I’ve been called a lot ( a lot) of things over the years. Growing up I didn’t really fit into a stereotypical “friend group”. I wasn’t in the popular/prep group (though I had many friends so my parents always believed I was). I wasn’t a nerd, theatre kid, goth, skater, etc. I had friends in many of those areas, but I definitely did not fit into any of those boxes. I was unique to say the least.
I can remember kids growing up who I’d categorize as “class clowns”. Kids who made teachers, subs, the entire class break out in uproarious laughter. That wasn’t me. Sure, my friends and I had lots of giggles. And yes, we talked a lot and were boisterous. But class or larger groups were not the place my humor took root.
Somehow along the way, I became known for making others laugh. I’m not sure when it happened: I don’t even remember it being like this in college—no, those friends would say all I did was talk about going to Africa. 😳🙄
Perhaps it’s linked to confidence. As I grew and shifted and became comfortable in my own skin, a lot of hesitancy and such fell away. So maybe, just maybe, the wit and silliness that had always been present was allowed to shine through. I can remember clearly the first time I felt really, really funny. Sure, my family has laughed with me (and rolled their eyes) for my whole life. But I mean the first time otherpeople thought I was funny. ::cue memory sequence à la 90’s teen drama tv::
The year was 2013. The place was a southern Indiana retreat center. I was a part of a fellowship program for New Professionals in the field of youth work (shoutout to The Journey). I knew no one. And while most people who know me would think this wasn’t an issue, new environments where I don’t know anyone really, really gives me anxiety. I become “super quiet Shannon” (I know, no one sees her often). But I was paired with someone for a role play, and all we did was laugh. It was easy to make other people laugh. And I was just being me. Mind. Blowing.
Fast-forward over the years and I found that more and more people found me funny. Some of that was thanks to the wit instilled in me from my dad, some from my mom’s “secret” silly side, some from the craziness of my sisters. But a lot of it was just me being me, completely and honestly. No longer afraid of what others thought or how I’d be perceived. Refreshing. I’ve found in other groups I’ve been a part of recently that folks find me funny. I especially notice it over Zoom. People see my face more so than they might in a meeting or gathering, and I forget that. So my quirky faces and side commentary aren’t as easily hidden. I’ve had professors call me out in virtual class, friends send me texts during meetings, and folks laugh alongside the humor I impart (generally on purpose). In a recent activity for a grad school class, we were told to write affirmations for the others in our group and drop them in a pail to be a “bucket filler” for them. Every single one of my cards talked about laughing, or humor, or being funny. I was in awe, because that’s not how I view myself. In talking with a dear friend recently about my antics in dating she said, “is he funny? I feel like whomever you end up with has to be funny”. That’s right, they have to match what I bring to the table, or at least appreciate my humor. It’s also been common place to receive lots of “haha” texts (of varying lengths) or 😂 and 🤣 emojis.
It’s weird to see myself this way. I love it: I love to laugh, and love to make others laugh as well. Perhaps it’s a hidden gem that I bring to the world.
I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong.
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 today everyday.
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.
Hey, there. It’s been a while. I’ve found myself over the last (gulp) two months starting a blog, writing a paragraph, putting it aside, the world changes, and then I scrap it. There has been so much flux and change. I’m not sure I’ve followed along very gracefully but regardless I’ve given myself grace to keep going: day by day, slow and steady. This morning I got the tug to put a few things down in written form and here we are friends, a new post. My writing is cathartic, and my brain and heart are telling me I’ve spent too long away, so perhaps this will become somewhat regular again. Whatever feels right in the moment.
I’ve spent a good chunk of my life being told in some form or fashion that I’m too much. I care too much. I’m too loud. I am overly helpful. I’m too emotional…the list goes on and on. It’s one of my biggest insecurities, though I’ve worked to quiet it and push past it. Generally it doesn’t rear its ugly head all that often anymore—but certain things can set it off. My old self would fall over herself apologizing when my “muchness” was pointed out. It became common place for me to notice it before anyone else, and immediate express regret. It wasn’t a good look. And it took work and time to get away from that mind set. But I’m better, stronger, and wiser today because of it.
One of my favorite parts of Alice in Wonderland (or maybe it’s Alice Through the Looking Glass) is the discussion of her “muchness”. I love the concept and the positive narrative it portrays for imaginative kids, those who feel and sense the world around them in multiple forms; the dreamers, the seers, the creatives, those who society sees as emotionally or spiritually other. I have a heightened “muchness”. It’s big, and often times in professional (and even personal) venues I keep it close to the vest. But I also use it to my advantage. And I remember it’s a part of what makes me me. It’s part of what I have to offer to the world.
A couple times in the last few weeks my insecurities have come out. “What if I’m doing too much?” “Is this annoying?” “What are they going to think?” “Am I making this worse?” “Well dang, I’m a lot…” It’s natural, I suppose, to fall back into old patterns and bad behaviors every so often. And it makes sense that this is happening now. I’m thankful for a friend who reminds me of the gifts I have to offer to the world, that I am my best representative. I’m thankful for the reminder by another that if I’m just myself, I can’t eff it up. Whatever “it” may be. It can be difficult, even so. But I’m leading with vulnerability, and grace, and grit, and love.
One inspirational “teacher” I follow on IG is Sylvester McNutt III. Parts of his work really resonates with me. And parts I could easily walk away from, it can be a little “woo woo” at points. The below quote he posted the other day has really stuck with me. A reminder. A mantra.
No one is required to understand you. No one is required to accept you. You don’t need to change in order to fit into someone else’s (or society’s) boxes. Be you. Unapologetically you. The people who are supposed to surround you and be a part of your life will show up. If something is meant to be, it will be. You are unique, and interesting, and have so much positive within you. It may feel like too much for some, do not let that quiet yourself. Do not let the world’s aversion to color make you dull the way you paint your life. Be you; fearlessly, vulnerably; completely. People may not appreciate it—do it anyway. People may not stick around—do it anyway.
The word “audacious” is not one that I keep in my everyday vocabulary. It has a time and a place, but for whatever reason I don’t pick it up off of the shelf to speak out loud. But during the month of July it has creeped into my life, and popped up in a variety of ways and places. It started in the form of a heated conversation. One I wasn’t prepared for, in the middle of an otherwise enjoyable day and enjoyable lunch. It was “audacious” that I believed what I did and felt the way I did. Blow number one
After that it started showing up in things that I read: poems, books, emails, devotions. And things that I was listening to: podcasts and radio programs. Less of a blow, and more of an inspiration. But the repeated presence was curious to me, it still is. Maybe the first blow was enough to make me recognize all of the places the word appears—maybe it’s not that it’s actually been more prevalent. Kinda like when you buy a new car that you haven’t noticed before, and you start seeing them everywhere. Either way it’s a word that is going to stick around for a while; for better or for worse.
I don’t think “audacity” and “audacious” are words most people use in everyday conversation. Well known words but not consistently used. But they will for sure strike an emotion in me moving forward when I hear them: a cringe, ever so slight. They will leave a taste in my mouth ever should I use them: like a vinegary morning breath. It’s funny how words can do this. Songs can do these. Smells can do this. Our brains are hardwired to make connections and forever use surroundings to serve as placeholders for memories good and bad. The mind fascinates me. And I’m thankful, most times, for these links it makes. Even when thoughts come flooding through that seem unwanted, I’m learning and embracing the fact that my past was, is, a part of me. Without it I wouldn’t be who I am. These memories and reactions to the memories are all just a small sliver of Shannon. And for that I’m thankful.
Whether you’ve noticed it or not, a week or so ago I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account. I’ve said before that I have a love/hate relationship with the platform. So many hateful words and inappropriate diatribes get spewed, and people who are loving and cordial in person sometimes let their tongues wag a little too much without fear of the repercussions. My mental and emotional health were screaming for a break. On top of that, I became a zombie scroller. I’d lose hours of time just flipping through the same information continually, dragging my newsfeed down to force it to refresh and show some new gleaning. And admittedly I didn’t (don’t) have the self-control to just stop. So, somewhat reluctantly, and without any fanfare, I deactivated my account. It felt freeing, liberating, like I had some sense of control over how I was feeling and how I was spending my time.
I’ve had a couple people reach out and ask why. And I’ve been honest. Saturday I was hanging out with friends and we were discussing my recent hiatus and he said “what have you been doing with your time instead?” And, honestly, I was shocked because I hadn’t really cataloged where my “free time” was going instead. To his point, such breaks from social media are usually most effective when backed by a plan of how to spend that time instead—otherwise people generally revert back to the platform they tried to give up. And so I thought: I’ve been outside more, I’ve been reading more, I’ve created a new Instagram account (yes, I realize this sounds counterintuitive) where I’ve been posting daily inspirational quotes/poems and design elements that are completely of my own making. These things have brought me joy. I’ve felt lighter. I find my interactions are deeper and more genuine because I don’t know every nitty gritty thing people post each day.
I know this break won’t last forever. There are things I miss and that are useful about Facebook. But I want to prove to myself that I can survive without it. And possibly after this time apart I‘lol be better able to self-regulate. And if not, it won’t be as daunting to deactivate for another set period of time. We are living in a climate that is so technology/screen/social media driven (amplified by social distancing and quarantine). But there are still ways to do without. And I am thankful for the respite.
I wrote this once before, and it didn’t save. So here we go again (and hitting “save draft” quite often!). I’m not sure it will be as good, or the same, but hopefully the message and intent is still there. I think it’s important to take note of when others show up for us, in a million little ways (and big ways) they do it.
I’ve felt extremely humbled the last couple of weeks by the myriad of ways people have showed up in my life. I don’t just mean the happenstance of them sharing the same space and time, but them actively be present (on purpose). The wonderful thing is that it hasn’t just been in one area of my life, but several. Unexpected offers, words of wisdom, and praise. It’s easy for me to get stuck in the doldrums (cue The Phantom Tollbooth). But these moments help to bring me out.
I’ve been pretty open here about my love/hate relationship with dating (online and otherwise). And have talked about asking my close friends to set me up via a form letter I crafted. The swipe world is disappointing. I’m not sure I’m good at it (hi, if you know what it take to be good at swipe culture, please let me know). No connection has really took hold for me much longer than a week. And after you swipe for a while you end up getting messages like this:
Well, crap. Can’t tell you how similar seeing these messages feels like the world is ending (because you know, I’ve somehow exhausted all of my options!). A friend reminded me the other day that I know pretty well what I am looking for, and I don’t need to change that to fit what is out there “being offered”. Patience. Hey, if you know how to conquer this patience thing, girl could also use some help there (don’t believe me? Just ask my dad. He’s been trying to engrain that one in me for years). So where I may have previously been quick to click “expand/widen” in terms of the qualifications I set, I am learning to trust myself and my wants and needs. Something will come, eventually. And who knows in what form.
Many of my close friends haven’t readily had viable eligible bachelor options available for me. They’ve been excited and supportive, but no one has come to mind per se for a good set up. So in true Shannon form I graduated to round two of asks. Granted, these were more direct, not as detailed, and did not receive a formal letter. I was nervous about it. “What will people think?” But in sticking with my vow to choose vulnerability whenever I can, I forged ahead. And let me tell you, people showed up. People who were appreciative to share in the story I told. People who reassured me, were proud of me, reminded me not to give up. I mean, hell, it felt good that these folks think I special enough (cool enough? Eh, maybe not.) to be willing to set me up if they did know someone. When you trust others, they trust you. And that makes the honesty and vulnerability that much more worth it.
I’ve also been candid here about my health and fitness journey. I feel like for the most part I have the nutrition and “diet” under control—meaning I know what to do, I just have to stick with it. But I’ve also found that keeping moving makes a huge difference for me. I’ve tried to walk or run every day—it hasn’t always happened. Some days are better than others.
My sisters and I are hosting a small 5k through our neighborhood this weekend. Shelly and I typically run the IN Parkinson’s 5k each year in memory of our mom, but we aren’t able to in 2020. So we are doing our own instead. I even set up a month long fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox foundation as well. Details here. Our family and close friends are joining us. And those who can’t make it are showing up in other ways. It means a lot to be surrounded by folks who continue to hold us up.
One friend from my sorority in college aww my post on Instagram and pledged to run a 5k the same week in memory of mom. She sent me this photo today after having it completed:
She and I don’t get to talk all of the time anymore. But it was so sweet to have the surprise of her being willing to show up in this way. And gave us an excuse to reconnect (long overdue, Kriegs). Heartwarming to say the least.
As a part of my job I’ve been required to I’ve been given the opportunity to preach on occasion. My new boss has instituted a quarterly expectation which is exciting and intimidating all at the same time. So I preached in March right before things shut down, and then again on June 28th. Those experiences we very similar and quite different as well. One was in person, the other completely virtual. One took me weeks to prep. The other was done post-summer classes and completed in a mere few days. One stuck strictly to the scripture presented, while the other expanded on the subject. I don’t consider myself a preacher (just like I don’t consider myself a runner). But the last couple of weeks I have had several interactions with people who have appreciated what I’ve offered.
I have a good friend who own a couple of shops in Nashville, IN (check them out here). He was so excited about what I offered in March, and told me that if they lived closer, they’d definitely attend my church. And he was exuberantly waiting to watch the June sermon. My former boss sent me a Facebook message and told me how proud she was of me, and how timely my June message had been. Both very humbling experiences. I even saw a congregant in the grocery store with his son who introduced me and the son said “I know you! You preached last week, it was really good”. This reminder of why I do what I do was needed, a reminder that my current call and my call for the future can still walk hand in hand.
For me, all of these experiences go back to people. At my core, my people (tribe, group, fam, circle, etc.) is what matters. Community and social interactions are what drive me, revitalize me, and keep me in a healthy state. As I normalize the world around me, I take stock of my needs and wants and how I can best take care of myself moving forward. One of my love languages is “quality time”. And so I am intentionally scheduling monthly hang out sessions (coffee dates, lunches, walks, adventures, small shindigs, swims, hikes, craft nights, etc.) with my nearest and dearest. I’m holding myself accountable to nourishing the support system that I needcrave and value so much in my life. I made a list of people and different tiers for the place they hold in my life. Not all of the people I want to connect with in person live close enough to make that a reality–but I’ll do what I can. Then there are concentric circles moving outward of how much energy I can commit to and expend on people.
This means organization and scheduling (yay, two of my favorite things–being serious 😍). It means intentionality and vulnerability and potentially (unintentionally) hurting others by putting myself and my needs first. That’s not easy for me as I often prioritize others above myself. But I’m working on it, one day at a time. I’m using poetry, quotes, song lyrics, and advice from those I love to move my evolution forward.
I’m on the verge of something new, something great. I don’t know what, but I know it will be uncomfortable at times. I know not everyone will be by my side during or after. I know I will have to use my voice, at varying decibels. I know it will bring positivity. I know it will not be easy. But I can feel it in my bones all the same, things are about to shift. This butterfly is ready to shed its chrysalis.
I consider myself a needy person. If you subscribe to the enneagram camp, you’d say it’s because in those times I’m an unhealthy two. However, I just see it as form and function of how I was raised and who I am—it’s good and bad at times. However, this quality gives me a unique relationship with social media. I can endlessly scroll through my FB or IG feed looking at photos, reading articles, commenting, and liking. It’s natural and gives me a sense of connection to those with whom I follow. I can keep up-to-date easily with friends in other countries, with relatives we rarely see, or others who land on the periphery of my daily life.
But social media comes at a cost too. There are times I’ll get down a rabbit hole of checking in on an old buddy and find myself viewing photos of their family reunion from three years ago (how the hell did we get here?). Or I’ll get easily overcome by the FOMO of online posts (cool, my friends are hanging out without me…oh awesome, they’re engaged/pregnant/starting their own business/etc). I can obsess about whether folks have commented or liked my “recent”, mindlessly opening and closing apps to see if there is any new notification. Those are the extremes.
Throughout the pandemic I think this got worse, who knew that was possible! For a long bit, online/virtual was my only social outlet. And I let myself succumb. As things have started to open up and I’ve been connecting in real life with people, this techno-need hasn’t quite dissipated. But what I’m realizing (or perhaps I’ve known but I’m now admitting to myself) is that it isn’t healthy. Set aside the screen time and damage to my eyes and neck: social media takes a toll on my mental and emotional health. I’m not blaming the platforms, I fully recognize it’s my bad habits and internal struggle that makes it difficult. And if FB/IG/SC didn’t exist, I’m sure there’d just be something else in their place. I can’t change everything. My nature (susceptibility?) is not going to change. But there are things within my control: I choose how and when and how often I engage. And so I’m doing a social media inventory, figuring out what’s important and what’s not. I’ll make changes to meet my own needs. Does it mean I may miss out on your kid’s 1st birthday cake smash photos? Yup. Does it mean I may miss announcements of engagements and weddings and babies and retirements and funerals. Yup. Does it mean that I might not see as many conversations (polite or otherwise) about current events and the state of the world? Yup. It’ll be an adjustment for sure, and I may not always succeed, but I just might be okay with new habits. And hey, maybe it will give us something genuine to discuss when we next meet for coffee/see each other at the store/grab lunch/go for a walk/FaceTime/chat on the phone.
If I’m honest, there is part of me that will miss the drama. Hi, I’m human and I’m prone to gossiping—social media definitely fuels that (for me). So all of this to say if you see me posting and engaging less, if you notice I’ve unfollowed or quieted or taken a break from this or that person, if I’m somehow absent from a platform due to deleted account, know this: I’m trying each day to take a little bit better care of myself. This has been ongoing—it started with diet and exercise, which I feel I’ve gotten a handle on. Now it moves to social/emotional health (I sound like a School Counselor). And this is just one piece of the puzzle.
Perhaps you feel (or have felt) the same way I’ve described. If so, I see you, it’s not easy. Sometimes just being acknowledged helps. I’d encourage you to do your own self-reflection and inventory surrounding social media. How do you feel when certain things happen? Are there specific people that are triggers for you? What changes do you need to make for you? It’s tough. I think it’s worth it, though. Not everyone will understand the decisions you make. People are bound to have their feelings hurt along the way. Hopefully if they are your people (tribe/inner circle/posse/core group) they will understand. And if not I think it says more about them than it does about you. If you needed the push, here it is: take care of you.
I hope you’ve been able to use this time productively to learn more about yourself. I sure know I have. I wrote a blog a month or so ago about living in the “grey” during this pandemic. It was raw and honest, and I think this is going to serve as a sort of follow-up as we head out of quarantine. One of the positive things I’ve found in the last 11 weeks is that it has allowed me to explore deeper who I am and what I want, without some normal responsibilities and distractions that are usually a part of life.
I’ve approached work differently as we’ve navigated WFH and virtual interactions and meetings. My expectations have been changed, the way I gauge my success/failure has been modified, and my identity as an Associate Minister (who primarily works with kids and youth) has been rattled. It’s been tough. So much of my energy comes from interacting with my young people on at least a weekly basis. And that either hasn’t happened face to face (for obvious reasons), or it hasn’t happened at all. I’ve been mourning the loss of our Camp experience for the Summer of 2020. So the grey of how to operate in this pandemic has taught me that 1) I am capable of more than I thought, 2) I need to remain flexible and resilient, 3) I can make things work in ways unimagined–I just have to dream it and follow through.
I’ve had to be adaptable with my school work and classes this Spring and Summer. Part way through our second semester we moved to online classes and Zoom lectures. In some ways, it was nice to not drive to campus every Monday night. It was nice to make food during class, sit on the couch, and just be in my own space. But there are pieces I don’t like about this style. I don’t get to interact with my people. Our cohort is really close and we love the break time during/between classes to catch up with one another. This same sense isn’t there when remote, and I miss it. But I recognize how privileged we are to be able keep learning virtually. So the grey of what is to come for our program and classes has taught me 1) to apply things I’ve learned to my own experience–at least we can continue and this doesn’t stifle our ability to meet, 2) I need to remain vigilant to my studies–it’s really easy to get off track, 3) I really value the colleagues I have in my cohort and care deeply about them–we support one another.
I’ve seen my relationships have morphed as well. Quarantine has had a away of shifting the flow of things–things grow fast and deep, other things maintain status quo, and some things find their natural end. You can’t often predict which life a relationship will take in the climate in which we’ve lived. Typically I am what I’d call an “initiator”–I generally reach out to my people and ask for hangs/etc. But quarantine has pushed me off of that game. I found that I didn’t feel my normal pull to check-in on those I usually keep close tabs on. I was experiencing my own type of social grief and it didn’t feel comfortable to put myself out there. I was evolving (or perhaps some would see it as regressing). This isn’t easy or comfortable to acknowledge because it is so counter to me, but it’s what I needed as I processed the emotions that came with the pandemic. Quarantine became a time I could experiment with who I am…it gave me a safe space to be introspective and evaluate what I really want in life. It gave me flexibility without repercussions. Coming out of quarantine this fluid reality has become more rigid. I’ve been able to see and connect with my people again, and the things that were filling that void are slowly finding a new space to hold. The grey reminds me that 1) it’s okay to step away and work on you, your people will understand and still love you 2) some things have a specific space and time, and mourning those things is a part of moving through (I don’t think we ever move on) 3) life is hard, and complicated, and weird–listen to your own needs, if they aren’t being met change something so that they are 4) vulnerability and honesty are just as important now as they’ve ever been 5) people and relationships feed my soul.
I’d be remiss not to not mention other events that are happening in our world as well. As the news of COVID instances and death tolls has lessened, it’s made room for news of movements and riots. There has been much of it that I haven’t been able to watch (yes, I recognize my privilege in that). As an empath and HSP, I have to start taking care of myself and my emotions first (though this isn’t normal for me). I am sad, distraught, confused, and feel at a loss. I recognize that on both sides there are those who are going to extremes and causing hurt; and on both sides there are those seeking justice, peace, and collaboration. I’m taking time to learn more, I’m trying to have difficult conversations even when it hurts, I’m trying to think about what my faith and my God calls me to do. I don’t have the answers, I don’t always make the best or right decision. But I know in whatever small way I can I need to keep moving forward, keep trying, keep elevating the voices of others. Small steps are still steps. Originally this post was called “When grey becomes black and white” but including this last paragraph made it feel too much like I was making light of the situations at hand. And thus it changed.
I can only control me, I can’t control how others react to me. I seek to do/be better. And I think it starts with open and honest (albeit difficult) conversation.
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).