Hindsight

I have been dwelling on what to write for months and months (and months and months). And even now, I fear it’s all going to come out disjointed and a hot mess, as usual. So buckle up and get ready some stream of consciousness spaghetti art, because I’m exhausted from penning this all up in my brain.

In the Before Times, right at the end, the last good, normal things I remember happening include the Harry Potter game night I hosted for some friends from work, my weekly mom night out with Erin, and getting excited with Laura about The Quiet Place 2 coming out soon and getting to see it with her. I remember preschool drop-offs with my son, and hearing about recess fun my daughter got to have with her friends.

I know it wasn’t so immediate, but my memory plays it like it was overnight. Over the course of the first few days of my kids’ and husband’s spring break, the distant coronavirus problem that was only affecting countries elsewhere was all of a sudden in our cities. Pandemic, quarantine, Covid-19, testing, sanitizer, toilet paper shortage- all of it went DEFCON 1 overnight. At work, there was a panic that one of our newer employees was infected, so our company immediately pushed hard to make us remote-capable. As soon as I got the all-clear to work from home, and as soon as AJ got the notification that spring break was being extended, we packed bags and hit the road.

You see, having struggled these past few years with anxiety and depression at varying levels, this kind of global crisis has always been one of those “what-if” scenarios in the back of my brain, and I always had my plan of what we’d do. We’d gtfo of town. We’d head to my parents’ farm. We’d ride it out by learning to farm the land and I’d magically become a candlemaker, gardener, and seamstress. We’d fend off the zombies with a local militia of my parents’ aging farmer friends. AJ would learn to hunt, and my kids would learn to do all of the above. We would survive the apocalypse.

No one told me the apocalypse just keeps going.

Also, instead of zombies, it’s mindless anti-maskers (???) who never learned that they should care about other people beyond themselves. Instead of zombies, it’s the horror of realizing the pernicious undercurrent of racism never left any part of our nation, and no amount of rational discussion seems to spread light on just how twisted and deep the biases and prejudices have become. Change is hard and scary, and we have become a nation of cowards. I am terrified for November.

We went to the farm. I did not magically become a country girl. I set up in a rehabbed shed to do my telework. AJ and Mair struggled through a haphazard end of the school year over zoom meetings. My brother and his family joined us for a time- 13 of us in the house at one point. Total chaos. My mom bought baby chicks. Jack developed a farmers tan. Mairin became the country girl I could never be. AJ found joy in the quiet. I developed stronger anxiety and a higher therapy bill. We stayed for 4 months.

After June, it was apparent the apocalypse was not going to be a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am event. No, it is here to stay. At least, for as long as it takes for the American public to get its collective shit together and accept that yes, science is a thing! And lo! Science works!

We had to figure out a new normal, along with the rest of you. I ordered like 1700 masks. My kids know more about molecular biology at 7 and 5 than I did at 20. There is no such thing as meandering aimlessly through stores anymore. The summer has been especially hard because, well, it’s a sauna outside, and everywhere we used to go to cool off is closed now, or no longer safe. So we stay inside a lot. The kids go on challenge walks with AJ. I save a lot of 2020 memes on my phone to share with my therapist.

And I sit here, typing these words in the home we still live in, that we’re still able to pay rent on, because we still have both our jobs, and we still have plenty of food to eat. In fact, thanks to not having to pay for childcare or gas to drive to work, we’re saving so much and paying down a lot on debt. We’re definitely the lucky ones, and I am absolutely doing my best not to take it for granted.

In the beginning, when we were at the farm and everything was chaos, I was in survival mode. It was the epitome of the “everything is fine” fire dog meme. I laughed so much with friends (online/via text of course) in those weeks, because if I wasn’t laughing, I’d have to stop and think. But then we came home, and after a few weeks, the survival mode dissipated, and now I’m vacillating between different stages of grief. We’ve lost what was Before. We can never go back. And the day that really hit, it hit like bricks to the chest.

It’s in the split second realization that I’m smiling at a service person at a store, and they can’t see it because of the mask. It’s in the wide-eyed look on everyone’s faces in the stores as we try to shop and pretend at some sort of normalcy but in reality, we’re all stuck together in the bizarre. It’s in the hitch of my breath when I see the picture of Grandma Sharla and remember in that moment that she’s not here anymore and thank God she missed all of this. It’s in the tentative voice of the little girl at the playground who approaches Mair, asking if she can be her best friend- they’ve never met before and this little girl clearly is missing contact with other children her age. It’s in the resilience my children have taught me instead of the other way around. It’s in the little splurges I get for myself or for the family because #selfcare is a commodity these days, and I refuse to live what’s left without the little joys we can find.

I set this post aside for a few days, and then last night, Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, and I just-

I’m so tired.

Y’all, I am just so, so tired. The implications and impact this will have on the election and the future of this democratic republic are debilitating, legion. May her memory be a revolution.

We’re supposed to hold onto hope. Not give up. That’s something that’s come fairly easily to me for most of my life. Despair had never really been a part of my landscape. But this truly godforsaken year turns over something new and awful each day and I wake up bracing myself for whatever’s next.

And yet. And yet there is still good. Good to see and good to do. And good to be. A lot of days, I am barely making it. I can barely do more than the minimum required to ensure this little family of mine functions (and even then, AJ is carrying a lot of that too). Hope hasn’t been part of my vocabulary for awhile, but maybe it should be. Maybe it is in the ways I choose to find joy. In laughing. In surrounding myself with words that matter. Words that speak truth. Like these:

“And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.” – Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer

Forward. With defiance. Any way I can. That’s where I’m at right now.

No, Thank You, Please

People out there posting up their best-of-2019 photos/memories/memes/recipes/books/songs/serial killers/movies/shows/etc and me? Meanwhile, I’m over here wondering… can I not?

Farewell, good riddance, gtfo 2019. Let the door hit you on your way out.

This year was… rough. The first 6 months involved the darkest, worst roller coaster depression I’ve experienced to date. It got reallllllll bad, y’all. But I got help. Professionally and prayerfully. And then I very slowly, very painfully crawled and clawed my way up and out. It was not pretty. In some ways and on some days, it still isn’t.

But it got better. Things turned around. I was able to start working through a lot of things that needed work, and I became more of who I think I’m meant to be. I moved from a place that was killing me to a place full of encouragement and validation and a whole of laughter. And boy, do I need that laughter.

I’m not sure what else to put here. I survived, but I still have a long way to go. AJ has been extremely patient and giving and loving and understanding and supportive, and I cannot begin to describe how loved that makes me. But my hope for this year ahead is to do more than survive. I want to do better, be better. For myself, and for my family.

I’m proud of where I’m at, that I can laugh and make jokes in the chaos more and trust that it will be okay, because He said it will. I’m glad that I can recognize the hurt and the same struggle in others and try to be there in the ways I’m able, when I can. I hope I can do more of that this year- be a kindness or a safe haven to those around me. That’s what I’m working on. That and creating more. Writing more. That’s always a plan, but I never seem to execute it well, so lift that one up for me.

For 2020, I hope to create memories I won’t regret, to show my incredible children how loved and cherished they are, and to put the past 12-18 months behind me where it belongs.

May 2020 bring resilience and joy (and a whole lot of laughter) for me and mine, and you and yours.

Turning the Page

I’ve always appreciated the metaphors that incorporate books. Closing the book. The next chapter. Turning the page. The book is always better… you get it. I’ve measured my life by the books I’ve read. I can remember who I was and what period of my life I was at by thinking about the first time I read a given book from my past. So it feels apropos to use this symbolism today. Because today I am turning the page, ending the chapter, closing the book, etc, on a rather long, difficult stage of my journey. And let me tell you it is GLORIOUS.

Today, I am leaving my position at a job that has contributed to the downward spiral of my mental health over the last 18 months. Y’all. Y’all. It’s been hard. I’ve not been okay. And while the job hasn’t been the entire reason, it’s been a large contributor, and I spent 18 months (has it really only been that short a time?) holding on for dear life some days, and circling the emotional drain most others. I stopped writing and posting much because I was just so mother loving tired. And that’s where I’m gonna leave it. Because it benefits nothing and no one to rehash the ugly details over and over, so that’s that on that.

PEACE OUT GIRL SCOUTS

I cannot begin to express how relieved and joy-filled I am that not only am I turning the page on what I’ve already started referring to as the Dark Year, (don’t worry, I ain’t no Blodreina) but I’ll be starting up a new position back in the field of my heart- cartography and geospatial… things. I can breathe again. I can write again. I feel like Rapunzel in Tangled, and I’m breaking out into song, throwing lanterns around like candy. You know the scene.

It’s not going to fix me overnight. And I’m not heading to a dream job on a pedestal, as I’ve done to myself before. But it’s going to give me space to breathe and space to mend and space to pick myself back up and start putting one foot in front of the other again. It’s already giving me the ability to understand who God is to me and how He’s working, and I like feeling more secure in that. And that’s a post for another time.

You’re probably like, “whoa, Cait, this is a really heavy post with a lot of really personal information and now I’m uncomfortable.” That’s cool. But here’s the thing: life’s too short to rug sweep and hide our struggles. So, this is me. This is why I’ve been quiet, and this is what’s been happening. The plan is to keep writing, to keep posting and reviewing, now that the fog has lifted.

One thing you can count on me for sure though: I am a huge advocate for speaking up about mental health and breaking the stigmas around it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help when your brain needs it- whether its via proper medication and/or counseling. I’m a fan of whatever gets you back to healthy. It’s just as important as keeping the rest of your body healthy, and I’ll shout from this soapbox forever about it.

Next up: Mairin starts 1st Grade. And Jack starts actual preschool. *insert screaming into the void here* And I’ll be back with more on the book I’m writing and the books I’m reading and the adventures we’re having. Meanwhile, picture me as pre-crazy Mel. At least 3 friends from separate friend groups sent me this gif today, and that made me happy to be known so well.

Setbacks

Broken frames, broken hands, broken lungs, broken.

Things that seem so easy to others, that were once easy to me are chasms. There is no way across. They spread wide before my feet and all I can do is slump to my knees in defeat.

 

If someone was to look inside this head full of chaotic lines and white noise, they’d face a battlefield of words and ghosts of words, thunder and rain and far off lightning.  They’d duck and sprint through torrents of tears and the fog of pain. If they make it out, they, too, will have lost the words and the ability to run, to jog, to walk, to stand.

 

Senseless, numb, dazed, vacant. Suffocating, shaking, vibrating, overwhelming fear. There is no in-between here.

 

They didn’t tell me about this in school. I didn’t know it was going to be a war from the starting gate, islands of light dotting this ocean of every thought, ever fear, every hope, every dream. Islands to cling to in desperation as the tide pulls at my legs, at my waist, at my neck.

 

Tenuous grips on truths and half truths, washed out by the onslaught of too much. Too much failure. Too much fear. Too much knowledge. Too much noise. Too much. Too much. Too much.

 

Let me float back to the top, let me set my clouded eyes on that horizon they named hope, with a resilience that was never mine. Let me breathe a breath without the water clogging in, let me grasp again at the fickle sand, let me mend.

 

Mend my frame of mind, mend these shaking fingers, mend my half-filled lungs, set me back upright again.

Starting out

Want to get this out of the way, yes?

Don’t mind me, just starting this here blog that will mostly be book reviews and discussions, spilled ink thoughts, random asides, and musings on the writing process. Also probably a bunch of other useless crap, but hey, I can and I will.

Carry on.