I knelt alongside the shards of broken glass now strewn across my kitchen floor when it happened.
That tight wad of stress, knotted in my stomach, suddenly became undone. My brain, clenched in fight-or-flight, finally released its tight grip.
My body said softly to me, “Enough.”
It gently nudged me while I was on my knees, cleaning up this broken jar I accidentally knocked off the kitchen counter.
Enough with this high-alert, survival mode.
I cried for a solid 10 minutes that night months ago.
In my kitchen.
Sweeping up shards.
Picking up larger pieces of glass.
Putting them in an old Amazon box.
Washing the floor.
Picking up every last piece of this metaphor for what keeping it together for nearly 2 years actually looks like.
It was only the second time in the last 20 months that I had cried about the pandemic.
The first of which was alone in my office, 4,500 miles away in Michigan, after my husband came home to tell me he had intubated a patient he didn’t think would live and holding back tears himself, said he didn’t want to be the last face she ever saw.
From then on out, I buckled down in survival mode. Bracing myself for the rest of what was to come.
From patients passing away to infants testing positive to those yelling at my husband and the entire department, telling them they are liars and the virus was some giant conspiracy. Screaming in the very place they came to looking for help that uses the very same science they are decrying is a hoax.
You know, also toss in moving across an ocean, buying our first home, a divisive election, a deadly insurrection, sick family members, somehow science now being divisive, trying to avoid getting exposed to the virus yourself with how much your husband is seeing it and then, make new friends when you can’t gather, why dontchya?
Each experience told, I digested.
Sometimes I wrote about it.
Sometimes I vented about it.
But mostly, I carried on.
For 20 months, I’ve used the tools in my coping toolbox to move forward as much as I could during a global pandemic.
I’ve run more miles training for my two 10K races this year, with another race coming up, than I ever did training for all my half-marathons. I’ve read more books in the last two years than the previous 4 years before that. I cook endless new recipes. I talk to my therapist at least every 6 weeks. I Zoom with my girlfriends nearly every Sunday to laugh and cry together. I buckled down, focused on my business more and joined a business monitorship. Updated my website, services and introduced new ones. I kept going.
Graciously, it has worked. I was sad for some moments or weeks, but forging along nonetheless. Grateful for this new chapter 4,500 miles away in our gorgeous new hometown. Happy to be healthy, and yet, simultaneously bummed that each morning has begun to feel like Groundhog’s Day. The isolation of an island and a new home has felt heavier and heavier with each new surge.
And then last month, after an upsetting event that in the end turned out to be okay, my body alerted me to stop during an annoying, but surely non-life threatening moment.
During the throes of this unsettling situation, I accidentally knocked off a jar on the kitchen counter while trying to move too quickly from task to task.
That’s when it happened.
All alone and amongst the backdrop of broken glass now sprawled out on my kitchen floor…I yelled, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck!”
I stared in momentary silence.
I quietly cried alone in my kitchen, as broken as the glass at my feet.
In the days and weeks that followed, I felt like this hormonal shell of a human being just weeping at anything remotely touching. I actively tried to hold back the tears even in the most mundane of moments. My husband was sad about how sad I suddenly was. I couldn’t control the emotions the way I had for the past 20 months.
I felt like my body was working against me, like it had given up on me.
But the proverbial pandemic cork had popped. 20 months of hard-fought, high-alert survival mode had come to an end.
My body wasn’t giving up—it was trying to keep me together by telling me to freakin’ stop.
We weren’t built for this. None of us were.
“Have you tried a hard restart?”
Much like IT tells you after you’ve exhausted all other options to get your operating system up and running. I knew I needed a hard restart.
Having known the effort it takes to claw your way out of the well of depression, I knew I needed to get back to basics to prevent it. I didn’t want to stare at the edge of what could become a spiral; I knew I needed to offer myself grace, kindness.
I wanted to take care of me.
(Heck it only took close to 40 years for me to figure that out.)
The basics meant this:
Take care of my needs vs. my wants.
Body first. Above all else.
I may want to stay up watching TikToks, but my body needs legitimate rest. I may want to skip breakfast because the thought of making it overwhelms me, but I need and deserve nourishment. I may want to hit snooze and avoid my day, but my body needs the first early morning hours to take care of myself (meditate, eat, stretch, listen to affirmations, etc.).
Back to basics.
From there, I found resilient relief in other areas of my life.
I don’t need to respond to every text.
I don’t need to check my email first thing in the morning.
I don’t need to be on social media right now.
I don’t need to be productive to be worthy.
(That last one is tough. But, I’m working on it.)
The irony is, the less pressure I put on myself to be productive, the more I accomplished. I’ve been able to focus better on the things that matter to me.
Friends and family.
So often I’ve worried that my tough times were a burden to others. I’m happily the safe space people use or lean on. But this time, I needed them. This time, I needed to be confident that the way I was taking care of myself wouldn’t affect relationships. I needed to trust my own damn needs. I needed time. I needed some space. I needed to not be a rock for others when that’s exactly what I was looking for from them. I need to trust and lean into that support system I have. I needed to trust and lean into knowing what I needed for myself.
Which was something different for me.
Knowing that my response, lack of response, lack of checking in or setting a boundary to take care of myself temporarily may not be what loved ones were looking for from me.
And I had to be okay with that, even if they weren’t.
Radical self-love isn’t a linear journey, pals.
It’s exhausting, in fact.
The type of internal work that needs to be done isn’t as simple as checking off the To-Do’s on your list. It’s the deep work. The unlearning work. The type of work your ancestors would be proud of for stopping the cycle of generational trauma in its tracks.
It’s also the kind of work that we can’t brag about. We don’t get to seek validation for it like we do with sharing or posting the perfect day or scene or family or couple or whatever. As much as I’ve talked about the benefits of therapy and taking care of my mental health, more than most really, it’s not exactly light conversations.
It’s not the kind of chit-chat or banter that occurs over brunch. (As much as I believe it can be and connect so much more with people who are vulnerable.) It can be heavy stuff in a world that already feels so heavy.
It’s the slog rebuttal to the chirpy, “This is fine. Everything is fine.”
It’s the hidden work. The heavy work. The undoing. The kind of work where you ask why you think the way you do because evolving as humans means unlearning the shit we’ve believed.
Why you believe you’re unworthy.
Why you seek external validation for your productivity.
Why your mind races a million miles a minute.
Why you can’t seem to be proud of yourself.
Why you forgive others so gracefully, but rarely do it for yourself.
Why it took a shattered jar on your kitchen floor one evening for you to listen to your body telling you it couldn’t carry on like this any more.
A Time for Grace.
Something categorically changed in me for the better during this quiet time of these past months.
I allowed myself to take a hot second and acknowledge what a wreck this year has been. To really feel it. (That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great year in some aspects too. They can coexist.)
This isn’t the hardship Olympics either!
I’m exhausted with people comparing how bad they may have it compared to someone else.
This isn’t a time to remind someone that you’re going through something too. Anyone with an ounce of compassion knows that already based on the current state of the world.
You don’t need a reason more legitimate than someone else’s to be exhausted. This pandemic is a collective trauma for all of us. Whether others are willing to acknowledge that or not, well, that isn’t my responsibility.
For healthcare workers and their families, it has been a mental battle to stay afloat and not just drift out into an endless sea of apathy.
Gosh, it all feels so heavy.
Everyone is in the thick of it.
The person who cut you off. The person who snapped at you. The person who ghosted you. The person who snickered at your misfortune. The person who blocked or deleted you.
It’s not up to me to figure out.
But guess what? It’s not up to you either.
When I trust that people are doing the best they can, that frees up a lot of headspace and energy for kinder pursuits.
When I know that stepping back sometimes means peacing-out, I don’t take it personally.
When I sincerely hope a person is doing well regardless if they’ve been nasty to me behind my back; when I offer them grace, it allows me to give it to myself too.
For everything. For the lack of energy. For the way I would have done things differently. For taking a hot minute to myself and getting back to basics.
A hard restart.
A time for grace.
Even if it’s for you.
Especially if it’s for you.