On Friday, things were not ok.
Like so many of us, I am living in a state of, "I've got so much on my mind and so many plates to keep spinning." People often get on my case for my passion for work, but because I've put myself in a place to do what I love for a job, as long as I keep it all organized - work is easy. What's not easy is wrestling with a problem that has no apparent or immediate/obvious solution, and the grief associated with loss.
You may have heard me talk about the life coaching classes I took where we read and worked through "The Grief Recovery Handbook" and how much it changed my life. In this handbook you learn how to work through all types of loss. The loss of expectations, lifestyle, relationships, pets, people, and more. I now feel like recognizing unprocessed grief is a super power because it lets people find the root of the pain and truly heal the wound.
As the holidays get closer and closer, I've become keenly aware of what's coming as far as loss is concerned. With the virus being so prevalent, it isn't wise to gather. So, either we won't be gathering at all, or my family will go on ahead and gather without me. Additionally, there has been a proverbial changing of the seasons within my family. All my sister's kids have grown and left the house, which is what kids are supposed to do. However, there is also a feeling of loss associated with this happening for her, and for all of us, because it just changes things. If that wasn't enough, she recently sold her home. The home in which we've celebrated Christmas Day together for years. Even if we could get together safely, it wouldn't be the same anyway. And then there is my son. It's a long story for a different post, but after my divorce, my step-son, who lived with us full-time from 3 mos to 15 years, went to live with his biological mom. They are in Michigan, but even though we've been apart for a few years now, he has always come home to me at Christmas. I don't want to live in fear, but having him fly during a pandemic is scary to me - for him, for us. For everyone.
I've been doing all I can to stay positive. In addition to acknowledging what will be gone or different, I'm working diligently to find/create new traditions or activities to fill in the gaps where old ways won't work. It also took me a minute to find the time, energy, and motivation, but the decorations are finally up. So, while it never really feels like Christmas living in almost-always-sunny Arizona, it at least looks like the holidays are here - but for what? I know, however, that the spirit of Christmas doesn't just show up. It's handmade. Or heart made, maybe is a better term? And it's up to us to share it - with ourselves for ourselves and our own well being, and to also help others.
This is always my mindset. Identify the current and potential/likely upcoming problems, identify the fix, challenge myself and others to see the positive, be the solution and work to inspire people around me with unfading positivity. I do this at work and at home. Learning to run my personal life like a business has in many ways been really helpful! However, remaining perpetually positive when a solution to a problem isn't immediately apparent? It makes me feel stuck and can be wearing. I like making progress, even if it's slow!
With the impending holiday, my mom's aging and need for a housing solution for her, being tight on space in the humble home I bought to intentionally avoid frivolity and unnecessary spending and now for a myriad of reasons finding myself wishing I'd had a little more foresight, trying to find creative ways to socialize my only-child-at-home while she's in virtual school and I'm working full-time, single-parenting during a pandemic in general, getting a random text message from the other 'parent' after five years of no contact and having to hire a lawyer, feeling like my to-do list could wrap the world ten times and then some, and, and, and . . .
These are all things I've mostly kept to myself and have been quietly and diligently taking action on. Complaining about problems doesn't solve them. Taking action does.
And then, Friday.
This year has brought more phone calls, emails, text messages and Facebook posts of people passing away than any other year I can remember. Covid, cancer, sickness, and suicide. In the past two weeks, I've had four friends diagnosed with cancer and have numerous people close to me battling covid. It's one thing to see these things pass through your feed. It's another thing entirely to personally know so many people so closely. It's hard enough to lose one person in a year. It's almost unbearable when that number is nearing ten. And it's not just that they're gone, right? A person passing brings with it the awareness of our own lack. The fact we didn't write, text, or call what we feel is enough. The idea that if we had the choice the last thing we would have said most likely would have been entirely different than it actually was. And finally, it brings to light our own fragile mortality. What kind of life will we have lived when it's our time to go?
The week before last a photo of my best friend from high school who passed away my sophomore year came across my feed. God it was good to see her face. It was also, however, a bittersweet reminder of a beautiful life cut much too short. It reminded me of the memories we made, and the countless others we didn't get to - and the stupid fight we had, her going back home to Colorado earlier than expected because of that disagreement, and the tragic way she died on the night she was supposed to be in Arizona with me.
So many thoughts brought to top of mind and then, before my heart could heal up again from all the feelings that were sneaking out of it from Em, we got the news about Tee.
I spent all last week getting through the week and staying kind of strong. I had a few tough spots, but for the most part less a few moments was able to get on as usual. I made it through countless meetings, a tradeshow, a keynote presentation, had so many incredible conversations about Tee, and got hundreds of tasks crossed off of my to-do list. Around 4:30 PM I left the house to get my mail and as I sat in the car setting up a box I'd received to take a picture for Instagram, LANY - "If This is The Last Time" came on. I had never heard it so didn't think to change it. Listening to the lyrics of that song, the tears flowed like a damn flood.
I sat in my car crying with that song on repeat for close to an hour. I somehow turned it off, wiped the tears away enough to drive home, walked in the door, sat on the couch, and stayed there. Friday night, Saturday morning, all day Saturday. Saturday night. Sunday.
I've never done that. Even when I've been sicker than sick I'm still doing something. My mental health days, or days "off" are usually only taken off so I can put my out of office on an play catch up on work without feeling guilt for the new emails that stack up for the day. However, after all of 2020 collapsed on me in that one moment in the car, I just couldn't any more. My phone died at one point during the weekend. I just left it sitting there. Netflix was on for 16 hours straight, but I'm not sure I actually saw any of what was on. Numb. I just felt numb. And hopeless. Not in an end it kind of way, but in a "What the hell can I do with my life to make sure the days and what I do matters so much more" kind of way. I do SO much. I live hard. Go, do, see, laugh, love, give, rinse, repeat. In that moment though, none of it seemed like enough. And damn it. I miss these people who I will never be able to make memories with again. Finally Sunday, while I was laying expressionless on the couch, the fam left to go hiking. I sat there thinking about what was next. I could choose to sit here forever doing nothing. Sit on the couch and probably eventually lose everything I care about and work so hard for, or, I could do what Charity does and just do something. Anything.
What did I do?
Well, I'll tell you what the hell I really didn't want to do. I didn't want to take my dinosaur pajama wearing, Netflix binging, tear stained face with a matted top knot pity party on a Peloton ride. This bike was delivered days ago and I had made a promise to myself and the group to ride my first ride with everyone. Well . . . with my 30-day trial now wasting away, I missed that opportunity.
Luckily the class was still accessible. I begrudgingly got off the damn couch. I dragged myself into the bedroom to get socks, put them and my funky-ass new cycling shoes on, awkwardly clomped over to the bike, got on and figured out how to clip said funky-ass shoes into the pedals, logged in, and pressed go on the ride I committed to a week before.
Now - Most people don't understand me. They don't understand my joy for work and what I do, and how rest is truly not relaxing for me. Accomplishing these giant goals is my jam, and I get even more motivated - ok, frustrated because I feel behind on life, but that creates motivation - by the fact that my giant goals are someone else's anthills. We are all so capable of so much, but we allow our limited mindset to limit us.
This was not where I was mentally in that moment. I wasn't in "Crush it!" mode. I was in just survive mode. . . just find a way to create a spark, even if it's a little one mode.
I told myself that even if I didn't give the ride any effort - even if all I did was just turn the pedals, and if I didn't even finish the ride, it was ok. Just do something. Anything.
After a few minutes on the bike, it was apparent that the instructor - Ally - gets it. She said a lot with her words during the ride. It wasn't a bike ride. It was a TED Talk. And at the end she said seven words my constantly misunderstood mind needed to hear: "Set standards. Operate in grit. Build confidence."
And with that, my first Peloton ride? D.O.N.E. and it came after the worst three few days I've had in as long as I can remember.
Sitting on the bike at the end of the ride I was so proud of myself. I didn't just start. I did the whole damn thing, dinosaur pajamas and all. In order to have any hope of getting to the end of the ride though, I had to make the choice to start it, and take the action to make it happen. I also had to come to terms with myself that ok was good enough and that, despite what people say, simply trying is actually good enough too - especially if being willing to try is all you've got.
With some understandable trepidation, I went back and listened to that LANY song again this morning. Being in the right frame of mind, I was able to listen to it and hear the call to action the author intended for the listener to hear. The state of the world currently isn't hopeless. In fact, quite the opposite. As long as we're here, we still have time.
My calendar now has a daily reminder to reach out to a new person every few days and just share a random memory of us that I love or remind them of something awesome about themselves that I admire about them. We have great power with our actions and words. We just have to remember to use it. Today, even though I might fail at getting to everyone, I'm committing to try.
Whatever it is you're going through and however you're feeling, my challenge to you today is to just try. Try to do something. Even if it's only a little something. Maybe tomorrow try to do two somethings, and three somethings the day after that. Those little sparks are powerful. Even if you don't have it in you to shine bright, just know that even the smallest little sparks still shine and the world - including me - needs all the extra light it can get.