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.

Self-Care

Have you ever paused a moment, and realized that even though you know what you need to do, you’re not doing it?

I’m rather annoyed with myself, because that’s exactly where I am right now.

I have willingly accepted taking on much more stress and responsibility.  Because I’m removing it from someone else’s shoulders, temporarily.  Because they need the break.  They deserve the break.

So, I figure for 3 months, I can handle some extra responsibility.

Except, I made a fatal flaw.

I failed to mentally and emotionally prepare to handle all of this additional stress.  And I allowed the stress to overwhelm me.

How incredibly easy does this happen to all of us?  We allow the external forces in our lives take over, and we, quite literally, lose our dadgum minds.  We don’t allow the stress to be managed in a healthy and appropriate way, and we get sick (which I did) and grumpy (that definitely happened).

And then, inevitably, we end up wallowing in self-pity.

Ok, maybe I wasn’t so much wallowing in self-pity so much as I let the grumpiness seep through every aspect of my life.  I let that take over, and I just had a bad attitude about, well, lots of things.  I had a bad attitude at God.  God, why am I going through this? God, why do I feel like this? God, why aren’t things just working out how they are supposed to? God, why don’t people just do the things they’re supposed to do?

Basically, the long list of questions I was asking God, and having a bad attitude toward was really my own fault.  Because…I didn’t do the thing I knew I was supposed to do.

SAID that I had all of my trust in God.

But what I really meant is that God is totally in charge, but I’m still going to worry about it, and tell God how I want Him to handle my problem.

Ok, so now that I know all of that, and I have realized all of that…I can move forward.

First, I can now channel some of the stress that I am feeling into a more positive way.

Second, I can change my attitude.

I got smacked in the face the other day while reading my Bible.  The words took a running jump off the page and smacked me in the face.  This thing made me realize that I was screwing up in a major way.

I stopped praising and thanking God for the things in my life.

I was still talking to God…about everything.  But my attitude toward Him while we were talking just stunk.  I had a great deal of stinkin’ thinkin’ going on.  And I was whining and complaining to God about all of the things in my life.  And while I said I was grateful and thankful…my attitude clearly showed that I was not.

Now, though I am not 100% cured of my negative Nancy-ness…I’m getting there.  Though the stress and the worry are still there, the burden upon my shoulders is much less.

I have even started thinking that I am grateful for the stress.  Because God has placed me in a position to be able to help.  This thing right now, it’s a blessing.

I know, without a doubt, I will one day look back and say I’m glad I did this.  I’m glad I got to spend the time doing this.

I.  Am.  Grateful.

I’m Not OK…

…but I will be.

This has basically been my theme for the past couple of days.

At the moment, I feel a great deal of stress, because there is just a lot on my plate right now.

Ok, and some of that stress is because I’m worrying about something that I just absolutely cannot do one thing to change the situation.  And though I am working to let go of the worry there, stuff is still happening.  A crisis point is coming.  And I know I will have to help pick up the pieces.

Do you ever get to the point when you just have a lot going on, and it seems like all of the stress and weight that you have been managing to carry, suddenly weighs twice as much?

I hit that point yesterday morning.

I feel like the burden that I’m carrying is all my own.  I have no one else to share this with.  Not really.

And with that stress, I went down the rabbit hole of feeling like I am terribly alone in the world.  I have wonderful parents.  And I have wonderful friends.

But then I also got to thinking about something else.  The last time I hugged someone was when I hugged my parents as I was leaving Florida.  On December 27.

Ok, I have students (one in particular) that want to hug me.  But, uh, no thank you.

I struggle, sometimes (often), with sharing some of these feelings with my friends.  Not that I’m ashamed of those feelings.  But I worry that their response will be one of pity.  That they would hug me, just because I’m feeling sorry for myself.  And not just, well, because.

Maybe the reason that happens shouldn’t matter.  But to me, it does.

Though, I don’t have any life altering insight at this point, I know one thing for certain.  No matter how difficult it is for me to wait, to experience the waiting, the impatience, the fear, the grief – all of it – no matter how difficult that is, I’m not giving up on God.

I may want to sometimes.

I may (definitely do) struggle with having a decent attitude while I’m waiting.

But I trust God to have a perfect plan for all of this.

I have hope that God will answer all of this in His own perfect timing.

And I have faith that all of this truly is for a purpose.

Until then, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I keep adding one more prayer on top of another.

It’s all I can do.

New Year, New Fret

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  I don’t because historically, most resolutions fail.

In an epic way.

So I don’t make them.

I also believe that if I am going to try to improve myself, I don’t need the turn of a calendar page to make that decision.

But as the end of 2019 approached, I had an overwhelming sense of unease.  And I couldn’t really quite put my finger on it for a long time.

Until I did.

And then I wish I hadn’t.

The fear, the trepidation, the unease was because I was worried that 2020 still will not be the year that things happen for the better.  That I still won’t find that perfect guy God has all picked out for me.  That I won’t make some huge breakthrough on what it is God wants me to do with my life.  That I won’t feel like a success, yet again.

The answer to all of this, that I am still finding it difficult to accept is that no matter what this year brings, God will get me through.

Deep down, I know that I will be just fine, and that even if all of those things do not end up happening this year, God’s perfect plan for my life will still be playing out.

I know that.  Of course I know that.

But the longing for all of those things is still there.

So, of course, God has to tap me on the shoulder as I’m reading my Bible this morning.

“Ahem, *cough, cough* this is for you, my dear.”

I was reading Psalms 37.  And in Psalms 37, David, yet again, perfectly describes the anguish that we, as humans, often feel.  And then he directly follows it up with what we, as Christians should do.

“Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.”
Psalms 37:34

Basically, there is a huge amount of wisdom in Psalms 37.  How we shouldn’t look at what evil people (people doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason) who end up succeeding, temporarily, with envy.  Not to look at them and wish that we had their successes.  Because in the end, their successes will be revealed to be ultimate failures, as they don’t get to share in the eternal prize of Heaven.

It’s difficult to do.

Because we know that their success is a result of evil things.  Evil intent.  Evil purpose.  And often, those people don’t care who they run over to accomplish their goals.  But the results of some of those evil things look oh so tempting.

I get it.

But we must keep our eye on the true prize.  The prize that gets us eternity in Heaven with our Father.

And until then, keep relying on His strength, guidance, mercy, grace.

And hope in the Lord, and keep His ways.

Why So Serious???

Life gets in the way.  Things happen.  

The other night, I started to have a pity party.  Not a huge, mega, the world is ending pity party. More of a “I’m over this malarkey” kind of pity party.  

Let me take a couple of steps back, and explain.  Because a lot of things have been going on…

  • My brother has issues with alcohol, and his marriage dissolved, which has created some drama.
  • I was getting ready to start school to get my Master’s, and the day before class starts, it turns out that I really shouldn’t have been going down that path.
  • My aunt disappeared from life, and refused to continue helping out my grandma.
  • School (my job) started.
  • Trying to figure out what God’s plan for my life actually is.
  • Being compelled to keep telling my story.

There are probably more.  But the main thing you need to take away is…many, many things have been going on.  Things that compel me to be a sponsible redult. And I don’t always want to be a sponsible redult.  

So the other night, I started having a pity party.  I left for my walk (which was abbreviated, because I also had to mow my lawn).  And I just didn’t want to be the girl with the bad back story. The one where I’m always and forever the girl that was abused.  It’s a tough story to tell. So there I was, walking along. And all of a sudden, my heart hears “WHY SO SERIOUS?!?!?!?!”

I admit, amidst everything else that has been going on, having fun has taken a bit of a back burner.  

I know that my writing recently hasn’t really shown this, but…I’m kind of a goof.  Because, you can, in fact, be a goof AND a responsible adult at the same time.

True story.

So even though I’m still feeling the stress of everything else, the weight seems a little lighter today.  

Which is an awesome thing.  

I’m exhausted today, and have been all week.  Plus, tomorrow is Friday the 13th AND an almost full moon.  Which in the community of teachers is one of the absolute most terrifying things, ever.  But last night started a new chapter. I have been a high school youth leader in the past.  But between leaving a church, and being burnt out, I took a year off. But God has opened a wonderful door.  And last night was our first session. And these kids are awesome. And I’m really excited about the new opportunity to work with these kiddos.  Because even though I get to see them every day at school, there is a huge difference between the conversations Ms. Hooks gets to have with them compared to the conversations Johanna can have with them.  And it’s just going to be awesome.  

Ok, so I’m still not being a goof.  I get that. So let me tell you what happened last night…before youth group started.

We have been doing a lot of functional things around the farm, to make things work better.  Burying electric lines to the machine shed. Widening the entrance to the driveway, that ended up being a 6 month nightmare.  And long story short, the farm is a complete disaster. But, we are finally making progress. So last night, the dad calls me and asks if I’m going to be home for a while, because a load of rock is getting delivered, and the guy wasn’t quite sure where he was supposed to dump the rock.  Seriously, right next to my driveway is a huge area of dirt that has been cleared to widen the driveway. The dad told him that’s where the rock needed to be dumped. But the guy gets there, and I had to basically point to the exact spot where to dump it, because he just really wasn’t sure where it needed to go.  

Lord love a duck.

I guess common sense just isn’t that common anymore.