Sunday, March 22, 2020

Choices in Uncertain Times


These are uncertain times. I've been fine up till now. No major freak outs. Calm, cool, pragmatic and cautious. I had a panic attack last night which made it so hard to fall asleep. Then I slept for about 4 hours and now I'm up before the sun to try and get through these deep emotions that are rattling me. We're all rattled. We can say we're not, call this a hoax or brush it off and say "if I follow all the rules, nothing is gonna happen to me or my loved ones." Still, grocery store shelves are bare, people are losing their businesses and thousands around the world have lost their lives to this thing. This thing that has so many conspiracy theories around it that it has a back story of its own. Someone else can write that blog. 

We're here now, this is our new reality. However it came to be doesn't change the fact that we are going to have to overcome this. How to overcome it still lingers in the grey area. A different expert, each day, says something different. We know that if we shelter in place, we can "flatten the curve," but that doesn't mean that we can beat it. It is essentially a flu bug that we as humans need to contract to gain immunity. Flattening the curve just means prolonging the inevitable so that hospitals can keep up with those who truly need supportive care. At least that's one take I've heard on it. We currently have 21 cases in San Luis Obispo County and 20 of those people are home battling it out. 1 person needed hospital care. There is no medicine to take at home. You ride it out like the flu. Tylenol, soup and rest. It's pretty much what we all do, yearly, when the flu comes calling. So, why did so many people have to die? 

We hear numbers. As painful as it would be, I prefer to see faces. We get so desensitized to the fact that those 13,000+ people each had a family, a dream, a life. "13,000 and counting" is just one line of data. There are so many strands of data around each one. We are sheltered from information like where they grew up, what their passions were, who they fell in love with, how they made a living, who they called family and how they impacted the world around them. It's just so very heartbreaking and in these modern times, it's just a number on a screen. Not for those communities, not for those countries, but on the nightly news, we hear the number and go "wow," but do we really grasp that heartache? Do we want to? Of course not. Who wants to go down that rabbit hole of despair? Stay positive. Smile. Everything will be all right. It's not all right. I feel it all. I've been trying to push through and get out of feeling this one, but whenever I do that, it eventually comes rushing at me like a tidal wave out of nowhere. That wave drenched me last night. 

My Mom is Immune Compromised. My Grandma is 84 years old. These women are my lifeline. Their kind of love and support has saved me 3 separate times when I thought my world was ending. My story may have ended if not for them and my Mister Paul. There is no judgement, just unconditional love. So, as I sat there last night, the little asshole in my head whispered: "What if you lose them?" We all have that voice in our head that floats in and pretends to be our own voice and stirs up chaos in our brain. I tried to silence it and the tears just came. I sobbed for a good 40 minutes. Then, I just laid there in a state of shock and bliss. I let it out. I finally let myself feel the fear that I told myself I wasn't going to feel. Covering it up with FINE is not the way to go. Nothing is fine. This is unprecedented. Still, I spoke to fear and said "I live in the moment and everyone's here. Everyone's being mindful and careful." That is the information that is most true and real. We are all doing our best in these chaotic times. That is the current status. Beyond this is fear binoculars that only see the worst possibilities. I will NOT look through those lenses. We only have right now. This moment.  

Right now. Well, on Friday the 13th (of all days), Paul and I realized the virus (that shall not be named) was actually something that would be affecting our day to day lives. After he got off work, we ran over to Ralph's to stock up on essentials and the shelves were still healthy. Lots of supplies to choose from. We got a few extra cans of beans and corn and such, but we didn't hoard. We didn't even buy toilet paper. That was not on our radar. To us, toilet Paper isn't essential. So many other ways to clean your bootay. Anyhow, after that shopping trip I went out to dinner with my Mom and Gma for a girl's night to our favorite Mexican restaurant. I didn't know that when I said "goodbye" that night, I wouldn't get to hug them again or see them in person for quite sometime. We are going on day 9. Doesn't seem that long when you type it out like that. We've certainly gone this long without seeing each other in the past, but there's just a heavy cloud over these days. Each day feels like a year. Time moves so slowly. It's the knowing that we CAN'T go see them that is hard. 

On Sunday, March 15th, we heard these words: Those who are immune compromised or over 65 are urged to stay indoors. Just like that, our worlds officially changed. Mom had to stay home from work and her and Gma had to stay inside. I had recently become a Shipt shopper (delivery person mainly for Target, but occasionally  Ralphs, Vons and Smart & Final too). I had always planned to start shopping as a career around the 10th. After a thorough background check and two hours of online training, I started this gig on Saturday, March 14th.  By the time the news hit for everyone with compromised systems to stay inside and have no contact with anyone who could potentially be carrying the virus, I had done a few shopping trips. This meant I couldn't even go visit my Mom or Gma.  When I shop, I am so very cautious: use hand sanitizer, stay ample feet away from people and I get in and get out fairly quickly.  Still, I could have no symptoms and be a carrier for the virus and so I need protect the ones I love. Our new normal is that we can talk and walk separately and we will leave them food on their doorstep when they need something or when I bake a fresh batch of bread. I'm not scared for me. I am scared for them. Well, when I typed that, I called bull because I am scared for them, but it has to do with me. I'm scared of losing my people. Those two ladies are such pillars of my life. I know someday, it's inevitable that we will be separated by galaxies, but I think everyone would agree that this ain't the way to go... 

Well that got dark. On a positive note Shipt shopping is so much fun. It's like a scavenger hunt. The App you use is awesome and had it been any other time, there wouldn't be so much added stress. Having to substitute someone's entire shopping list with what is left is a hard feat, but I honestly find it fascinating and fun. That being said the first few days of shopping, I got some side eye and I even had one lady say some unkind words to me. This girl keeps coming to the store to stock up and hoard is how their face looked or literally what came out of that one lady's mouth to me. I would either open my jacket so they could read the SHIPT across my t shirt or I would explain, (like I did to that elderly woman) that I am shopping for those who cannot go out right now. She was combative and said something about how it "must be nice to be able to afford such a service." Her tone elevated in such a way that I continued on down the aisle. I have things to do and negativity is overflowing enough already. I made a choice to press on. In my life, I have had to press on so often. Career has been a tricky beast for me and I really excel in my passions and personal life when I have a part-time job. My creative passions need to be part of my life. They keep me breathing. I am so excited to have finally found a gig that will potentially afford all that. I love shopping for people. I just didn't expect to being doing it during a pandemic. 

The shelves are empty people. They truly are. Most fresh meats are gone so I have to text the customer that I can substitute for a frozen variety? Or "I'm sorry to report that there are no eggs in the store." It's more time consuming than it will ever have to be, once we get through this pandemic. Right now it is far more rewarding. I'm helping people. Yes, I started this as a means to pay some bills, but now the cards and texts I receive about our helpful service during this crisis is uplifting. Those kind souls cancel out the judges who either think I'm exploiting elders or that I am purposely running around the store to spread germs. I was always going to do this work. It is affording me more income because of the demand, but anyone who REALLY KNOWS ME knows that income has never been the carrot in front of me. I need it to pay bills, but beyond that, I don't care what is resting safely in the confines of my bank account. It's money. It is to be spent to enjoy this life now. Can't take it with you and sure as hell ain't doing any good if it's sitting in the bank and I die tomorrow... That's just my philosophy and honestly please keep your own philosophy. We don't have to match. Just don't force your views on me. I would never do that to you.

Choices. How we live our lives. I've been thinking a lot about it lately. Those kiddos who went to spring break during a pandemic or the family of 4 kids running around Target while Mom and Dad buy groceries just after we were told to shelter in place. It is easy to judge. So easy. I initially judged. What are they thinking? Silly kids not taking anything seriously. So selfish. Why does an entire family have to come to the grocery store the day after there was an official shelter in place order put in place? We don't know what is going on inside those people's minds or hearts. Their fear could whisper to them "rebel, go to the beach anyway" and instead of having the skill set to realize that voice in their head isn't always their own, they listen and own that thought. The family in the store could be so fearful of being apart that they just brought everyone not trying to be selfish or meaning to put anyone else in danger. They may have another skill set, another tool box. 

Recently, I heard someone writing off another for their lack of ability to get something done. It got me thinking of how easy it is for us to sideline commentate. We all do it. Some people just don't catch themselves before letting it all come out of their mouth, potentially hurting someone on the field. Each player has different skills. This is why they have different positions. "You're good with your hands, you be the goalie. You're good at getting right in there, you be a forward." We all have a toolbox. As we go through life we grab more tools, but each tool is specific to the life that is being lived. We cannot expect that everyone has the same set of tools. This comes up a lot when people try and compare traumas. "Well, my life was so much more traumatic than yours" or "I've been through so much more than her, why is she so broken?" Well, not everyone has a supportive family or a chance to go to therapy or the ability to see that internal work is needed. Not everyone has the tools you have in your toolbox. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. The choices we make aren't meant to hurt anyone. Honestly, the majority of people are good. Lend them some tools if you will, but never look down on anyone for not rising to challenges the way you would  (or hope you would). 

There have been deliveries I've made where people were concerned that I was still out there in this pandemic world. They would ask the question as I handed over their grocery bags. They needed their groceries delivered. Who else is gonna do it? I felt that they didn't expect me to be the one delivering the groceries. Once they saw a face to go with the name of their Shipt delivery person, they saw me as human again. They appreciated me for helping them, but they wanted me to be okay. There is an underlying fear. Understandably. I have it myself. Yet, you cannot expect groceries to be delivered and then think the person who delivered said groceries is crazy for going out there.  I don't agree with the fact that she's out there in harm's way because she needs to earn a living. She should have set up her life differently. Some savings or something?!?!?!?  I can see it in some of these faces. I'm an empath. I KNOW. Would this person like to take care of my responsibilities for me? If you're so scared of my being out there in it, then I need an income in order to stay at home. Will you afford me one? I didn't think so... I'm not asking for one. I'm earning one. It's a catch 22 that nobody wants anyone out there, but they need groceries. The reality is that the majority of people don't have a savings account to bail them out. 

I stand by my choices. I support everyone's choices. I only ever have a hard time when others attack my choices because I'm not attacking theirs. It is my life to live and right now I feel of service and I feel so grateful that I have a way to earn money in such uncertain times. This time indoors should be a time we all focus internally. What is so threatened inside of you by not being accepting of the way another lives? Dig into that nugget and you'll most likely discover that you fear that your stance will change. You don't want the way you've done something for 10, 20, 30 years to change. You hold tight to your beliefs and they cannot come undone. Ever. If that is how you feel then why would you ever ask someone else to be more like you? They would have to give up their beliefs and the way they've operated for 10, 20, 30 years. Why them and not you? Why you and not them? We all need to realize we are one human species that are not meant to combat each other, but move together to create a space (a seat at the table) for everyone. The war of words needs to end. It will not make you less of a person to understand another human's way of thinking. If we can focus on anything while holed up inside, focus on this: We all have different tools in our toolbox, we cannot judge anyone who simply is not equipped with the tools we have. Why not lend them the tool they need? Why not be accepting? Choices... 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Little Bites of Bravery


     I woke up early this morning. Bite of bravery. I took my Mister to work. Bite of bravery. I took a shower and got dressed. Bite of bravery. I broke down and cried with apprehension for a solid twenty minutes. I went to the mirror, took deep breaths and kept telling myself: "there is nothing to be afraid of." Bite of bravery. I put on my makeup through trickling tears. Bite of bravery. I got in the car and drove to the interview. Bite of bravery. I walked in and remained calm with the help of deep belly breaths. Bites and bites and bites of bravery. I did it. We'll see what happens, but at least I tried. 
     I have been so sad this week. Truly I've been so sad for most of this year already. My sadness is not just the blues where it's like go take a walk and you'll be cured. I feel the collective. The knot in my throat is the heaviest pull and it drains every ounce of sunshine from my soul. Sounds like depression. Why don't I just go get a pill for that and get better already!?!?!? I know this gets so old to anyone who knows/loves me. I've tried pills and they don't take away that feeling, but just make me feel other sensations on top of it. I have periods when I can navigate the blue waves like a senior sailor taking on the open seas with ease and familiarity. It's just the world is so sad right now. I feel it. It is heavy. 
     I heard Lady Gaga on Oprah's 20/20 tour and I was blown away by her open honesty. I highly recommend checking it out (link below). She struggles mentally every day. She takes little bites of bravery and watches them add up to something big. I identified with so much of what she said. Certain struggles we've had are similar, but the bulk of her struggles, I have never endured. I instantly shame myself for comparing because I am healthy (knock on wood) when it comes to my physicality and I don't have to suffer as she does with daily aches and pains. I struggle in the emotional and mental sense only and so I shame myself. "Why can't you just get your mind right? Why do you have to feel so much? You have it so good, why can't you be okay? You're so weak. No one understands you. You're so damaged. You're not worthy of love." It gets really loud in my head sometimes. 
     This week I stayed in bed for two days/nights. Open honesty here. I felt sick to my stomach, but I did it to myself. I got so intensely emotional after watching Kobe's memorial and it impacted my thought process in my own life for two whole days. I gave up on myself, my home (cleanliness), my sweet Mister and any productivity I had been making in my life. I gave up. I watched F-R-I-E-N-D-S episodes and escaped into that world. May have been wasteful of time, but I thank the stars for shows like Friends or The Office. I deal so much in my feelings that sometimes shutting it down and escaping is exactly what you need. 
     Here I sit at my computer, chasing some dim spark. Something just told me to sit down and just write. Writing has been my salvation and I really wish that I had more confidence in my writing, in myself. I know that if I could just have the confidence to play the part, eventually I'd become whatever I'm meant to become. Though this pesky word "become" unnerves me as well. WE ARE ALL SOMEBODY. I don't need to BECOME anything. I just need to find an avenue to fully share who I am. Need to grab confidence and all my passion projects need to come to life. 
     I have so many ideas and every time I get a good stride going, I self sabotage. I let these feelings take over my life and own me. These same feelings that help me create wonderful bits of poetry like: 
Lost appetite
Nothing new
Wasted night
Already too few
Light beam
Revelations
By any means
Negotiation
This for that
Outside
To an indoor cat
Freedom implied
Door ajar
Promising escape
Silent alarm
Door slams to seal fate

How do I find balance where I keep my feelings tab open to create beauty here and there, but keep my feelings from overtaking me? 
     I know this is who I am supposed to be. Like every single piece of life that I have traveled through was meant to happen exactly as it has. Nothing is in vain. No regrets. I am so grateful for all the experiences, good and bad because they've shaped my deeply feeling heart. It is a blessing to be deep, sensitive, open and highly feeling. The pros outweigh the cons, but these deep dark days empty me until I have nothing for anyone. And then comes the feeling of guilt and shame (again) for not having anything to give. Cliche as it is, you've got to love yourself the way you want someone else to love you. I'm so grateful to have a partner stick by me for almost 13 years. 
     In the process of writing this, I took a phone call and spoke to a beautifully wise voice. She corrected me when I was putting myself down. I said I was being "ridiculous" for having an anxiety attack before a job interview and she said, "it's not ridiculous. You just need to keep tackling it." She was so right... It is NOT ridiculous! Who I am, what I feel, what I go through is valid. I didn't share all these feelings with her. I feel guilty for that now too. I don't know where this "INVALID" stamp got stamped across my forehead. It's such a disservice to my spirit and soul. The thing is, I stamped it on my own head. I may have received messages and insults along the way that added up, but NO ONE else stamped me "INVALID." Only I could have done that. Time to get out the Brillo pads and bleach. Time to remove that label from my psyche. 
     All I can do is take little bites of bravery. Try, try, try. When people who were like superheroes walking on Earth pass away, we are all jolted back to reality. We're not here forever. What good can come from these senseless tragedies? Live better. Be stronger. Love deeper. In their honor, chase life as they would have chased life. Be confident. Have grace. Love yourself. Let go of shame. Try everything. A little bite of bravery at a time... 

Here's a link if you haven't seen Lady Gaga on Oprah's 20/20 tour yet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8iNYY7YV04&t=25s

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

SIT IN IT


When something ends, we must sit in it. Sit in the pain or the joy or the feeling of the finite. An ending is not a beginning of anything that ever was. The finite nature of a true ending is hard to grasp and so often we say: “the end is just a chance for a new beginning.” This is a way to make the pain less daunting. We start something else or take on life a different way, but that’s only distracting us from the very nature of what we need to deal in. END… 
Our entire existence is based around two facts: we were born, and we are going to die. When we die there is no beginning for the people left behind. Sure, some could say that their lives without you begin, but there is an END to you. Sounds morbid and painful and that’s why people just don’t want to go there, and I completely understand. I have been terrified of death for as long as I can remember, and that fear has kept me alive. Battling depression and anxiety and just feeling like I completely don’t belong here, sometimes I think that it would be easier to go. To cause the great END, but I am so scared of the other side (the beginning of the celestial life, if there is one) that I would never go there. Plus, I’m an empath and I would hate to cause pain to anyone in my life. Just to be super clear, I’m not suicidal, but I think at some point in all our lives we wonder why we’re here or what would it be like if we weren’t.
Today, I realized that emotions are meant to be felt fully. If we don’t sit in them, they will come back and grab us at some point or another. The craziest thing is that this revelation came after watching THE GOOD PLACE series finale. I had repressed emotions. Sweet little show pulled a powerful punch and had me sobbing in my living room for a good hour. It’s not rare that I cry, but it is rare that I sit in it for this long. It got me thinking how this world has taught us not to feel what we feel. I have spent the better part of 10 years feeling ashamed for my deep brooding. In turn last week, when I was by my Papi’s bedside at the hospital, positivity was so important and I did everything possible to hold back tears. When I heard the news that Kobe Bryant had died, I didn’t want to make it worse, so I held back the tears. I promised myself that I would never change my sensitive ways for anything and yet I turned into a bit of a robot and held my feelings back in these latest situations. I realize a TV show’s end is way different than life or death type scenarios, but THE GOOD PLACE was themed around the afterlife and so it all hit me rather deeply. We move on so fast and don’t process everything we should. I was about to turn on another show. I was sobbing, looking for something to take these thoughts out of my head. Then, I had this HUGE thought rush over me: “You have to sit in this.”
Like I said, I am a BIG deep thinker, an empath and my journal is my best friend. Deep is my avenue and so often that becomes too much for people. You write paragraphs confiding to a friend, hoping for real understanding and you get back an answer like: “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. Take some deep breaths.” Or “Everything will be okay.” I am a lucky girl and I appreciate all who are in my life. There are times when no one understands or they understand, but don’t want to go there with me. It’s hard. Watching Taylor Swift’s MISS AMERICANA documentary on Netflix this passed week, she said something that struck me so deep. Paraphrasing, but its theme was: “I have my Mom and she’s the best to talk to, but there should be someone I could call to understand my exact point of view. There’s no one. I should have someone.” Whether she was talking about a love interest or actually someone who can 100% relate to what she’s going through, I don’t know. Still, that line resonated with me because I guess everyone is ALL ALONE. In some aspect, we are alone. Sit in that. Own that. No one can know what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, how we truly feel. We can have people who listen and care and love us through it, but that feeling of being truly UNDERSTOOD is huge.  
Sit in it.
I wrote the first three paragraphs and I sat some more in this state of enlightenment. This moment is such a gift. It’s grueling with tears streaming down my face and more confusion than understanding but writing down these thoughts and ideas is more exciting than anything else I have ever known. Writing is life. Words are breaths. For a time, I got so into my head and told myself I was a horrible writer, my thoughts and ideas are meaningless and basically, I bullied myself into thinking that what I have to say doesn’t matter. Just as I was saying before that no one can fully understand, these blank pages understand. They have let me write my life on them repeatedly. Whoever reads this will understand pieces and my words will no longer be voids of space. They will be read, maybe criticized or praised, but all that matters is that these words escaped the prison of my mind. My exact experience make these words different than anyone else’s and my continual apologies for who I am are a direct disservice to that uniqueness. I cannot do that anymore.
Last night we watched another TV Show I love (TV is my friend...), A MILLION LITTLE THINGS and there was one line that was so simple, but I so needed to hear it: “You matter.” WE ALL MATTER. Everything we each individually have to say is a direct reflection of the universe. We are all connected, and we are all valid. The universe has created our realities to help us to serve the greater population. Any struggles, beginnings, endings, etc. are to ensure we are equipped with the messages our souls feel compelled to share. SIT IN IT. Don’t change the channel so that the noise takes away the pain. SIT IN IT. Feel your feelings FULLY and heal and grow and love. WE ARE NOT ROBOTS. Feel, no matter who it might make uncomfortable. Be genuine and you will see your world change little by little. To all the empaths out there who feel the pain of others and don’t want to add more to that by showing their own pain. You must show up with your feelings. Your tears may make those around you in pain feel less alone. It may feel like it is your responsibility to make everything okay. It is not... 
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful its ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heart-breaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” – LR Knost
SIT IN IT…