I was sitting on the deck with my mom, soaking up the sun on this gorgeous Indian summer day. She laughed out loud. “How come you have never told me about this flipping stuff? Is that really a thing?” after I explained that at the bookstore I am constantly flipping books back that customers flip over when they do not agree with the subject matter. This has been happening with greater frequency the closer we get to election day. So much for free speech. I loved that I could make her laugh so hard over something so silly.
I went to visit her on a whim. It was a warm, sunny day and I know I won’t get many more of those. She is #inexileforthegoodoftherealm (her hashtag for 6 months now) and will not be having us in her house, and won’t be coming into any of ours. It has been so hard not hugging us for the better part of 6 months now (she did sneak a few in back in June when the NYT published an article about how to do it safely.) Her mind is swirling with thoughts about how she will be able to get through the next 7 months of cold weather, keeping her spirits up while not getting time to spend time with the people in her life who she loves. She just made an appointment today so she can go to Mass in person in a couple of weeks. No one could have imagined the life she is living right now. And still, she persists. With grace and optimism.
When people meet my mom it’s easy to see that she’s where I get my positive attitude (my snarkiness I get from my sisters.) I think it’s important on World Mental Health Day to say that I’m doin’ alright (to quote Joe Cocker) thanks to the skills I cultivated growing up in our family. With so many people in crisis and despair, isolated and lonely, and filled with anxiety, I know how lucky I am to have my family and friends in my life, even though it is outdoor picnics and Zoom happy hours. Pandemic meltdowns, seasonal depression all year round, people grieving and mourning losses not imagined a year ago…that is our life now. But I’m doin’ alright.
I know I have it easier than most. I have a job that was not interrupted at all during the last 6 months. I am at work 5 days a week with people I enjoy working with, so I have human contact. I have my health. And I have Friday night Zoom happy hours with my band wife family. And outdoor visits with my actual family. I have been able to take writing classes throughout all of this. My house is comfortable, even if it’s a bit messy because what the hell, I am not having anyone over anyway.
With all of this, there are still times when loneliness or anxiety creeps in. Let’s face it, for most of us it’s a scary world out there right now. It’s easy to get caught up in the media stories and become overwhelmed with all the injustice, bullying, and violence. The uncertainty of where the USA will end up and what the country’s place in the global community will be. Sometimes I want to crawl under a blanket and not come out.
I am here to tell you that it’s OK to be sad. Mad. Anxiety ridden. Depressed. Exhausted. These are normal feelings, especially during this crazy time, and when there is not an definitive end in sight. Feel your feelings, but also try to determine what you need to fill your bucket. Do everything you can to find your joy. Make those connections that will help carry you through to the next phase. Everyone needs help sometimes. Please, please ask for it and seek it out. And don’t be afraid to ask for help professionally. I know. I spent thousands of dollars on counseling school and I sought professional mental health and I am better for it. Really!
And if you are someone who is not doing alright, reach out. I don’t have answers, but I can make you laugh!! And that will move the needle toward optimism. And joy.