Compassion

I practice yoga, but if you know me you know that I’m not the stereotypical yogi.  In the last few weeks, I’ve actually turned off live stream classes because the teacher talked about healing crystals and aromatherapy to help you through the Pandemic.  Much of the “hippy dippy” parts I just grin and bare.  But the essence of yoga, the Sutras, actually teach lessons that are valuable and mirror many in most organized religions.

“According to the Yoga Sutras (1.33), one way to purify the mind and increase serenity is to practice compassion (karuna) in the face of suffering. Compassion means “shared feeling,” a level of sympathy so deep that it inspires action to alleviate another’s pain or sorrow.” ~  http://www.yogabasics.com

I’ve rediscovered my yoga practice during the Pandemic, thanks to live-streaming through my studio.  I’ve needed to for a long time, because I need the calm, clarity and workout that it provides.  But I also find that it makes me more compassionate.  Especially during this pandemic, compassion has been a focus for me.  I try to remember that everyone is fighting some challenge in trying to adjust to shutdown, even if they aren’t the same as yours.  EVERYONE.

I know many people would look at me and my husband and think “they have it good”, and they’d be right.  I don’t work and can take care of the extra challenges associated with the shutdown, like cleaning, shopping and cooking.  My husband’s job in IT is safe and he has always worked from home, so there was no adjustment there.  We have a nice home to quarantine in and hobbies to keep us occupied.  By nature we are both closer to being introverts, so the isolation may not impact us as much as others.  So, yeah, we have it pretty good, so many others have huge issues to deal with throughout this, be it financial, emotional or career.

But make no mistake, this is effecting everyone.  I go from feeling pretty good one day, doing yoga, cleaning my house or doing some project and making something fun for dinner…to being a puddle of tears, anger and depression, just wanting to curl up on the couch and binge watch a dozen seasons of something mindless.

I miss friends, restaurants, happy hour, movies, going to Panera Bread every Friday morning with my husband and just talking over breakfast.  Wandering around a garden center, the grocery store, a home improvement store or big box store.  I miss people.  I miss having a day or two to myself when my husband goes on a business trip.  I miss live music and festivals and just sitting outside people watching in our little downtown area.

All of those things make me emotional, but what also makes me emotional is thinking about friends, family and neighbors who are medical professionals, essential workers or even IT professionals whose jobs are more challenging as we try to figure out how to navigate this “new normal”.  But then, there are those who have lost jobs or businesses and are struggling with all of the challenges associated with that.  What has happened to my country?  A country I love, served and miss so dearly.

I feel bad thinking about how some people are dealing with these big life challenges and that I can’t get off the couch some days because I’m so depressed.  I see people I know that are facing big challenges and some of them seem to be doing so well.  I feel guilty for feeling so bad sometimes, because my problems aren’t that big of a deal.  I feel bad for lacking motivation to get up off the couch and clean my kitchen or make dinner, when some people are working long hours in hospitals treating Covid Patients.

But we all have our own struggles, different struggles, but struggles none the less.  To look at someone and judge them as someone who shouldn’t be struggling isn’t OK.  To look at someone and judge them on how they are dealing with this isn’t OK.  I spent the first 6 weeks of this working out, doing Whole30, cleaning, cooking, doing projects…to me it was like a little escape from reality, a chance to get caught up.  Then I hit a wall, went on a 2 day bender, got black out drunk, ate all the things, cried out a primal scream and hit my hand so hard in anger that it still hurts a week later.

If you saw me working out and eating salad, you’d think that I was doing great and you may judge yourself for not handling it as well as I was.  But you didn’t hear me letting out a primal scream the next day.  If you saw me in the middle of a 2 day bender, you may judge me for that, thinking something like “what’s her problem, she’s got it good”.  If that’s all you saw, you wouldn’t see the effort I put forward every other day to try to use this time to transform.

Remember that what you see on social media or in a passing moment, isn’t that person’s whole story.  In fact, it’s probably all bullshit.  What people put out to the world willingly is more likely to be the workouts and salads than the primal scream.  So, when I talk about compassion, yes, compassion for others because we are all going through this, but compassion for yourself.  Cry. Scream. Binge watch. Do what you need to do, sit with it, feel it, be OK with it.  Bottling it up and trying to always be some type of superhero isn’t real and it will find it’s way out somehow.  Take that from someone who has spent most of her life bottling it up and has paid the physical and emotional toll of doing so.

Don’t judge yourself for what you need in these moments, don’t judge others for what they need to do and on those days that you feel pretty good, remember that someone you know may be having a primal scream kinda day and maybe you can help.

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Today I lost it…

Today, I lost hope.

I’ve tried really hard to remain positive through the shutdown.  I looked at it as an opportunity to focus on me and projects and things at home that I wanted to do.  I did a #Whole30, I did a 30 day yoga Challenge, I started Headspace’s 365 Journey.  I cooked all the things.  I learned how to make sushi & my own fresh corn tortillas.  I did a ton of work on my yard.  I deep cleaned my house.  I listened to audio books.  I sought out to improve myself, remove negativity and learn.  I was optimistic that this was short term, it was the right thing to do to slow the spread.  I saw my fellow North Carolinian’s respond and our numbers remain incredibly low.  I was proud and knew that our sacrifices would be rewarded.

I took it in stride when a couple weeks turned into a month, then 6 weeks.  It’s OK, I thought. It’s just a couple of weeks. It’s not that long. It will get better soon. Think of how amazing it will feel when we go out again. Then today I sat on my couch with my husband at 3pm, watching our Governor announce his plan to reopen our state.  Suddenly, all of my hope slowly faded away.

This was no longer a few weeks to make sure our hospitals weren’t overwhelmed.  Despite having very low numbers, primarily in 2 counties, I listened as our shutdown was extended.  I tried to muster that “It’s not much longer” attitude that I’ve had since the beginning of March.  But then, I heard the “plan”.  Or lack of plan.  May 8th was not a date to start to reopen, just another day to evaluate again.  And the metrics to hit before we think about reopening didn’t make sense.  A downward projection of cases, sure…but testing twice as many people a day?  A smaller percentage of tests coming back positive? Why?  We are only allowing symptomatic people to be tested, so if we are doing all the right things and we have less people getting sick, won’t we have less people being eligible for tests?  And if only symptomatic people are tested, wouldn’t the percentage of positives remain fairly consistent?

OK, fine, but MAYBE it’s just another couple of weeks.  Or not.  Our “plan” to reopen is in (at least) 3 phases.  Subject to moving forward OR BACKWARD, if we are no longer meeting the metrics.  But, Let’s be positive.  Focus on Phase 1.  Yay!  Maybe I get to go to a yoga class!  Or get a beer with a friend.  Or go to the doctor for this rash I’ve developed. Or go get a few plants for my garden.  Hell, even have a couple people over for dinner and some conversation.  But no, “Phase 1” appears to be “shutdown without guilt”.  We can go out to the stores that are currently open…which we’re already doing because it’s basically the grocery store and home improvement stores.  And we can go to parks!  Which people are already doing for the most part.  The differences seemed…well…not at all from what we’re doing now.  And we stay in that Phase for at least 2-3 weeks.  Wait…what?  So, we extended the lock down, so that we can move into…more lock down? What. In. The. Holy. Fuck.

So, “maybe” on May 8th, we “might” move on to “Phase 1”, which is just more lock down for “at least” 2-3 more weeks?  So, you just extended the lock down for at least another month…why not just say that shit?  Are people really fooled by this Phase One that is just like what we’re doing now, nonsense?

OK, OK…let’s focus on results.  The things you are saying we need to get to, in order to move into the phased reopening.  So we have to do more testing…what’s the plan to get that done? Thoughts & Prayers apparently.  We need more PPE, so how are you going to get that?  No plan, got it.  Increase tracing…totally, makes sense.  Doubling from 250 to 500 people doing tracing?  Cool!  So, what are you doing, contracting with a company to immediately bring in additional people?  Working with hospitals to utilize furloughed employees?  Oh, no plan on that either.  Cool.  So we have a plan to make a plan, not really a plan at all.

OK, fine, let’s focus on the good stuff.  May 8th we begin Phase 1 and it’s only 2-3 weeks, so by the end of May we can start Phase 2, which means some of our small businesses can start to reopen.  God, a month is a long time…but we can do this!  Another 30 day challenge?  Maybe a new workout? A new project?  Wait, what was that?  It’s not May 8th?  You don’t know when we’ll move to Phase 1?  And it may be much longer than 2-3 weeks before we get to Phase two, once we actually get to Phase 1?  We really have no answers.

I think me having to work through all of this was like working through the 5 stages of grief.  Above was denial.  No, you can’t be saying what I think you’re saying.  You can’t possibly be saying that we have no real plan on how to reopen, only a rough guideline of what it might look like, when we do have a plan?  No, don’t say that.  That can’t be true.  Denial.

Fuck.  Now I’m angry.  What the fuck have you people been doing?  We have 7000-ish cases and 700,0000-ish new unemployment claims.  God knows how many small business owners suffering.  Parents suffering with working from home, trying to teach their kids, keep everyone fed and entertained.  For every one case we have we have HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people suffering.  At what fucking point do we end this? Death sucks, but not being able to live sucks too. Anger, depression, suicide, addiction, domestic violence, hunger, poverty, illness or death from stress, malnutrition, etc…hell, divorce, child abuse…how much do we sacrifice before we realize this is killing us in so many other ways?

What if we…damn it, now I’m thinking about bargaining…but you can’t bargain with the government.  And that just makes me angry again.

So, now I’m just depressed.  I’ve lost hope.  There is no end in sight.  So much suffering.  Things will never be normal again.  I’ll never hug a friend again.  I’ll never have the simple pleasure of a beer in my favorite pub.  What if they don’t make it through this? I miss the sound of Tom Hamilton calling the Indians games in the background of summer.  A workout that isn’t interrupted by cats. Friends.  New friends. Getting dressed up to go out. Eating without dishes.  Browsing in the grocery store…any store.  Going to a garden center, which is normally the highlight of spring for me. A baseball game.  Any game.  Concerts. Comedy Shows. Farmers Markets. Movies.  It’s all gone.  And we have no idea when it will return.  We don’t even know when we can get basics again… a haircut, a doctor appointment, a good workout.

I tried to watch the NFL Draft tonight, but I sobbed openly at the National Anthem. What’s happened to my country?  Then they showed pictures of past celebrations and games…and it just made me sad.  And it hit me.  I’ve lost hope, but I’ve also lost joy.  We’re existing right now.  We wake up, stay home, take care of family, make food, sit on the couch and binge watch something meaningless.  We’re existing.  We’re alive, but we’re not living. And we have it good.  We haven’t lost jobs, we have food on the table, we don’t have the challenges of teaching and taking care of children.  Existing isn’t living.

How many hundreds of thousands of people must suffer to save one life?  And for how long? Isn’t there a way to socially distance and wash our hands and limit our comings & goings in order to keep this “invisible enemy” at bay, without letting it slowly kill our livelihood, our spirit, our joy & our economy?

I’ve lost hope.

I’m Not a Feminist

I’m probably the most unlikely anti-feminist that you will ever meet.  Prior military, partially shaved head, I work in the construction industry, I curse like a sailor, I hate the color pink, hate wearing makeup and doing my hair and heals, I listen to metal, drive a Wrangler with no doors, love action movies, smoke cigars and can drink most men under the table.  But none of that shit matters.

From the outside you would think that I’m probably the poster child for feminism.  That I want absolute equality and model my persona to be more masculine in an effort to be equal.  But nothing could be farther from the truth. I am this way out of necessity, a shell I’ve created to protect me from the outside world. This persona allows me to do my job, to be a guy’s girl and appear strong.  But I’m not.  What I want most in the world is to quit my job, take care of my home and my husband, play in my garden, do my nails, make dinner and have it on the table every night, do yoga, give myself facials and pedicures, wear dresses, clean my house, play with my kittens and be the woman behind the man.  So many men & women would read that and think that I’m crazy, I’m weak, I’m under some type of male influence that would have me be dependent on them.  How society has changed.  It wasn’t always this way, in fact, a strong woman behind a strong man was something to be respected not so long ago.  A woman who ran a good household and took care of her family and her home was a place of honor.  Why, now, do we look at a woman who wants these things out of life and think she’s a failure? Why is it that we think we need to be “equal”? What is equal? That we can both do the same things? I guess. I think I’ve proven my point, I CAN be a construction project manager, make a good living, be respected in my field. But I have no strong desire for that in my life…other than to make a living.  But if money were not the only reason, is that what I would do…HELL. NO.  Because I’m lazy and want to sit around eating bon bons?  No.  Because what I want most is to give us a good life.  Sure, money is part of that, but so is sitting down to dinner in a nice home and having all of our chores taken care of.  For most men, the idea of taking care of a home probably sounds like torture and given the choice they would probably prefer to go to work every day.  But for many women…it’s like it’s hard wired into our DNA. 

I’m actually a believer that women are more built to do this type of “work”, taking care of the home, nesting.  I think that millions of years of evolution have allowed men to have a better ability to deal with the stress of working, going outside of the home, being the hunter gatherers, bringing home the bacon and all the other stereotypes that are rooted in reality.  Women are supposed to be “softer”, have more empathy and see the world in a different light than what men see in the business world.  What do you think it does to women when you put them in the same environment as men…it hardens them, it creates stress, stress impacts hormones, hormones have a big impact on how we act.  We see the world differently than we would if we were home, we’re less empathetic, less caring, we are angry and less understanding and less able to deal with things in a softer way.  Men and women are different, we’re supposed to be different.  Those differences are what attract us to each other.  Remove those differences and you end up with “partners” and marriages that are more or a business relationship than a loving one.  Respect, sex, admiration, gratitude…these things become lost on an emotional level. 

Why do women so desperately want to be just like men?    I don’t.  Is it such a bad thing to be grateful to a husband for going out and working hard all day and wanting to take care of him?  Do nice things for him?  Make sure that everything else is taken care of so that he can focus on his career? I think it helps men too.  Men want to be men, they have a natural instinct to provide, as much as women do to “nest”.  Letting a man provide for his family lets him be a man, not a “partner in an equal relationship”.  I’m tired of “equality”, just because we do different things, doesn’t mean we aren’t equal.  We just handle different things.  Some might argue that the woman has just as much “power” as the man does, she runs the household, the bills, the shopping, the food, her mood controls the sexuality in the marriage and how well she takes care of their life outside of work will dictate how all of their time outside of work is able to be spent.  For a man, if he has a “good woman” behind him, his time outside of work is his own, all the minutia of scheduling social events, doctors, appointments, etc and all the “chores”, the cooking, cleaning, shopping, mowing, landscaping, household maintenance…it’s all done.  Why is this such a bad thing?  I take pride in my ability to handle all of those things and make our life better.

Physically, we’re different, nobody can deny that.  The obvious, of course…but I’m talking about at a deeper level.  Our hormones are different, our evolution is different, our physical strength and many other physical characteristics are different.  Why is it so hard to believe that we’re better able to do certain things because of those differences…and why is that bad? 

Mind Body connection.  They say that north of 90% of people with Fibromyalgia and other MTS issues are women.  Is it possible that our bodies, our minds, have not had enough time from an evolutionary standpoint to deal with the changes we have thrust upon ourselves in the modern world? That the millennia of evolution men have had to prepare themselves for working outside of the home, we’ve decided to give ourselves, what, 50 years and expect that we will be completely equal?  Is it possible that TMS is just women’s bodies saying “enough already!!!”, I don’t know how to handle this, so I’m going to put it in terms you’ll understand…pain.  Is it possible that we are doing what we do best, trying to take care of everyone around us and in our modern world we have been told that includes working full time, in addition to taking care of a household?  But by spreading ourselves so thin, we are stressing ourselves out, sapping our hormones, killing our nervous system and turning ourselves into these balls of pain and anxiety?  I think we are.

So, no…I’m not a feminist.  Because I think that men and women are supposed to be different and by trying desperately to make us equals, we are removing those things that are unique to being a man or a woman that makes us so amazing.  It removes the things that draw us to each other.  It makes us both focus on things that are outside our comfort zones and make us both unhappy, rather than just accepting and embracing our differences and allowing us to be who we are.  No, I am not a feminist, because I like our differences and I don’t think that my strengths make me weak, I think that by allowing me to focus on the things that make me unique, you empower me and by letting you do the same, I empower you.  Being our best selves is not weakness, it’s happiness.

The Pivot is Complete

In 2014 my husband and I had a Theme word…Pivot!  The year was crazy, we sold our house, moved into an apartment, less than a week later I moved to North Carolina (from Ohio) by myself to start a new job, moved into a townhouse that had nothing but paper plates and a folding chair.  A few months later my husband was able to transfer down, we bought a lot, built a house and moved again.  But we did it because we wanted to change the trajectory of our life and the chaos was worth it.  We truly love where we live, have good jobs, a great house, friends and it doesn’t fricking snow!

But we left a lot of good things in Ohio.  Friends, his son, family.  We loved the people but the area depressed us.  The weather, the economy, the lack of opportunity in our professions and this feeling like we were in a vicious circle of getting a bit of momentum towards being healthy only to have winter snatch it away from us.  SAD is real and it hit both of us really hard EVERY. DAMN. YEAR.  Even down here.

We were so happy and so exited when we got here, like we had gained back months of our life every year. We felt like we needed to pinch ourselves on a daily basis.  Why are we so lucky to be able to live this life?  We started running, we did relay runs, half marathons, fun runs, run groups and made some friends.  We posted on Facebook, laughed when it snowed in Ohio and poked some fun at our former home and friends in the winter months.  But apparently not everybody laughed.

We lost good friends, my two best friends, and the pain of that cut deep.  I pictured going back to Ohio and having brunch with everyone like nothing had changed.  I pictured having a “family” reunion  (with my friends who were always more my family) in North Carolina.  I always pictured my life with the people I left behind and hoped they would be happy for me being in a place that made me so much happier than I was.  But one day I went to Facebook and they were gone.  And I was crushed.  I’m not a girlie girl…far from it.  I don’t cry, I curse.  I don’t like most women, in fact, I dislike most.  So having female friends was a huge rarity in my life.  So, over this, I cried.  A lot.  Often.  Full on hyperventilating, sobbing, snot filled sobbing.

But I suck at emotion and I suck at being a girl, so what the hell do you do with emotion like that?  I handle it like a guy.  Figure it was their decision and I have to respect that, go on with life even though it’s hard.  Life is hard.  Get over it.  “Boo frickin’ hoo, have a drink and get over it.”  (That was on a bar towel one of them gave me as a gift.)  So I did.

Occasionally, I would trip over a memory, a picture, a Facebook post or something else that would remind me of how much I missed those special friendships and fought back the tears.  I even reached out to one when I found out she got engaged, wishing her the best, crying as I typed the message.  I got a “Thanks” in return, but didn’t want to turn her happy moment into something about me/us, so I left it at that.  Deep down though, I hoped it might lead to more.

We have very few ties to Ohio anymore, my husband’s Dad has a girlfriend (it’s so cute in their 70’s), his son is a rising Senior with little time for, well, anyone 🙂 and my house.  Ugh, my house.  The seemingly bottomless money pit that I bought just before I met my husband, lived in just over a year and have leased it to others for about 5 years.  We are finally selling it, have an offer and as I type the inspections should be happening.  This week we should hopefully solidify that sale and remove one more thing that ties us to our home state.  Next year his son plans to go to school in NC, so the ties will be even fewer.

Tomorrow is also the wedding of one of those friends, with the other performing the ceremony and I can’t help but feel a hole in my heart.

Pivot.

This year, more than 2014, is when I feel like the Pivot is complete, but not in the way I had hoped.  I have no ties to Ohio anymore, no friends down here that even compare to those I used to have.  Injuries have plagued me, one is likely permanent, so my goal to use the climate to be more healthy hasn’t worked.  I’m heavier than ever, I’m still depressed, and I probably like my bar more than I should.

I found out just recently the reason for the “de-friending” was because they were tired of all of the anti-Ohio type posts.  One of my friends reached out to my husband when she saw my house was for sale, they were actually considering it, as they were in the market.  It lead to “re-friending” at the urging of my husband.  I think I cried for an hour that day.  But I still don’t know what to do with it.  What do I say, how do I act, is all forgiven or is it just a nicety?  I honestly don’t know.

Next week we go back to Ohio to deal with some final issues with my house and we’re supposed to have dinner with the “re-friend” and her husband.  I’m somewhat terrified.  I don’t do terrified.  I do pissed off, anxious, true Aries hard headed tough it out fortitude.  But not terrified.  Part of me wonders if I’ll ever really be able to get past the pain this caused.  Part of me thinks, “Really, I was in your wedding and we’re not friends anymore because I laughed when it snowed in Ohio?”

Anyway, all of this coming to a head at once will make the pivot complete and I guess we find out soon if it includes brunch or not.  Brunch is just breakfast with alcohol, but any friend of mine would have it no other way.

Despite it all, sending nothing but the best thoughts up to Ohio as my friend gets married this weekend.  I truly hope that she finds lifelong happiness and my other friend makes it through the nuptials without losing her shit.

Cheers!

J