One of the questions I asked my kiddos this week on our biweekly zoom was “what’s something you haven’t done for a while that you’ve gone back to?” I shared with them the example of how growing up I used to wear soccer shorts and fancy tops (much to the chagrin of my sisters). And that in quarantine a few times I had noticed that my “laziness” allowed for me to don similar outfits. They each shared something lighthearted and it was nice to see them all giggle with one another. Boy, do I miss these kids.
A few days later I was standing outside on the deck and did something I haven’t done in yeeears, I balanced on one foot and rested the other on my knee pointed straight out in front of my. I used to stand like this all the time as a child. My dad would call me a Massai warrior. And I claimed it and felt a special camaraderie with that tribe. So much so that I chose them to do a project in in seventh grade. But standing like this again felt natural. It made me smile and remember my time in Kenya. It made me think of my mom’s time in Zaire—I can hear her words from the journal she left behind if that time. And I thought about my dear dada (sister) Winnie who I met in the states through the Umoja project—though I will forever hate the roof we worked on that year of ASP, I will always be thankful Jack needed me to sub for him that summer.
Maasai Mara ni nyumbani, Maasai ni watu wangu. (Blog title in Kiswahili).
After hearing from many how raw and honest and refreshing a few recent blogs have been, I’m hoping to open up and show up in new ways. As always, these are for me and not for others. But the added benefit is sometimes someone else gets something out of them. And it’s wonderful to hear feedback along the way (keep it coming).
For the most part I’ve been navigating this “new landscape” surprisingly well. It isn’t an environment I enjoy and I definitely struggle with it, but one day at a time I’ve been making my way through. This week, however, has been the worst yet. Maybe it’s because we started summer intensives for school (one week in and they are already overwhelming). Maybe it’s because I still feel unsettled and a drift and have been navigating between two households. Maybe it’s because I miss seeing and interacting with my people/tribe/core group. Maybe it’s because whether real or imagined life feels lonely and bland and like I’m stuck in a Groundhog’s Day loop (cue the radio alarm clock, and “Phil? Phil!!!”).
I haven’t quite put my finger on it, and likely it’s a mix of many things compounded. But I feel anxious. It makes me operate from places I’ve tried really hard not to operate from. When I spend too much time in my head I get sucked into bad/unhealthy patterns. I spend too much time thinking about my feelings an worthy compared to/assessed by others. Not something I’m proud of, and it feels like slipping back into old patterns that I worked so hard to get away from but I have to acknowledge it and feel it and accept it before moving through it to the other side.
As an enneagram 2 I place a high value on connection—that’s just one of the many reasons this quarantine has been difficult. I find virtual connection a poor substitution for being in person with my people. Typically I am the one who reaches out to my friends—by text, phone, or to initiate hangs. This can be a struggle sometimes as I balance feeing too needy versus feeling people don’t care enough to ask me—both heightened extremes. But in quarantine I’ve found myself not initiating as much. It’s not because I don’t love people, or don’t want to—I feel somewhat stifled and paralyzed by it. In this climate my gut isn’t to reach out the same way, somehow it’s overwhelming. I can only take in and take on so much. And so I have to force myself to concentrate on me more than others. Which is a 180 for me in many ways. My personality is normally to give and give and give to others before myself. The quarantine is surely giving me opportunities to learn. And I’ll come out a different (better?) person on the other side. But it’s mind boggling right here, right now to see the way it’s affected who I am/who I’ve been at my core.
My sisters and I can quote (probably) the entire The Princess Bride movie. It’s one of the movies we grew up on and watched over, and over, and over. So the best (and worst) parts have been etched in our minds. This week there’s one quote that has been rolling around in my head quite often, it goes like this: “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something”. I’ve written a little bit here briefly about my struggles and (slight) disdain for online dating. This quote seems to align with my feelings.
A friend and I were commiserating about the absence of social interaction and how we were both coping. I shared my want to be dating and meeting someone. I joked that maybe what I needed was a form letter to send to my closest, most trusted friends that encouraged them to set me up on dates. We bantered back and forth with her throwing in”don’t forget to include tour resume”. But that got me thinking more seriously—why not reach out to the people who know me best, who I trust? It seemed a little weird, and admittedly awkward. But these folks already have proved they accept me for me—what was there to lose? Obviously what I’ve been doing up to this point hasn’t been working, time to try something new.
And so on somewhat of a whim I crafted a letter. I explained my need for self growth over the last few years. I talked about vulnerability and laid out a request in front of them. It felt silly. It felt strange. But these are people I trust, who know me, who have sound judgement. Who better to have your back in the dating world helping you make connections? I was nervous though how folks would respond. But like my sister reminded me, this letter is very me and these people would get it. Thankfully people responded well. People applauding the cleverness of the endeavor. People repeatedly saying “we will keep our eyes out for you”. People saying they are proud of me. It’s reassuring and gives me a confidence boost. I’m not putting all of my weight behind this endeavor helping me go on more dates, but I am excited to feel like I have more people in my corner. Because, dang, something’s gotta give.
I don’t know how to celebrate Mother’s Day anymore. And perhaps I don’t need to know how. I could choose not to recognize the holiday at all. I told a friend this week that I didn’t think Mother’s Day would ever feel happy again unless I was a mother, the one being celebrated. Without my mom here, it feels like a ruse—like all of the air has been let out of a heart shaped balloon. It doesn’t feel special or momentous or good. And so I struggle with the lead up to the day, and with the day itself. Usually that Sunday morning I hide behind a fake smile and wish a Happy Mother’s Day to the women at church. But it’s uncomfortable and makes my skin crawl. So in a weird way I’m thankful to be distancing socially on this Mother’s Day. I can just be me, and I can feel everything I’m feeling—whatever that is at the given moment.
Over the last few years I’ve highlighted other women who have been role models and mentors and surrogate mothers to me. Like my dear friend KSH who gives me life advice and words of wisdom, who always makes me laugh and reminds me it’s okay to dance to the beat of my own drum. She’s not my mom, but she sure does help provide comfort and confidence and so much compassion, all of which I’m thankful to have. I think about my mom’s two dear friends Rosie and Pam: how they’ve held onto us even after her passing—how we can share photos and memories, and how their love for her lives on in their love for each of us. It’s wonderful knowing their are others who keep a flame burning for her that we can call on if the need arises. I think of my sorority mom and all she’s been for me over the years. I think of my dearest friend who I call sister (as jokingly “mom”) who always has my back—through it all. I think of how each of them has helped mold me and I let myself momentarily slip into the land of “what if” and consider how my mom would react to my life decisions (the good and the bad) over the last few years. What wisdom would she impart? But that’s a future that will never be.
These last few months have reminded me that we don’t really know what the future holds. And that even though we should plan for the future, there is much anxiety and stress that goes into issues we can’t control—a reminder amplified by Mother’s Day. But worrying about the future is something I’ve done for years. There are somethings I need to just let be. There are somethings that I need to spring into action for in ways I never have. It’s a new balance that I’m hoping to embrace. So as we head into Mother’s Day, I’ll remember who my mother raised me to be (strong, witty, tenacious). I’ll embrace who I’ve become and who I continually strive to be (kind, vulnerable, eclectic, fearless). And I’ll remind myself to live in the now, takes risks, and celebrate even when it feels difficult. I may not enjoy everything going on around me. I may have a myriad of feelings at any given moment. I may not have (yet) reached all of my dreams for my life. But there is so much yet to come. And perhaps the way to celebrate Mother’s Day for me in this time is recognizing the big moments in my own life and knowing she’ll be here for every minute of it, in her own way. Perhaps that is the greatest gift of all.