Growth. This year has been about growth (really every year has been). But take it in, lovebug. Breathe deep and soak it all up. You have grown. And you get to repurpose what you thought was lost or left behind. You have been reclaimed—you reclaimed yourself, because you got lost along the way. But you are right here. Right now. You bloomed through it, right where you are planted. You grew.
Yes. I know the year isn’t over yet. But it’s #2020 and I don’t think there are rules anymore. So I’m throwing caution to the wind. It’s an understatement to say this year is not what we expected. The last couple of years I have had a word that’s guided me. The first few I forgot part way through the year, I couldn’t even tell you now what they were. But this time my word has stayed with me all year: grit. Even when I haven’t realized it in the moment, grit has been with me–I’ve seen it surface in hindsight.
And so I’ve been doing an assessment of my year and what I’ve learned. I truly believe part of the reason we’ve experienced this shit show of a year is to remind us to slow down, to listen, and to learn more. And I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been more comfortable coming into my own during this pandemic, go figure, and it’s pushed me to my limits more than once. It’s let me try out many versions of myself, some which were updated throw backs to high school or college. But I realized that none of those versions of Shannon were the right versions. And so I keep seeking, growing, learning. I know more and more what I don’t want in life–honestly I think we learn this a little more every.dang.day.
- You dictate your own learning. You can choose to look the other way when lessons are in front of you. You can close your ears and pretend the world has it out for you. But who does that help? I think instead it’s important to learn from everything we do, every interaction and moment. Because it helps us keep stepping into the world and showing up. Day in, and day out.
- Take people at their word the first time. No matter what you want them to say instead, take them at their word. And when what they say isn’t what you want to hear, be open in communicating that and determine whether that means: 1) you both will make a compromise or 2) you will walk away. Because giving in completely isn’t an option. It only damages you, and stunts your growth. And it will come back around in full force and bite you in the ass.
- Some people will refuse to hear you or communicate. Some of this is because not everyone communicates well together. That’s a part of life. Sometimes people would rather ignore what you are saying. Some people just don’t have the capacity to hear or understand you, no matter how clear you are being. This can be excruciating. It can. But there is only so much you can do and then you need to move on.
- Physical touch is important. I’ve always been a touchy feely person. Always (that’s why one of my love languages is physical touch). Granted, I’m pretty selective about it (I have to feel comfortable in the situation). But social distancing and this pandemic has reminded me how, as humans, how important physical touch is for our growth, development, and mental health. There have been two specific times during quarantine that I’ve had thrown in my face that physical touch goes high on my list of ways that I connect with others–these experiences have been interesting to move forward from–strange even. I can’t even imagine what our collective mental health will look like with this continued lack of human (physical) connection. But we persist, eh?
- Connection is like a drug. When I care about people, I care about them deeply. Once habits or consistencies have been formed, I get wary when it changes (hello, enneagram 6). But I see the good in others, to a fault. And I don’t walk away from people easily. Especially those who have (for whatever amount of time) provide safety, security, and attention. And when I know I have to move on (or someone else or something else chooses to move on first), its crushing and it pushes me into survival (maybe abandonment) mode. So I just latch on harder. Which usually causes more of the same problems. But what can I say, I like attention (we all do, in some form). I’m working on being “better” (we are all a work in progress). But woah…
- Maintain your boundaries. Even when you think there is something or someone for which you want to shift them. Don’t shift them. If you’ve grown and want something different or have learned something, great, then you can make an informed decision and shift them. But don’t do it to appease someone else. Your boundaries are there for a reason. And not everyone is going to understand them (or respect them). But that’s on them, not you. Stay strong–and oh by the way, it’s helpful to know why you have those boundaries too. Knowing the why makes maintaining them a whole hell of a lot easier. Which leads me to…
- Know your why. This has been one I’ve been working through the last several weeks. Why do you show up in the world like you do? Why do you support people the way you do? Why are you in the profession you are in? Why are you with the partner you are with? Why do you stay? Why are you feeling how you are feeling? Why do you make the decisions that you make? Why? It’s helped me a lot with perspective. To know deep down in my core that there is a reason I do what I do and act how I act and go after what I go after. There are things I want in life, and it has been eye-opening to approach them from a place of “why do I want this” or “why do I pursue this”. Knowing your why gives a place to return to, a place to keep taking the temperature of situations, a true north. And it forces you to keep being honest with yourself.
- Not everyone stays forever: sometimes that is your choice and sometimes that is their choice. And neither of those feel great. This one is extremely difficult for me. I’m very diligent and deliberate about the people I let into my life. When someone comes in, they quickly become a mainstay. If you’ve gained my trust, I give deeply. And so it’s difficult when people make their exit. The memories and “what ifs” abound. But you have to stay present, because you can’t change the past and a future of “what ifs” isn’t real.
- Memories can be difficult. But you can remember what was without wanting what didn’t come to fruition. Memories are hard. They can be full of grief and sadness. They can make you wish something was different. But they can also remind you of really positive things too. Memories shape us, and reshape us. They help us hold ourselves and others to the light. The challenge is letting the good memories stay without fooling yourself into something that can never be.
- Change is good. Change is hard. It throws us into the unknown, it pushes us to our limits. But none of us were built to be uniform, the same over time, one-dimensional, or simplistic. Change means unlearning old habits (generally “bad” habits). Sometimes those habits are deeply rooted in childhood dynamics (or are a result of past experiences). Sometimes they are really difficult to spot in yourself (until you see them, and then it’s all you can see). And often times they are tough to overcome or move through, but the change…the getting to the other side. That is worth the pain and hurt and work that goes into it (I have to keep telling myself this, it helps me get through).
- No one will hand you growth, it’s something you have to seek all on your own. And change allows us the opportunity to grow. Growth helps us keep becoming our true selves. But you have to be open to growth, and learning. No one else will make you do it, they are too busy with their own lives (as they should be). But stagnation is not okay–not for long at least. You have to advocate for yourself. You have to keep on your grind. You have to wake up every day and put one foot in front of the other. You have to keep going because there is no one else who can do it for you.
- Other people can see things in you that you can’t (and you can see things in others that they can’t). This has been a God send for me throughout this year. People who can see things in me that I’ve forgotten, ignored, or never noticed. People who remind me of my strength and my worth and my abilities. I’ve learned I need to listen more: when they share their hesitations, when they build me up, when they ask questions. They have a different perspective. They can see signs that you can’t see. Don’t just brush aside their opinion because you think you know the situation better (and don’t make excuses)–I’m just learning to take a step back when someone shares their insight…to digest what they say and reframe what I am feeling (because my feelings are not always just my own). Hindsight is 20/20, but also your people can oftentimes see it before you can.
- Some will keep you around merely for the convenience. This I will keep rereading and telling myself again and again. Especially in this world’s climate, people will keep you around because they are getting something from you–mentally, transactionally, emotionally, physically. That doesn’t necessarily mean it goes deeper than that (even if they say that it does). Not to imply that everyone is lying about their intentions but there are definitely signs that you can see, vibes you can feel, that show who or what they are under the surface. Trust your intuition, watch the signs. In this climate it is waaaaay easier to be okay with things out of convenience, and dishonesty (or unclear intentions)–because there is comfort in instant gratification, no rules, and no defined trajectory. But I’ve learned not to succumb to convenience–of my own accord or someone else’s. Situations of convenience, though they have nice effects in the moment, never last. Something bigger, brighter, shinier always comes along.
- Remembering that I’m an empath and HSP is very important. My emotions are not always mine. That means what I am feeling is also heightened by what is happening around me (and by what others are feeling). It means that sometimes my own emotions and feelings can be pushed to the side or hidden because of the energy surrounding me. Sometimes I can’t “see clearly” about my own situations–my thoughts are clouded by the other emotions and energies floating around me–this can be good and bad. But I have to remember to stay in tune with myself, my being, my core. And I have to remember the magic that being an empath and an HSP adds to my life. It adds to the lives of others too. But sometimes I have to remember that as only 15-20% of the population not everyone knows what this magic is our how it operates inside of a person. Sometimes we have to slow down and explain to others.
Maybe it’s ironic that I finally finished this post today. Ironic because today is (was?) my mom’s birthday. And she continues to teach me so much. She continues to help me grow and be my rock. Perhaps the universe is working because it makes me view all of this from a different light because it’s her birthday. A silent reminder, a deeply felt celestial nudge, a quiet whisper spoken in my ear “there is always something deeper to see. There is always light here. You, my child–my goofy, and witty, and intelligent, and caring child–you are loved and important and enough. You have learned and you are growing. Do not silence yourself. Do not stop seeking.” I will keep learning. As my mantra says, “more of what is meant for me”.
I’ve always been tapped in to my intuition. Even from a young age, I knew there was a quality I had that made me some sort of social chameleon. It wasn’t until much later that I learned about what it means to be an empath and an HSP, what those mirror neurons are really doing inside of my brain. And even taking all of that into account, there’s something deeper there. A sense. A gut feeling. Glennon Doyle would call it “The Knowing”. But I’d call it the ancestral line of seers and visionaries. The thick thread woven from the gifts of greatgrandma Rosella. I’d call it magic.
A couple weeks ago during our live worship stream at church, I had an encounter with the divine. I’m sure I as tuned into it more as our current sermon series was “Fierce Women: Foremothers of Faith”. But during the service I looked outside and saw the wind moving, not just the leaves and tree branches…but I saw the wind moving. I’m not sure that I can put words to it for anyone else. But in that moment I connected with the divine. Some may think that’s too “woo woo”. That’s fine, no one needs to understand what it all meant except me. The moment was for me. And there were certain women I could feel calling upon me in that moment, like a ancient hew or curse, my name being invoked to something bigger than me.
Caren, my dear friend and magical spitfire. Caren was one of the strongest women I’ve ever met. She reminded me to never give up on myself. To remember that no one else defines me but me. She showed me how to be serious, yet silly, and to always keep people guessing. She accepted me as one of her own without question or hesitation. And that is something that I will cherish always. People underestimated her, and that was on them. Because she was a gem.
Marilyn, my mentor and magical guardian angel. Our friendship started early. I’ve mentioned her before in this blog. But she is one of the strongest reasons why I believe in intergenerational friendships. She reminded me of the power of human interaction, the power of a hug. To remember that listening deeply to those around you is so important, but not as important to listening deeply to yourself. She was my biggest fan, and for that I am forever grateful.
Great-grandma Rosella, the magical matriarch. Maybe she should have been at the top of the list. I never met her. Out of the three of us girls she only met my oldest sister as a baby. But more and more I feel her thread of life running through me. Sometimes it gives me chills. She reminds me to be my own person. To show up exactly as I am without excuses and without minimizing myself. To remember to listen to my inner voice, my intuition, my heart, the knowing. To be my own guide and do what is best for me even when others don’t understand. To feed into my own “magic”. To continue on my path of healing in all of the multiple aspects: in my own life and for others.
Mama, my magical papillon. This is tough. My mama teaches me more and more every day. Sometimes I have to look for the touch points more so on certain days. But she’s always there. Whispering into my ear, and reminding me that life isn’t always easy but dang, it’s worth it. She reminds me that things will happen for you when they are supposed to, when you are ready; not necessarily when you want them to, but patience is a gift (one I’m still figuring out how to use). My mama drives me forward, her spirit lives within me. Her fire burns in my eyes.
A Message from
the Universe Papillon.
Instagram has a new setup where it only shows you the recent posts of profiles you follow. Then there is an option to click “view older posts” and if you keep scrolling it shows you posts that you might like based on other posts you’ve interacted with, or based on posts liked by folks you follow. At first I haaaated this. I just wanted to endlessly scroll my feed of those I follow. But I have come to very much appreciate this new setup. I have found helpful quotes, new folks to follow, and messages that have felt timely.
Many of the quotes that have really struck home with me have had butterfly imagery. If you’ve been following along for a while you’ll know that butterflies are a connection point for me with my mom. My tattoo incorporates the letters of the French word for butterfly in a butterfly form, etc. I feel her speaking to me in many ways, and recently through these quotes.
I don’t get up on this soap box often. Usually this site is just for my thoughts and opinions of my own life: faith, relationships, grief, discernment. But I saw a post on Instagram this morning that made me want to say something
else more. We talk a lot around the holidays about shopping and gifts. We have Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. It’s a lot. But to me I am thinking differently this year (honestly, Ive been thinking differently for much of 2020). Christmas for me will be different this year, I am committing myself to that. (And I put Christmas in quotes in the title because I recognize not everyone celebrates this holiday…but this applies to anyone making purchases for themselves or others over the next few months).
I commit to shopping local exclusively this Christmas. All of my gifts will be from small businesses in Indiana. I live and work in two different cities so I think it’s unfair to just say “Indianapolis”. I want to be intentional about supporting businesses that I love and that add to my community. I don’t want integral businesses to disappear. I want them to thrive. I want to be a part of the solution, I want to hold others up. I want our communities to remain strong and to remember we are a support for each other. Below I am dropping links to some of my favorite businesses, restaurants, and non-profits. Do with it what you will.
- Ash and Elm
- Cafe Patachou
- Coat Check Coffee
- First Watch
- Garden Table
- Iron Skillet
- Thai Recipes
- Wild Eggs
- Crimson Tate
- Global Gifts
- Kids Ink
- Nashville Spice Company
- Salon Honey
- Silver in the City
- United State of Indiana
- Wild Olive
Non-Profits (Not all Local)
I have mixed feelings about whether or not I want kids of my own some day. It’s been an ongoing conversation in the back of my head for a long time. And the answer has changed at different stages in my life, experiences change your perspective. While dating someone, the thought of kids definitely flows back through my immediate consciousness. For me, a lot of my decision depends on timing. I refuse to be an old mom, I won’t submit my children to that—I’ve seen it play out to many times and know the pressure that comes with it.
At this current stage in the game I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I want for my life. I’ve made lists of goals, lists of what I want in a potential partner, lists of places I want to see, etc. (I love lists). And it is helpful in keeping my mindset in check. I am not defined by a person, a place, or a thing. I am defined by how I show up in the world and what I do each day, by who I choose to be and by the gifts God gave me. It’s a reframe for sure, and timely to say the least. But I am reminded that I can be happy, in the hear and now (thanks, Gestalt, among others). In each moment, there is something to take away as a positive. Sure, in 1, 5, 10 years there are things I am working towards. But there is a lot to be said for what is happening right now, the baby steps, the experiences, the growth–it is all important and it can all bring joy if I just slow down and recognize it. Though not everything recently has worked out
how I wanted it to how I anticipated it would, there are still lessons to be learned. And one of those is that slow and steady is a-okay. There is joy and happiness in this instance. It may not last forever (could be 30 seconds, 30 minutes, 30 days), but it is a spark of positivity and that is enough.
I commented to a few friends recently how my current studies are helping me better myself. The theories I am using are applicable to my life as well, and again sometimes that is in very timely ways. I am reminded that I shouldn’t focus on what was or what went wrong or the negativity I associate with an experience. Instead I should be grateful and humbled by the light it brought to my life, the way it gave me a new perspective, and how it helped me grow.
Just like Goldilocks when she breaks in to the house of the 3 Bears, and tries out their porridge, their chairs, and their beds; so too there are things in life that we must each try on for size. Perhaps it will be too hot or too cold, too hard or too soft, too big or too small. But at some point, there will be something that feels just right, and we will know. Again, that thing may not feel “just right” forever and that doesn’t discount the time and energy spent. It just means the thing no longer serves us. It could be a job, a relationship, a schooling decision, a hobby, etc. That’s not failure, it’s a lesson. Or, if you see it as “failure” I’d say don’t take it in the traditional sense, but rather shift your perspective to see that it provided growth and a new understanding. There have been so many times in my short life I’ve learned that the Universe has other plans for me, plans that are not my own, plans that are not where I felt I was originally being led. But through it all, I have learned–each step has brought new insight.
In true “Shannon form” I’ve been stuck on three things recently as I have tried to better myself, learn, and refocus my overactive mind. I’ve dedicated myself to taking time for mindfulness each day (even just 10 minutes). It’s centering. I’ve started writing more again (not just this blog, but journaling, and writing poetry as well). I’ve been staying off of social media as much as possible–that is to say I’ve deleted both SnapChat and Facebook from my phone. And have put my main energy into Instagram because I’ve found it’s brought me the most positivity.
Mindfulness keeps me present in the moment. It helps me quiet unwanted thoughts that I have. It gives me an opportunity to refocus my breathing, to recognize what my body can do, and puts a positive filter on how I approach the day. It’s a reminder that I don’t have to stay in a state of stress and anxiety when those thoughts inevitably resurface. I can reframe whatever I am going through, and not excuse the behavior or situation, but take a moment to step back and keep my reactions in check. Sometimes it takes longer than others. Sometimes the thoughts persist or come back quickly. But generally it is a good mechanism to help me focus and dispel irrational thoughts.
You can see by the extra blog posts I’ve had recently that I’ve been writing more. There is a lot of emotion and introspection going on, sometimes it’s just nice to pour it out. Getting the never-ending thoughts and dialogue that goes on internally outside of my body is refreshing and freeing (even if only momentarily to more thoughts and conversations that ensue). There are some posts that stay private, or that show up only in my journals for my eyes only. No matter the venue, writing helps me process in a different way. I’ve even been writing more short quips and poems (that I share on my secondary IG)–almost like mini-mantras. Words that resonate with me and remind me of my purpose and my focus and my goals. I need those reminders, because it can be easy to want what someone else has. But the reminders keep me grounded in where I am in my life and the growth that has happened (and continues on).
“Everyone is on a different and unique timeline”. This is one of the things I keep coming back to…That and something along the lines of “the things that leave you are teaching you and creating space for what is meant for you”. Both have been powerful for me (throughout my life, but I have come back to both hardcore recently). Sometimes I gauge my timeline of things based on my friends. Sometimes I gauge my timeline of things based on my sister and mom. Sometimes I gauge my timeline of things based on strangers. None of these are wrong exactly, but reality is that things don’t happen for everyone at the same points in life. Sure, I have feelings watching my youth get married. Sure, I have feelings watching my best friends have babies together. Sure, I have feelings knowing how “successful” certain people are. But I’m not late to the party, I am exactly where I need to be. Obviously there are lessons to be learned, experiences to be had, joy to be found before X,Y, and Z can happen. And where that can be difficult to embrace (I talk often about my impatience) I know that I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I was reminded recently of my aunt who got married late in life. The story goes that at the same time my mom called her to say she was pregnant with my oldest sister, my aunt shared that she was engaged. She would have been 45 years old when my sister was born. And she and my uncle had one of the most loving and meaningful relationships I have ever witnessed (and they were married for about 35 years before he passed). There are things meant for me in this life that I am working toward. Wonderful and fulfilling friendships. Great knowledge and career growth. A romantic love that amplifies the life that I already have. I am still working towards those things, but that doesn’t mean that my life stops. It doesn’t make me any less, or any less important, or any less amazing. It simply means the time is not now. And damn, you don’t always understand how things come together until after the fact (whether immediately or years later or anywhere on that spectrum of time). I know that’s obvious, but it’s so true. Much of the heartache we feel is preparing us for something better. It’s easy to feel shame about it, but look at it as growth and learning. Nothing to be ashamed for at all. The hardest part at this point, however, is my lack of patience. I don’t mind working for things, I’m not sold on instant gratification, but patience is a struggle for me.
My time will come. And I’ll be glad for the work that I’ve done to prepare myself. And each thing between then and now will have made me ready for the abundance. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times I ached to speed things up a little. I believe in the power of the Universe (not always personified that way for me). I believe there are things that are meant for me that will come in time. I believe I’m not behind or late. But, damn, I sure hope they start popping up soon.
The last two weeks have been bumpy. Silence. Confusion. Hurt. Tears. Anger. Worry. And back through the cycle. I’m nothing if not an emotional person. And at one point in my life I would cower from that distinction, try and shove it down, and not admit that I was feeling what I was feeling. But that state is long gone. I know my emotions are important, and powerful, and not much (if any) good comes from denying their existence.
These weeks have taught me a lot. About myself and what I need, and what I value. About dealbreakers (because let’s be honest, I didn’t think I really had any…I’m generally pretty flexible and accepting). I’ve been reminded that not everyone stays in our lives forever: reason, season, and lifetime (as the saying goes). I’ve been reminded not to waste time on those who make it pretty dang clear they don’t want to give you the time of day.
I’ve said it probably a million times, but I don’t give up on people easily. But you can want the best for people without them being a part of your life. And that’s where I am. The people who have chosen to walk out of my life (with or without explanation) are still people I wish the best for in the grand scheme of things. Sure, I may have imagined initial ill-will for them, but that’s short lived. We are all humans, we fight our own internal (and external) battles, we struggle, we don’t always show up and when we do it isn’t always as our best selves, we make mistakes. But there’s a lot to be said for how we handle the aftermath of any of those situations. Actions and reactions matter, arguably more than words.
If nothing else, I’ve learned more of what I need, what things I can compromise, and how deep my grit actually runs. I’ve learned about behavior I won’t stand for as a 32 year old woman. I’ve learned where my own communication is lacking. I’ve learned that no matter how much you give, not everyone can or will do the same in return. I’ve remembered that the actions of other people don’t mean much (if anything) about me–and I may never understand why they do what they do. But I can control my reactions to them, and I can wish them the best while respectfully walking away. When I engage and invest, I show up in a very full way. I’m honest and open about some of my own shortcomings and how that plays out in times of joy and times of stress. But it doesn’t mean I’m perfect. We can all do better. And not all of us are meant for one another.
It’s okay to move on (whether your choice or the result of someone else walking away). The hardest part for me is getting out of my own head. I’m mostly on the other side of that stage, thank goodness. I know what I don’t want: I don’t want that person to be a part of my life. The memories and lessons will remain. But yesterday I realized, they don’t get to stake a claim over any part of me anymore: mind, body, or soul. I choose to move forward, growing more fully into my best self, ready to tackle the next thing that is in store for me. I decide to play into my strength, my ability to learn, my creativity, my humor, my friendships, my power. And so I have a new temporary rallying call, “fight” song. What’s not important loses weight.
I’m a big fan of lessons. I’m a big fan of growth. I’m a big fan of quotes. And I’ve found that second to a really amazing core group of girlfriends, that quotes have given me the best reframe and direction for my life and my intentions at this stage in the game. No matter how many times you’ve been through it, no matter the length of time, no matter the situation: you can always come away with some new insight about yourself. And that’s the gift in the middle of all of the confusion and hurt and feet to the fire.
It’s been a long time (I feel) since I’ve talked about my time in Africa. In college, I talked about it a lot and was often teased about it. It’s a precious time in my memory, an important part of my adolescence, and a strong connector between my mom, sister, and I. I’m reading Glennon Doyle’s recent book Untamed and as I was underlining and annotating, I wrote “set yourself free”. Flash back to Summer 2005, post Carnivore feast, in a mutatu with two very slap-happy chaperones. Cue singing.
You just slip out the back, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan. You don’t need to be coy, Roy. Just get yourself free. Hop on the bus, Gus. You don’t need to discuss much. Just drop off the key, Lee. And get yourself free.Thank you, Paul Simon. (And MJS and EDH)
Mind you, conversation quickly turned to the fact that the song never gives you more than 5 ways to leave your lover. And shouldn’t we come up with the other 45….but I digress.
Though there have been points of hiatus, I’ve been pretty open about my dating forays on this platform. Online dating sucks in general, but it is especially tricky in a COVID world. Ghosting is real, and the lamest thing in the world. In a world that already gives you security behind a screen, you’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to type “Hey, I’m not interested. Best of luck.” Alas, often that is too much. It’s not something I will ever understand. Especially from people who claim to value honesty and vulnerability. But the lesson I suppose it those aren’t my people. Easy to hear, harder to embrace.
Though there have been some short term successes, there have also been disappointments, bizarre occurrences, and stories that now make me giggle. I’m not sure what my online dating takeaway is at this point. One thing that continually rings true is this “just be you”. That’s all I can be, and in a world that
calls us screams at us to be anything but ourselves, this is a mantra I try and hold fast to as much as possible. Not everyone is going to understand your decisions. And on the flip side, you won’t always understand the decisions of others. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, and thus they don’t owe you one in return. But what I do know is this: if the person and the relationship (friendship, family, romantic) is important enough then the “why” is important to share. So as I wade through thoughts of self-doubt and confusion of wtf happened, I come back to this: that relationship did not and does not define me. I am my own person and I am pretty amazing. I have much to offer to someone, but it has to be the right someone. And that will happen when it happens. That doesn’t make my current life any less fulfilling or fulfilled. It’s time to concentrate on the positives, the life-giving things, the people and moments that truly matter. Sure, I’m still on dating apps. Sure, I’m still open to being set up on dates. Sure, I want to find love some day. But none of that means my life as it is right now needs to stop, or that I need to lose focus on family commitments, my job, school, friendships, my creativity. There is so much more in life that demands or warrants my attention right now. And so, the words ring true, I will set myself free. (Glennon Doyle talks about freedom in many forms in Untamed).
- I have a family that loves me, supports me, and brings me joy.
- I have a close circle of friends who get my whole self, and give their whole selves in return.
- And among that close people there are an even smaller few who keep checking in on me: sending me funny memes, creating playlists, reminding me of my worth, holding space for my emotions (and boy can that be a roller coaster).
- I have a job that provides for me, and especially during the pandemic it is something I refuse to take for granted.
- I have the opportunity to grow my mind through grad school, and apply it to current and future endeavors.
- Followed closely by the amazing people in my cohort, seriously. These people are a force and keep me laughing in way no one else can.
- I’m alive, and force my body to get up and move every day, it’s my own kind of medicine to be active and outside for at least a short time each day.
- There’s a lot of talent in this being of mine: creativity, humor, helpfulness, compassion, etc. I am not any less because someone (or some people) choose not to be a part of my story. **Says to herself on repeat** It’s a good mantra, albeit longer than most.
- I have a lot to offer: to my friends, to my community, to the world, to potential partners, the kids I work with (no matter their age, they are all kids to me).
- Music and quotes. Because those will always speak to my soul, no matter its current condition. There is music for every mood, there is a quote for every emotion.
- Introspection, the ability to process and work through the tough sh*t. You find you more and more each day. And what a blessing that it. Learn, child, keep learning.
- And so, so, so many more. Because if you just look, you can find so much positive in your life. Even when things feel horrible, or you question yourself, or you’ve been hurt, or things seem not so bright and shiny. Make a list. There’s more than you realize. And I will continue to move toward the things that are positive, not discounting all of the other feelings because they need to be felt too. But knowing that there is more than the way someone else’s actions made me feel.
Life recently has felt heavy. Social unrest surrounding race continues. The COVID pandemic is still very real. But somehow those seem to have taken the backseat (though they shouldn’t). They are old news, brushed aside for something new. Hell, even the election seems passé. With those things setting the backdrop, I’ve had one too many (in my opinion) other things weighing on my heart.
About 6 weeks ago my aunt moved up to Indy from Florida. It’s something we’ve been trying to convince her to do for the last 5 years or so, and finally she caved. But a couple weeks into her time I had to take her to the ER. Tests and tests and tests came back; some with answers, some not so much. She flipped into a regular hospital room once there was availability and then eventually was released to rehab. My aunt is 85. There is the normal wear and tear on her body and mind. But there is definitely more at play here. I think we didn’t realize how much she had declined before she moved. And there is something about being in a hospital and then care facility that expedites the aging process on folks. I’m not sure what it is (some backhanded magic) but I’ve seen it time and time again.
My aunt doesn’t have children of her own. She has step-kids, who are wonderful to her, even after their dad passed. But when the time came to elect who would be responsible for her health/financial affairs, she chose us. It didn’t seem like a big deal when I/we originally agreed. But that was before all of the heartache and struggle we went through with my mom. All the long days visiting before work, and working through end of life plans, and allowing ourselves to grieve every step of the way. The situation with my aunt is more nuanced. There are loose ends she didn’t tie up from her move. There are things that legally we can’t do yet. There is a very tedious chain of events that usually would encourage my organizational mind, but really just has caused stress. It’s a lot. But I love my aunt, and there is lots of help along the way. Thank GOD for my dad because I would not be surviving this without him. It’s hard to see her like she is, in pain, confused, unable to take care of things on her own. It’s a stark reality juxtaposed with how she and my uncle lived for so very long. But it’s a reminder as well to make every day count.
I still have contact with several friends from childhood. People I don’t always talk to but could pick up right where we left off. Those I could call on and I know they’d come running, people who have a history of all of the Shannons I’ve been over the years. But there is one of these people who has, pretty much, been around the longest. She’s been my nearest and dearest for so long. She’s walked a long journey with me. We’ve been through ups and downs in our own lives but remained constant.
A few days ago she had her own baby girl. The cutest, sweetest, spitting’-image of herself (for real, those cheeeeeeks). One of the happiest moments that she and her husband will remember forever (and me too, because, gosh what a darling baby girl). But almost exactly 24 hours later my friend’s mother passed away. Excruciating is the best word I can think to describe it–because honestly, there are no words when you lose your mom, but especially not under these circumstances and in these times.
We had a conversation maybe a week before discussing how her mom was doing and ::gasp:: me doing a lot of listening (I swear I am actually a really good listener). And, as is typical for me, I asked her what she needed–what I could do. And these words chilled me to my core: “You’ve been through this, Shannon, so I could really use your advice…” And we both broke into tears. I don’t mind giving advice. Friends often come to me to hash out things going on in their lives. I was 28 when my mom died, and at that point I was highly aware that I was the first of my friends to experience this loss. And that I would have the unique opportunity (responsibility?) to help them through their grief when the times came. But I didn’t anticipate it would be this soon.
It was a good conversation. It was timely. It reminded me that I have more knowledge than I realize, more insight than I care to think about on a daily basis (that wouldn’t be healthy). Everyone experiences grief differently, there is no right or wrong. It’s a process. But if I can do something to help ease those I care about into that process, I will do it. I’m okay with that being one of my purposes in this lifetime. Because no one should have to go through that shit alone. No one should have to figure it all out by themselves.
Last night was the online memorial for her mom. I looked disheveled and was tired so I kept my video off. But scrolling through the names was unbelievably humbling. So many people (250+ participants, and some of those had more than one person). The rabbis did a beautiful job, better than many of the Christian funeral/memorials I have been to–not sure if that is just the ability of those two individuals or whether it was connected to the Jewish tradition (I digress). Hearing the words of her brother made me smile. Hearing the remembrances of her son, a dear friend, had me on the verge of tears. How proud I was of him, for his vulnerability and heart.
My oldest sister–she’s almost 40, so I like calling her old 😉 –has a dear friend who has been around our family a lot. I’d consider her a friend of mine, and honestly an extension of our family. She’s probably one of the only friend of my sister’s who I would hang out with on my own. She and much of her family live in CA and have been plagued by the ongoing wildfires. It’s scary. This year and last year, I feel, have been more treacherous for them than in years prior. But perhaps I’ve just been more aware. But it is scary. The air quality is not good, and that threat has been expansive (stretching even to OR where my sister and her fam live). I mean, we’ve even been able to see air effects here in Indy with strange sky colorings. It’s crazy, and something that even though I am removed from, still affects my life and day to day.
On top of this there are many other things that I have had on my heart. Friends undergoing heart procedures. Those I know battling COVID. Those close to me who have a lot on their plate. Dear ones who are struggling with health and income and livelihood and tough decisions. People who are my people who are struggling–those that I know would rather stay as anonymous as possible but still hold space in my heart so I recognize them collectively and silently. It’s a lot.
So where is the silver lining? Because, dang, it feels really grey and lackluster these days. It’s there, I just have to look for it a little harder. Sometime it’s difficult to see the joy when you feel surrounded by sorrow. But I swear to you it is there. It is.
It’s found in the joy of connecting with family who you don’t see or talk with often. Sorrow and trying times have a way of bringing us together.
It’s found in the presence of new life and new beginnings.
It’s found in community and folks being willing to offer what they have in times of need.
It’s found in the people in your life–those new and those old, who have entered or re-entered at just the right time and remind you that who you are is pretty great and you have much to offer this world.
It’s found in the ability to use your voice and your actions: to speak up and take a stand. It’s found in VOTING and doing so in an informed way, not merely to say that you cast your ballot. (To be clear, I don’t care who you vote for, we all get to make that choice for ourselves. But I do hope that you will read up on the candidates and the issues at play. Educate yourselves.)
I’m the queen of overthinking. No wait, what’s a higher title than that? That’s what I am. (I just proved my point). I have a strong inner monologue that’s always at work. Sometimes it’s full of the sassy (borderline rude) things I shouldn’t say. Sometimes it’s full of my insecurities (that I’ve worked hard to overcome or at least quiet over the years). Sometimes it’s full of stories I create: to make myself feel better, to give excuse to the actions of myself or others, to try and make sense of what is going on around me, and yes—to create inner struggle and worry.
Brené Brown talks a lot about vulnerability (thanks to her it’s one of the ways I try and lead my life). A part of that is being honest and raw when you are creating untruths in your own mind. She encourages folks to start statements with “the story I’m telling myself is…” because even if it isn’t what is actually happening, it’s a real way to express and have others understand your point of view and perception of what is happening. This is something I greatly need in my life, and I’ve been trying to make an active part of my inner dialogue (and sometimes even a part of my external dialogue). Because I can lower my worry and anxiety when I realize I am making up scenarios that are not true.
- The story I’m telling myself is that I’m a bad person for not visiting my aunt in rehab.
- The story I’m telling myself is that I’m lazy because I need to take a nap
- The story I’m telling myself is my friends don’t like me because they aren’t calling me.
- The story I’m telling myself is that I did something wrong because they can’t be telling the truth when they tell me the boundaries they need.
- The story I’m telling myself is I’m not good enough.
The list goes on and on and on. But recognizing these “stories” I’ve
created manufactured is the first step in being able to disprove them and move forward. It is vulnerable to admit this is how I feel. But it is empower to realize they don’t hold much (if any) weight. And that I can dispel and eradicate these stories. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes courage. We are all works in progress and none of us is perfect. But I’m trying to do better, and that’s not just a story I’m telling myself.