Life generally...

day five: processing

Today is a much-anticipated day in my world. It’s been on my calendar for over a month, and it’s taken on a level of anticipation which rivals vacations and Christmas. Today, I have no plans. Not a one. Not a baby shower, not a trip, not meeting up with friends, nothing. I have absolutely nothing on my docket.

That’s not true. I do have a plan. That plan is “I am not changing out of my jammies.” This plan I stated over and over so many times that the Vulcan has been prefacing any reference to this weekend with statements like, “You could probably wear your pajamas to do that,” or “I don’t know if you’d want to do that because you’d have to change out of p.j.s” since the beginning of October.

When I first conceived of this plan, in the deep valley of total work chaos and a lot of physical pain, the plan was actually “Stay in my pajamas wrapped up in all the blankets and watch all the football.” (When you can’t move comfortably and your brain has had defcon 5 alarms going off incessantly for almost a month, what you’re really trying to do is lock yourself in a room where no one can talk to you.) I am happy to report that a month on, we’ve downgraded to defcon 3. So. Progress.

Still I have longed for this day. That’s not to say I regret the things I filled my free time with in the weeks leading up to today–the friends I connected with, the stunning concert I sang, the mini-break to explore a state park with the Vulcan–but I. am. tired. I feel worn to a very small, very wispy frazzle. There are so many things I haven’t done because I haven’t had either the physical or mental energy to start (let alone finish) them. That’s what happens when you’re just trying to stay afloat. If there’s one thing this year has taught me, it’s that I have to be okay with the things undone because I’m surviving. (What did I learn from the pandemic? “I’m going to do the best I can. And sometimes, my best isn’t good enough, but that’s okay, too.”)

So this day is very special to me. I don’t want to do nothing. But I don’t want a plan. I want the freedom to do what appeals to me in the moment. Important things and small things in a pleasant, disorganized little jumble. I want to plant the daffodil bulbs I bought at the store. I want to clean the bathroom (I am not admitting here, in a public forum, the last time I did this). I want to just sit around and let my mind wander–think about things as they pop into my head–work things and life things and frivolous things and serious things. Just…things.

I am increasingly convinced that that last one is the major source of my stress. I have been so busy treading water, then so exhausted and trying to do things I think will help me feel rested, that my brain hasn’t really had time to process anything. I have been doing, doing, doing, trying to be so efficient, trying to balance so many things and wear so many hats, I just haven’t thought about any of it. That’s not true. I have thought about it regularly–between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m. while I become increasingly stressed and frantic about why I can’t fall back asleep. And what that means is that all of the things I’ve been doing (and this includes the “fun things,” too, not just the tough things), has compounded these feelings of desperate exhaustion and inner turmoil.

Last weekend, my choir performed The Sacred Veil. You don’t need to like choral music or know anything about the piece (though you should. Choir is kickin’ and the piece is incredible), except to know that it is a work of such emotional investment and grapples with such deeply foundational issues that you have to think about it. And for me, it being finished and not a part of my life anymore prompted me to really start to process the whole experience of the piece and the living with it and singing of it.

And I guess that is what got the ball rolling. All of a sudden, my brain wanted to process my own struggles. My health. The really lousy way things are going down the VWT. It was bubbling at the surface, and my choices were a.) find some organized outlet for this, or b.) just vomit it all over whatever unlucky human was standing closest to me at the time. Because I love the Vulcan, and being emotionally vomited on is never fun, I finally listened to my mother and started writing in rice and coffee again.

I wrote down exactly what I was feeling, exactly where I am. I didn’t soften it, I didn’t sugarcoat it. I just said it. How angry I am. How betrayed I feel. How alone. And writing it gave me the ability to say it out loud, which for me was another step and an important one. Not like yelling and screaming, just saying, “I am angry. I am not ready to forgive,” to another person. It was freeing to have the words out there, not roiling around in the pit of my stomach like they have been for months. (Have you noticed we as a culture don’t acknowledge anger? Like…you shouldn’t ever be angry, and if you are something is wrong with you? Why is this? Is it just a Midwest thing–we’re too nice to ever be mad?). And I’m starting to feel better. I’ve slept through the night every night this week (that’s big news in my world right now). I can start thinking about dealing with other people’s things because I’ve started to process my own. After a week of living and expressing my anger and frustration, I think I may be able to eventually come to the place where I can forgive VTW for what they did and how they did it.

Which leads me back to today. The Day Of No Plans. I woke up around my usual time, and wasn’t mad about it. I just lied in bed and thought about things. Got some good ideas of things I could do at work. Thought about how maybe I should wash clothes this weekend so I don’t run out of underwear. Reflected that I think summer is really gone forever in 2021 and I can put away my warm-weather work clothes (and I wasn’t even mad about it). But most of all, I thought through all of these things, made big to-do lists in my head, and for the first time in literal months, I don’t feel overwhelmed. I feel like I can do it. And what I can’t do, that’s okay, too. I feel light and unfettered. It is a good feeling.

So I guess this means I’m all in. We’re doing it. We’re going to process all this yuck of the last 20 months. (You know, I bet therapists say stuff like this a lot.) I am excited. Even in the un-fun of processing, if it gets me to feel more like this, I’m all in.

–Emily

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28, 30

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