Where. To. Begin?

At the beginning of quarantine in March, being completely honest, I wasn’t in a good place.  I was overwhelmed.  Drowning in stress and pressure.

I needed a break.

A break from life.

My parents are snowbirds, and above all else, I knew they needed a break.

The past year has been overwhelming for all of us.  Them, especially.

When my grandma was moved into assisted living in 2016, my dad and his sister never saw eye to eye on the care of my grandma.  But, we dealt with it.  My dad making the tough decisions, being the bad guy.  All to ensure my grandma’s safety.

Responsibility was “shared.”

But over the past year, his sisters involvement declined.

Long story short, she stopped showing up.

So, we stepped up.

Lot’s of things happened.  Her husband fell.  Traumatic things happened.  We realized she wasn’t taking care of herself.  But, despite the desire to help someone, you cannot force someone to care for themselves.

You just can’t.

So when we discussed whether or not my parents would take the much needed few months break, I stepped up.

Willingly.

I took on the normal responsibility that I have for several years, helping collect mail, pay bills.  Adulting stuff.  But then I added in caring for my grandma.

Many times over the winter, I kept reminding myself that I am grateful for the time I have been given to spend with her.  Sometimes, I had to remind myself of that fact repeatedly.  Because, at 96, she isn’t caring for herself at the same level that she has so bravely and fiercely done since her husband died 45 years ago.

And then I had to take care of my brother after he broke his knee.  Which is an even larger complication.  Despite the fact that he and I had barely spoken over the last 8 years…he’s still my brother.  So I took the time off work.  And I was there for him.

Even while going through his surgery, I knew that God was working.  I can’t always say I agreed with or appreciated how He was working.  I still knew he was working.

And then quarantine happened.

Again, overwhelmed and stressed, and in desperate need of a break, I felt relief that I didn’t have to do anything except stay home.

Except, when you’re quarantined with just yourself, and your dog (who is ADORABLE AND AMAZING, but not a very good conversationalist) I found myself alone.  With myself.

There were days, there ARE days, I barely recognize myself.

Who is this person that I have become?

Though I tried to put on a good show most of the time, I started to spiral  Not completely out of control.  But I just haven’t been the person that I have become.  The person I worked so hard to be.

I was breaking down.

Now, before you get too worried…

I truly believe that in the process of breaking down, you lose a part of yourself.  But the key point being, you often lose part of yourself that you didn’t really need to be in the first place.

But let me tell you…even though some of those pieces needed to be lost…it’s TOUGH!!

My parents got home.  And things started feeling like they were on a slightly more even keel.  Except that’s a dangerous place to be.  Because, life happens.

My aunt died.

Plain and simple.  She died.  She refused to take care of herself.  The very last conversation my dad had with her was telling her to reach out.  She needed help.  But instead, she gave in.  And her health, that she had blatantly ignored for far too long, gave up.  She died.

My dad and I handled it.  We are steady.  And we deal with what needs to be dealt with.  And I continued to fall apart.

It hasn’t been easy, at all.  I have felt the absolute most despair of loneliness.

I know, and have known, that I am the caregiver in the family.  I have always known that I would be the one to take care of my parents.  When I moved home 8 years ago, that was a big part of the reason why.

I didn’t expect that to happen immediately.  Though, it did, because…life.

And I certainly didn’t expect to be doing it all alone.

I figured somewhere along the way, God would help a girl out and finally bring me my husband.

He hasn’t.

Not that I haven’t tried to force the issue.  Because, to combat the overwhelming loneliness, I signed up for online dating.  Again.

I met a lot of idiots.

One person, I thought I made a genuine connection with.  But for reasons I still don’t understand, it fell apart.  Pushing me even further into my pit of loneliness and despair.

I feel alone.

Heck…

I AM alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing and wonderful friends and family.  But for the big stuff, it’s just me.  And I’m not saying that trying to have a pity party.  That is the furthest thing from what I want.  It’s just a simple fact.

I am alone.

And while it’s tough to accept that when that is the last thing that I want, the last thing I ever thought I would have to do, I know that I need to accept it.  Learn to deal with it.  And keep moving forward.

I honestly don’t know where this crazy year will take any of us.

But…

From the very beginning, I knew that something good would come from all of this insanity.  I.  Just.  Knew.

I still feel that.

But looking at the last few months, the absolute unbelievable things that have happened.  I still can’t wrap my head around all of it.  I’m not sure it’s possible to right now.

One day, I hope that all of this makes sense.  It is my hope and my faith that all of it will.

But I will also say that this just sucks right now.  All of it.

Ok, I take that back.  Not all of it.  Because, let me tell you what else happened.  I needed to get out of Dodge for a few days.  So…I went to visit my brother.  He and I had conversations that we have needed to have for many years.  Conversations that he certainly wasn’t ready to have before.  But, we finally had them.  And I can’t say that I walked away smiling.  In fact, I may have referred to part of the conversation as the final nail in the coffin that I really am here alone, because he wants no part in helping care for our family.  But actually having the conversation was a step forward for us.

I cannot, nor will I, say that I’m in a great place right now.

But what I can finally say is that I know my worth.  And even though that is a HUGE burden to carry at times, I know my worth.

And that, my friends, is a start.

Is It Real?

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Is this real?

Over the past few weeks, I have asked this question a few times.  Once, even, to myself.  

In this social media era, it is often times difficult to tell what is actually real, compared to what people want you to believe is real.  

If you choose only to share the best part of yourself with the social media world, are you lying?  If you put a positive spin on things, are you really lying about what is going on? And if you DO choose to share some of the struggles you are going through, are you only looking for sympathy?  

Honestly, you can’t win.  No matter what, people will judge you.  

A couple of years ago, a major, life altering, huge, horrible thing happened to my best friend in the whole entire world.  Her husband type person died. We are far too young to need to deal with something like this. Yet, there we were. We dealt with it.  We did the days in the hospital, the tears, the fear of the unknown, the memorial service. We dealt with it all.  

A week ago, she and I had dinner.  And I asked her the question. “Is it real?”

Because the woman that deserves all of the wonderful things in life is in the midst of getting them.  6 months ago she started dating a new fella. And, being their 6 month anniversary, all of the mushy, lovey, vomit inducing posts started.  So, you wonder, is it all real? Are things really going this well?  

And with a gigantic smile on her face, she tells me “yes.”

That’s all I need to know.  Because let me clue you in on a little secret.  Her husband type person that died, things weren’t good with them when he died.  In fact, most of their relationship hadn’t been good. I knew it. Because there were times she came to visit me, that I didn’t want to let her leave.  

But, when someone dies, how do you publicize that?  

My pastor recently read an obituary, written by the man’s daughter.  The obituary was full of brutally honest details of how horrible the man had been.  That type of brutal honesty is rare. 

And for my friend, it wasn’t appropriate.  Yes, their relationship wasn’t good. But the grief that she felt, that she experienced, the grief was absolutely real.  

Months later, she honestly exposed her heart about that grief.  About the days she couldn’t get out of bed. The days she still struggled to move forward.  But that day, she had taken care of herself. Forced herself to shower, and to eat.  

And because I know her heart as well as anyone’s, I knew her intent was to be brutally honest with the world.  She wasn’t looking for sympathy, or condolences. She was simply being honest.

One of the conversations she and I had in the midst of her grief revolved around social media, and how difficult it is to look at when you aren’t in a good place.  Because everything is sugar coated. You see the best of everyone’s lives.  

Looking at everyone else’s seemingly perfect lives makes the ugly green headed monster of jealousy rear its’ head.  We want what all of those other people have.  

So once again, is it real?

In my completely un-scientific opinion, maybe 50% is accurate.  But, which 50%?  

Are people completely, all out lying?  Are they merely glossing over things? Are they sugar coating life for their own benefit?  

Yes, yes and yes.  

Maybe it’s just one of the three.  Maybe it’s all three.  

I honestly couldn’t tell you, because, I’m not them.  

Now, let me ask you the real question.

Is that wrong?

Ultimately, the answer to that question lies in the person’s intent.  If they’re intentionally lying about something to hurt others, yes that’s wrong.  If they’re sugar coating something because they’re trying to make themselves feel better about a situation that isn’t all that sweet, yet isn’t doing any harm, maybe that’s ok.  Maybe they’re trying to remind themselves about all of the good things that are in their life. Not to gloat. Not to rub it in your face. Maybe they’re just trying to remember and focus on the good things that they have.  

Honestly, I have no idea.  I could be wrong about it all.

Maybe I’m just trying to see the good in other people.  

If you recall, earlier, I told you that I asked myself the “is it real” question.

Right now.  Right this very second, I know that God is working on something.  I’m starting to see things happening.  

And in my own brain, I see how things could be working out.

But is that really God’s plan?  

So while I totally understand that things aren’t always as they seem, what we perceive to be reality, really isn’t reality at all, I’m taking a step back.  I’m praying. And I’m giving it all over to God.  

Because right now, I have no idea….

All The Feels

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
Ecclesiastes 3:4-6

I am not a super emotional, cry at the drop of a hat type of person.  At least, I never thought I was.

I do not cry at movies.  

I absolutely do not get all sappy and mushy on the inside.  

Except I do.

Now.  

Last year was one of those years will probably end up being one of the most memorable years of my life.  When I start talking to people about some of the events of the year, I start getting the “wow” look from people.  You know the look I’m talking about. The look of compassion and pity for some of the awful things in life that happen.  

And then I keep talking about the year.

And jaws just keep getting closer and closer to the floor.

By the end of the year, I was just over it.  I was tired of death and funerals and loss.

I. Was.  Over. It.  

I truly believe that every single thing that happened last year was designed to test my faith and my strength.  And I would like to think that I passed. Not necessarily with flying colors. But I like to think that I squeaked by with a pass.  

One of the most overwhelming experiences for me during all of those difficult times was the complete range of emotions I felt.  There were good days, and there were bad days. And then there were the really, really, REALLY bad days. The days I cried all day long.  The days I could barely leave the couch because I just wasn’t sure what else to do.

I wasn’t ok.

Those days just sucked.  

I also realized that it’s actually ok to admit that I wasn’t ok.

But sometimes those days are just needed.  I needed those days, when I could just lay on the couch, and veg out, and cry.  Those days allowed me to be ok when I needed to be ok. It’s a balancing act.

I believe that as humans, sometimes, we hide some of those emotions that we believe are negative.  We hide them as if we’re not allowed to have a bad day, and therefore the perception is that everything is just sunshine and puppy dogs.  

News flash!!  Not every single day is sunshine and puppy dogs.  

Even bigger news flash!!  That’s ok!!

Here’s the deal…

We were designed in God’s image.  See, it says so right here in Genesis 1:27…

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And throughout the Bible, we see evidence of God’s range of emotions.  God doesn’t experience just the one emotion.

So we mere humans, created in God’s image, we were created to experience all of these emotions, too.  Not to be controlled by them. But to experience all of them.  

I have to be honest with you.  The verse above from Ecclesiastes has to be one of my favorites.  Because right now, I’m singing the verse. I have known the song for years.  But I honestly don’t think I truly even began to comprehend the enormity of those verses until recently.  

There is a time for everything.  A time to experience every emotion.  And without that complete range of emotion, the happy just wouldn’t quite be the same.  

Roll with me on this one.  If you were over the top, exuberantly happy every.  Single. Day. Do you honestly think you would feel over the top happy?  Or would you just feel normal. Blah. Like ho hum, this is just how I feel again today.  Because you wouldn’t know any different. You just feel how you feel.

It’s only when you compare it to a not so ok day that you truly begin to comprehend how wonderful and amazing happiness feels.  

So there is a time for over the top bubbling happiness.  And then there is also a time for ugly crying. And believe me, ugly crying is just my most absolute favorite thing in the whole entire world.  Really. It is.

Every hardship.  Every struggle. Every loss.  It’s all for a purpose. It’s all an opportunity for growth.  We become stronger because of those challenges. We become better people for having experienced the things we have.

And the next time you’re upset and ugly crying…think about this.  You care enough about someone to ugly cry over them. You have enough love in your heart to ugly cry.  That kind of love, no matter how annoying the ugly crying may be, cannot be all bad.