the trees sway in the wind that was tickling my toes, this was happiness.
I can no longer sit in that garden but the memory will last a lifetime and also, right now, like you, I am surrounded by opportunity that will surely leave me breathless and thankful. A short drive away from my home is my local beach and while it is not the prettiest, have you ever sat and watched the sunset on a beach? Where the sun shines a golden coat across the coast and then folds into a hypnotic shade of purple before darkness fades in? This happens every night, all around the world and yet so many of us, even those who literally live on the doorstep will miss out – why?
Mother nature is an artist with the most precious and fine creations that not one person could ever mimic, with no cost or trap to experience the beauty and lust of these masterpieces, it seems almost wasteful that we do not spend more time appreciating what is right under our noses.
Charlotte Underwood is a young 22 year old from Norfolk, UK. She is a growing mental health advocate and likes to use writing to inform and support.
You can follow her blog, where she posts a lot about mental health, depression, anxiety and suicide. She hopes to raise awareness as well as end the stigma. You can follow her on Twitter.
Groceries. What a nickname. I don’t really remember why Richard’s character in Eat Pray Lovecalls Elizabeth that name. Quippy sure, but powerful all the same. What we call each other out of affection matters.
This week I have been drawn to this video clip from the movie, and I imagine myself sitting in Elizabeth’s spot. What would it feel like to have someone rush their hands into your face like that? More importantly, why is it so challenging to remember the truth that the universe wants, aches, and desires to fill our lives with abundance and love.
No, I’m not recovering from a failed marriage and I’m not stuck dwelling in shards of love for a person that I shouldn’t be. I do see myself in that red headed character, though. The way she has her chin in her hands, twirling her hair around her fingers, weaving her hurt through the strands. Arms crossed across her body in protection.
Like Elizabeth, I walked into unanticipated loss and beat myself miserably over my inability to prevent such horror from happening. My life changed drastically fifteen months ago. That change felt bad. Really, horribly, achingly bad. Losing a pillar of a person in your life rocks you to the core.
I lost my job. A dream job on paper and that shook me too. Confidence went out the window. Panic and pressure filled my brain – I constantly scoured my writing for extra commas, and squeezed my hands red each time I made a mistake. I had never doubted myself so much, retreating inside for fear of errors, or interacting with a person who could hurt me again.
“Your life’s changing and that’s not a bad thing. And you’re in a perfect place for it. Surrounded by grace.”
‘Not a bad thing?’, I ask, ‘Whatever could you mean.’ I have always been a critic of change.
I now realize I’ve been living in this space of fear and regret for too long. I’m trying to change my perspective. Grant permission to sink into a warm pool of self-forgiveness, of compassion, and of promise. I want to change to embrace my next phase of life with expansion and hope and love. The universe forced, squeezed, smashed me, but I survived. Grace and mercy oozed in clumps in the process, like Play-Dough going through angry fingers in fists.
“So miss him. Send him some light and love every time you think of him, then drop it.”
If someone told me this about my dad I think I’d bite my lip, and mentally punch them in the face. But when Richard says it, I slowly smile. I’ve spent many months in pain when thinking of Dad’s memory. Tears flowed freely and I’ve gotten stuck not knowing what to do with loss. This line though, this is wisdom. A perfect prescription for living with grief on a daily basis. A formula for healthy adapting. I want to send Dad light and love and smile his way, then drop it. I’ve got living to do.
“You know if you could, uggh, clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using to obsess over this guy and your failed marriage, you’d have a vacuum with a doorway and you know what the universe would do with that doorway? Whoom! Rush in. Rush in and fill you with more love than you’d ever dreamed of. Man.”
Whoa Richard. Calm down.
This is the line that keeps rolling through my brain. Well when I’m not filling it with fear and disappointment and sadness. What happens when I let go, and let love in? I’m not sure, but I’m giving it a try.
Here’s what I found this week:
We traded our neighbors a plant for their used outdoor dining patio set. They simply weren’t using the table and chairs, and they said we could have it, just have it, if they could have the little plant growing in our rocks. You mean the only ‘wildflower’ growing in our rocks? Sure! Done. Trade. Abundance.
I went to a fundraiser for a little boy who has cancer. One hundred and fifty people gave their time, talents, and resources to support a child who is sick. Who has been through fire. Watching community come together made my heart beat fast. Gratitude that I am well. Thankfulness for being raised to give. You can donate to Sam here. Abundance.
An old colleague of mine sent me an email full of beautiful things. She shared of her journey from divorce to living the travelers life. She encouraged me in my writing, shared her inspiration for her stories, and reminded me to listen to the words in my own heart. Across the country, through the waves of wifi, she sent love saying, ” Don’t expect that you have to know now what kind of a writer you want to be. Don’t pigeon hole yourself or expect too much. Do give yourself permission to try and try and try and try again and to change and ebb and flow. Not even try and fail. There is no fail if you are writing. You only fail when you don’t write.”
The words I want to believe, but have trouble accepting because of all the other ick rolling around in my brain. The stuff I should clear out. She wrote them out and sent them to me, without evening know where I stood.
Whoom! Love. Abundance. Gifts.
“Groceries….. I think you have the capacity some day, to love the whole world.”
Boy I hope so. Love is my goal. For myself, and for others, and for the journey.
What can you clear out that will lead to more love, abundance, confidence and gifts in your own life? What examples of bountiful provision and beauty have you encountered? How do you choose to turn off your brain?