I’m generally not the kind of person who posts on social media when the going gets tough. In fact, I usually go in the opposite direction; I tend to retreat and fall off the grid without explanation. I know this makes it difficult to be my friend and I apologize for that.
Surely I am not unveiling some startling revelation when I say that 2020 was a tough year. It was for many, many people. And while the things I went through maybe weren’t as devastating as what others experienced, the last year and a half did give me a series of roundhouse kicks that have kept the birds twittering around my head for quite some time. I’ve felt stunned and off-kilter for months, letting go of so many things that are important to me as I’ve tried to process each blow in its turn.
And I guess that’s why I’m writing this post… well, for two reasons, actually. Mainly, I feel bad that I’ve neglected my blog and social media accounts, so this is my way of explaining why I’ve faded in and out. Also, I think writing this out will be the cathartic hand-hold I need to fully pull myself out of the pit I’ve been stuck in.
So, yeah, there won’t be anything about Ben in this post. Sorry.
I’ll just lay it out, I guess.
- On March 19, 2020, I turned 50. Ugh.
- On March 20, 2020, my mom died. She was in a nursing home, cut off from me and my siblings, totally alone when she passed away. Alone. Quarantined. She was old and needed care, but still, it was unexpected and sudden. No final words, no hand holding, no last hugs. No funeral or memorial services allowed. My relationship with my mom was a complicated one, and it’s been difficult to accept that it’s over. She’s gone.
- During April, my sweet 17-year-old daughter, E, experienced her first real broken heart, and it was a doozy. Staying up nights with her as she cried and trying to help fill her days with activity became a priority through the summer.
- In June I drove to Seattle to help my sister sort my mom’s things. It was really hard, but it was healing to spend time with her and her family.
- The day after I got home from that trip, I got a call that my brother-in-law, my other sister’s husband, had a heart attack. He died a couple days later, on June 25. Twenty years older than me, he was a loving force in my messy childhood, and his death cut deep. I returned to Seattle for the social-distanced memorial service, grateful for a chance to say goodbye.
- In July we had some euphoric news: my son and his wife (N&L) announced they were expecting their first child, due in February. I was over the moon at being a grandma! But the world spun crazily again when my daughter-in-law miscarried at eleven weeks, another sucker punch.
Those are the biggest of the biggest blows of the year. So much grief and loss. It sucked. Woven through those struggles were my decision to leave my job with Let’s Go!, a round of shingles for myself and chicken pox for two of the kids, the mountains of stress my husband was dealing with as the manager of our local grocery store during COVID, the 20th anniversary of Ben’s death, and my older daughter, S, making the tough decision to call off her engagement (an emotional verdict, but truly a relief).
I attempted to juggle it all, trying to check in and stay in touch. But really, I alternated between ‘soldiering on’ and burying myself under my blankets, doing the minimum to stay afloat.
All of the goals I was grasping slipped out of my fist. Diving deep into homeschooling my son’s first year of high school, building my freelance business, and returning to a consistent running schedule all kind of wriggled to the floor, squirming in my half-hearted efforts. My to-do lists are literal PILES; seriously, I’m embarrassed as I look around my office and the classroom. I gained 30 pounds of saggy, sluggish bulk, and my energy level hovered around zero most of the time. And the blog? It’s awful. Commitments unfulfilled. Interviews not transcribed. Article drafts unfinished. Audios, videos, photos languishing. Pathetic.
I think I’m coming out of it. I mean, the last six months have been this self-talk marathon of “Donna, you’ve gotta get your shit together.” I feel like I’m shuffling out of the cave into the light, and even though I still have to squint and adjust my vision, good things are happening. I’ve actually (recently) channeled energy into shoving off the covers and taking extreme action. The motivation came through my 15-year-old son (nicknamed Bones).
We have some friends who used to live here in town but they moved to Wisconsin about seven years ago. Bones, who was about 8, was close with their 7-year-old son, and the two became pen pals and have stayed in touch all this time. Now teenagers, they concocted the idea of Bones and I heading that direction for a visit, and Bones was so determined to do it that he saved all of his summer job earnings last year and committed to paying for the gas and hotels. We began making plans for a road trip, just the two of us.
Underneath my excitement, I couldn’t bear the thought of having my friends see me in such disgusting physical shape. I mean, she was my running partner for years! What would she think? I was embarrassed by how I’d let myself go. And then a secondary incentive joined the mix when I realized that I would only be about a half-hour away from my favorite Cars couple, Kurt and Natalie Gaber. I had to see them! But I didn’t really want them to see me. Ugh.
Anyway, that was the impetus. I started poking my nose into fitness programs here and there, but of course, any real change takes time, and I didn’t have a lot of that. I ended up doing a 10-Day Green Smoothie Detox (with my doctor’s permission), which ended the night before we left on our trip. It was brutal but I lost 10 pounds (!). Even though I still had a ways to go, I felt a little better about myself and, more importantly, I felt it was the kick in the patootie I needed to rev up my return to the ‘real’ me.
Our little vacation was fantastic! Bones and I had a blast, traveling 3,500 miles in 10 days. We hit eight different states there and back, spent four adventure-filled days with our friends, and made time for The Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Yellowstone on the return trip, while my sweet hubby and the girls held down the fort at home.
Oh, AND I got to visit with Kurt and Natalie! Kurt had been working on transforming part of his downstairs family room into a tribute to The Cars and, having promised to have it completed by the time I arrived, he had put on the finishing touches just hours before.
It. Was. STUNNING.
I’ll write more about the room and my time with Kurt and Nat in a separate post, but this photo gives you an idea of what I walked into.
Confiding in my girlfriend about my struggles was cathartic and inspiring. She, too, was needing a reboot, so we decided to join forces to spur each other on. I returned home having gained back six of those ten smoothie pounds (hey, it’s hard to eat right on the road!), but my attitude was totally different, and I was armed with a plan. On Monday, May 10, we started a mental toughness challenge called #75HARD. Seventy-five days, five daily challenges, and yeah, it’s hard! No failure allowed – not a sliver – or you have to start back at day 1. Physical fitness is one of the benefits, and I’ve already taken off those six pounds plus some more, and I’m only three weeks in. It’s kind of extreme, but it’s just what I needed. (Oops! Groan… unintended Cars reference, but seriously, it is!)
I’m also putting together a daily schedule to help me redeem the time I’ve lost. I’m purposefully planning portions of the day to work on the things that are important to me, while still focusing on my family. I want to make sure I don’t take the days for granted.
So that brings me to tonight. I still get hit with grief, but I’m dealing with it better, and I’m focusing on looking ahead; there are lots of positive things on the horizon. E is graduating from high school in a matter of days, and S is dating a guy who is actually NOT a douche. My girls are stronger and smarter after their heartbreak. Bones is balancing more responsibility for his education, and he’ll be starting driver’s ed this summer (gulp!). Aaaaand… N&L are 21 weeks into a happy, healthy pregnancy with our granddaughter, coming in October! I can barely contain my joy! Oh, and I’ve acquired a couple of exciting freelance jobs that have pushed me into learning some new skills, which is always invigorating.
Just writing this — the act of writing — has given me such a boost. I’m looking forward to a productive summer. Onward and upward, my friends!
living outside in the misdemeanor
well some get lost, some are screamers
and it’s easy to tell the great pretenders
they got the broken wings and the flip-top fenders