(A little John Mayer song title reference for you there). I haven’t written in so long, and throughout the pandemic I keep saying to myself, “I really need to journal,” but I somehow never find the time. Today my anxiety and stress pushed me right upstairs and in front of my laptop.
I’ve been thinking today about the book The Things They Carried – did anyone else have to read that one in high school? It is several short stories set during the Vietnam War, but I have been thinking about all of the things we carry and how heavy that load can become. Four years ago when Andrew lost his dad, I referenced the phrase “heavy boots,” another term that I stole from a book (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)…and today, my boots feel heavy. I’m sure that with everything going on in the world, many of yours do, too.
There is always a lot to be thankful for, but there is an overwhelming and endless stream of information, opinions that I do and don’t agree with, conflicting stories from trusted resources, and it seems like more bad news comes at every turn. Women are having their OB appointments and delivering babies without their birth partners. Adults and children are stuck in homes that are not safe for them. People are going hungry. Children have been out of school buildings for months. Teachers are trying to grapple with how to educate their students from home and dealing with all of the crazy possibilities for school coming in just a few short weeks. Lives and livelihoods have been lost, and on top of that, there is an election coming in November that will determine huge things for our country in either direction, and the nation is so divided. People are f i n a l l y fighting for racial equity, among other BASIC human rights, but look what extreme measures and tragedies it took for only SOME of us to come together and fight for what’s right? With all of this – the pandemic, the election, the fight for racial justice – there are polarizing debates every time I go online and it is heavy to carry. Please understand that I am not saying it isn’t worth its weight, or that it is somehow heavier for me than for anyone else; that is not what I’m saying at all. We all carry different things, and we all carry them in our own way; the things I carry are not the same as yours, and vice versa, so it doesn’t work to sit around and compare weight.
We are carrying a lot. I am incredibly thankful for my life and I feel truly blessed, but it has been a lot. I know everyone has their own version of that story, and I also know that some have it much worse than I do – I am not here to complain, but to say that I SEE YOU. I see you mamas who are working a full-time job while being a full-time care provider and parent to your children, even if you have a partner. I see you women hustling for your jobs or your businesses and trying to make things work when business is not coming in. I see you people who have had to put important decisions on hold for months because of the current world situation. I see those of you who are missing family and friends, or who have had to miss huge milestones with those you love due to Covid-19. I see those of you fighting and demanding that we do better for future generations. I see all of you who just need a BREAK (which is probably all of us!). I know many of you also had to take on the role of teacher while your children tried to tackle remote learning. Some people have been unable to work or receive a paycheck, and many people have lost someone they loved. I see you. I see how hard you are trying to carry your load with your heavy boots making one step, and then, somehow, another.
Today, I got the news that a really special person in our school lost her fight against cancer, and everything just kind of came at me all at once. So I started rattling off my list to myself of what makes me feel better when I am down, anxious, or stressed out – because today I was all of those things. The things that always work for me are getting outside, walking, exercise, listening to music and singing, taking a relaxing bath, reading to get out of my own head, and, as always, writing. So I walked outside, I exercised, I drove around a little with the music blasting, and then I came upstairs to write. We all have different ways to help ease our feelings when they get too heavy to carry. We have to take care of ourselves or else we will see the effects for a long time to come.
Stress affects so much more than just our moods – it is closely intertwined with our blood pressure, our central nervous system, our hormones, our sleep, our weight…so many major body functions. I hope you find something that works for you, that will help lighten your load. If my list doesn’t work for you, make up a list for yourself that does. This is a stressful time, and it is okay for us to admit that we are not okay all the time, that we need a break, that we need to be alone for a minute, that we need to do whatever it is we need to do to feel like ourselves again. Things are not normal, so how can we be? Many of us are carrying a lot more than we are used to.
I encourage you to find your list – what things help you lighten the load of the things you’re carrying?
P.S. I forgot to add my new favorite way to de-stress…hugging my sweet boy close and getting those good baby snuggles when he lets me 🙂 (I’m talking about Davis, not Andrew…but he’s usually good for a hug, too!)