The past week has been a rough one for me. There is just no other way to put it. To be clear, this post is not a plea for sympathy or anything of the sort. I’m just trying to make sense of all the anxiety & sadness in my own brain so that I can face this new week in a better frame of mind. Also, just to be clear, & this will make more sense once you’ve read further, yes, I am fully aware that this past week could have been much worse. Certainly I am very grateful for the many blessings in the midst of crisis. And yes, of course I am aware that many others are suffering in far “greater” ways than I right now. However, none of that diminishes the sadness I am experiencing right now, & despite my innate tendency to feel guilty for being sad about things, I’ve learned by now that trying to squelch or dismiss grief is a surefire way to never get over it & indeed to only make it worse.
With all of that out of the way, let me elucidate why this past week has been so challenging. Initially I had some rather difficult nights at work. There’s nothing more I want to say about that; just know that I started the week off feeling a bit more anxious because of that. Then Wednesday rolled around & a tornado ripped through my hometown. Bear in mind I did not grow up in the Midwest so tornados are not exactly something we expect to encounter; in fact this was only the third documented tornado in the county & by far the worst one. In any case, the result was that hundreds of houses were damaged, some leveled completely to the ground, leaving hundreds of people with nowhere to live & little to none of their belongings. A cousin of mine was home during the storm & barely made it into the basement in time to survive. When he walked out of the basement after the tornado passed, he found that his house was completed destroyed. (You can read his story here.) When his dad, my first cousin, sent me a picture of the house I was just flabbergasted.
Once I started seeing more & more similar pictures online, I knew that my hometown was in great need. Despite the many mixed feelings I have about my hometown, as I’ve written about here before, I just could not stay here in Raleigh doing nothing when I knew so many folks in my hometown were in dire need. So I made a spur of the moment decision to go home & see my family & do what I could to help the community. Off I went to WalMart where I bought a whole cartload of things to donate, everything from non-perishable food to towels to tampons to Gatorade & bottled water & more. I’m so glad I was off work so that I was able to make this trip home & surprise my family as well as donate to those in need in the community, but the trip was still heartbreaking. Driving around the county & seeing houses completely leveled with belongings, glass, pieces of wood, powerlines, & all manner of debris scattered all over the roads & the fields was nothing short of devastating. I definitely had tears in my eyes as I surveyed the damage. What has been heartwarming of course is seeing how the community has banded together to help those in need. I just read yesterday that out of 375 people displaced by the storm, only two were left in shelters. That’s amazing! There have been volunteers & donations coming in from all over the state & even outside Virginia. It’s wonderful to see all of this outpouring of good will, but nonetheless I cannot help but be sad for those who have lost so much.
Next up, my husband did our taxes on Saturday morning & we found out we owe even more money than last year. Let me just tell you nothing will make you a Libertarian so fast as finding out you owe several paychecks worth of money in taxes! (Actually I was already a Libertarian because it’s just what makes sense to me, but the point stands regardless.) And to everyone who keeps asking, yes, we have all of our forms filled out correctly. We just don’t have any dependents (yet), & no matter what we do our employers never deduct enough money from our paychecks. Argh.
Following right on the heels of that I went to WalMart to get a pregnancy test because I got my IUD removed a month ago, my cycle has been all over the place, & for a host of different reasons I thought there was a possibility I might be pregnant. In any case, I just wanted to know for sure whether I was or wasn’t. Well, on the short trip there, a man rear-ended my car while I was stopped at a red light. This marks the second time in four months that someone has rear-ended my car, & both times I’ve been kind/stupid enough not to call the police or file any insurance claims. The first time I had nothing more than a few scratches on my car so I was truly not concerned. This time there is a dent on the back of my car, but it’s pretty small & honestly I just feel like there are so many more important things in life that I can’t bother getting upset about a dented bumper. In any case, I do wish I’d called the police or at least filed with the man’s insurance because my CD player stopped working after the wreck. Now, as some of you know, music is basically my religion. It is what motivates me on my darkest days & is the very lifeblood of my soul. (Corey Taylor said it best: “Music . . . is the only real religion that is worth devoting your soul to. It is the last remnant of the primal scream, the funeral dirge, & the wedding march. It is the light that keeps me out of the shadows, & it is the reason my immortal soul is not in dire straits.”) When I found out my CD player wasn’t working, I can’t lie, that sent me over the edge & I truly cried for the first time all week. I had wanted to cry multiple times earlier in the week but I’d held it in for some ridiculous reason. Thankfully my dear husband was able to rescue all the CDs that were in the CD player, & he found a replacement online for which the man who hit me has promised to reimburse me.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t call the police. The simple explanation is I’m an idiot. The more complicated explanation is I was already an emotional disaster & I just couldn’t stand the thought of dealing with the police at that moment. Also the man who hit me was black & there was a part of me that worried the police would treat him more harshly because of that. I also couldn’t help but remember what a blessing it was when I rear-ended a delivery truck years ago & the owner of the truck asked the policeman not to charge me because there was essentially no damage to his truck. To my great surprise & relief, the policeman complied with his wishes. I still remember how wonderful that felt, & part of me wanted to give that feeling to someone else. I’m not sure if it’s a mark of compassion, insanity, stupidity, or some combination of all three that I was even thinking of someone else’s feelings at a time like that, but the truth is I was.
Back to the pregnancy test, as soon as I got home after the wreck I took the test & was greatly disappointed to find out that I am definitely NOT pregnant. I knew the chances were slim to none that it would happen so quickly, but I just couldn’t help but be disappointed. I keep remembering being in OB class in nursing school & thinking how ludicrous it was that a woman could want to be a mother so badly that she would cry when she got her period or had a negative pregnancy test. It’s not that I doubted this could happen; it’s just that at that point in my life getting pregnant would have been a disaster for me, & I just couldn’t envision myself ever wanting to be a mom that badly, so I simply had no conception of how that would feel. Well, here I am six or seven years later, whatever it is, & now I know how it feels. It’s something I can’t explain, & part of me feels silly for even being upset about this when logically I know I “shouldn’t” be, but I can’t help it. And that makes me feel weak & hormonal & ridiculous. Ugh.
In case anyone’s wondering why I’m sharing something so personal as all this, there are several reasons. First, writing out my thoughts & feelings keeps me sane. And secondly I truly believe the world would be a better place if we didn’t all pretend we’re ok when we clearly aren’t. With that in mind, allow me to say this: I do NOT have it all together. Perhaps it’s self-imposed because I have such high expectations for myself, but I often feel like people just expect me to be Ms. Perfect all the time. I feel like people automatically think “Oh, she’s smart, she’ll be fine, she’ll figure it out. We don’t have to worry about her.” Maybe that’s all in my head, but the truth is I really do NOT have it all together. Yes, I have lots of wonderful things in my life for which I am very grateful (a loving husband & family, friends who have become like family, an adorable corgi, a great career, etc), & some of those are things I’ve worked really hard to achieve/keep. But none the less, I am just as human as everyone else. And right now I am feeling a bit fragile & broken. On the plus side, this is the first time in a very long time that I feel like my anxiety has truly gotten the better of me. That right there is a huge victory. Honestly, when I remember the constant state of high-pitch anxiety I was in during college, I have no idea how I survived. All I can say is I’m glad I’ve gotten the help I’ve needed in the ensuing years.
I’ll end this by saying that I can’t give enough thanks to all of those who have reached out to me during the past few days. Some of you I haven’t spoken to in person in years, yet you took the time to message me & send words of encouragement, & that means more to me than I can say.
As a final message, I’m striving to remind myself of the incredible wisdom of these simple words from the Buddhist writer Pema Chodron:
“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit & not be squeamish about taking a good look.”
And just for good measure I’ll add a few more inspiring quotes from the great Corey Taylor.
“. . . the divine lies in all of us. We are miracles. We are “god.” If we shared a little more, we would not be left feeling less. We hold the keys to our own destinies. It is time we started looking for the locks.”
“Life owes you nothing. You owe yourself everything.”