before i could releaseYung Pueblo
the weight of my sadness
and pain, i first had
to honor its existence
We are living through a pandemic. It’s not a productivity contest. I see so many articles giving advise on how to be more productive working from home. How to finally start that creative project you’ve been putting off. Learn a new language. Read through that list of classics you’ve put off since high school.
I think they are all forgetting we are just trying to survive.
It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to be sad and angry. It’s okay to just sit and stare out your living room window for a few hours, watching the birds or maybe nothing at all. That’s okay.
The only thing our brains are worried about right now is survival. All of our energy is going into preparing for the next news briefing or conference call that changes everything, again.
We have to honor our pain. We have to honor our exhaustion. We have to honor our tears. We especially have to honor those feelings in others. We all react differently to trauma. Yes, some of us may be able to sit down and write the next great American novel. Some of us can barely get out of bed in the morning.
Honor however you are feeling, right now, in this moment. It’s okay.
This too shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.anonymous
It feels like this pandemic will last forever. It’s hard to remember when there was a time we could freely run errands or make spontaneous plans with friends. It’s impossible to imagine what the will future will look like after.
If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, they hurt. I mean piercing, stabbing pain in your back and side that feels like you’ve been stabbed with a hot poker. It’s hard to imagine something so small can cause so much havoc on the human body. When you have a kidney stone, everything just stops.
Now, doctors will tell you to that you have to be up and moving. Walk around and let gravity help move the kidney stone through your system. Pain will limit your movements, but do what you can. Just lying around may feel better in the short term, but you’ll be in pain longer as the stone just sits there in your body. You just have to remember that eventually, the stone will pass and you will be able to resume your daily life.
So right now, the world is passing a giant kidney stone. The worst the doctor’s have ever seen. But we can’t just lie here and do nothing. We must keep moving. We need to keep each other safe. We need to help our neighbors and those who are struggling. We need to check on the teachers and single mothers and furloughed workers and those with mental health issues or who might be unsafe at home. Even through the pain, we can still make a difference
And just like a kidney stone, this too shall pass.
It’s always interesting – sometimes good, sometimes bad – to find out something about your past that explains so much about yourself in the present.
It’s hard to find out you were unwanted as a child. I always knew my grandfather was a narcissistic asshole. He was a truly horrible person. And for some reason I will never understand, he hated me. Or was at least completely indifferent to my existence. My mother shared a memory with me yesterday from when I was three. My grandfather was our (I have a twin brother) primary babysitter until we started school and could begin fending for ourselves. On this particular day, I looked at my mother and told her I didn’t want to go to grandpa’s house. When she asked me why, I replied solemnly, “grandpa doesn’t like me.”
My mother didn’t sugar coat it. She didn’t try to explain it away or make excuses. She just said that is the way it is, grandpa can be mean sometimes. She made sure I always had a book with me and I would find a hidden corner to curl up in and read until mom or dad came to pick us up. I know this broke my mother’s heart.
I have spent most of my life feeling unwanted or ignored by my family. I always feel they never want me around or are humoring me when they invite me to things. The first thing I do at any gathering is grab my book and find a quiet spot to tuck myself into for the day. I claim my spot and after 30 some years, my family has figured out that you don’t sit in Lauren’s spot. It has been a running joke among my in-laws since my husband and I met.
Hearing my mother tell this story of a three year old realizing she’s not wanted explains so much about my current view of my place in the world. My psyche has spent the last 12 hours trying to reorder everything I thought I knew about myself and my family. I’m not sure I even know where to start.
The amount of banana bread on my counter directly correlates to how angry I am.
Nothing soothes anger more than putting a couple of overly-ripe bananas in a bowl and mashing the crap out of them. I prefer to use a star shaped silicone meat tenderizer (usually used to evenly cook ground beef). You can hold it like a mighty sword — two-handed grip with the blade pointed down, ready to strike — and make those poor bananas pay for all the hurt they’ve caused, which I suppose is better than taking my anger out on another, undeserving, human being.
I was not prepared for how angry this safer-at-home time would make me. I’m angry that I have to work from home. I’m angry that my best friend had to cancel her wedding. I’m angry that I don’t get to see my work study students graduate. I’m angry at all the people who keep complaining they’re bored. The politicians. The protesters. I’m angry at lost time and the world in general.
I never thought I would ever live through a time like this. I thought the Trump administration was the worst thing I was going to have to tell my future grand kids (or more likely my nieces and nephews) about. Even in the middle of the fear and chaos of 9/11, at least we could see our enemy. And let’s be honest, war is something we know how to face and are fully prepared for.
If nothing else, I hope I personally, and society as whole, can learn from this pandemic and use our anger to make sure we are never this unprepared again.
And now to take the latest loaf of banana bread out of the oven.
I take a daily walk through the park behind my apartment. It has a lovely walking path with a beautiful view of the marsh. It only takes 15 minutes to make the full circle which is perfect for a quick break in the middle of my day.
On one such walk, I looked toward the tables that line the outside of the park shelter and noticed an object sitting there. I never would have thought I would find a pair of black high-heeled shoes precisely placed in the middle of the table. Some dirt showed they may have been there overnight but otherwise they were just sitting there, waiting for their owners to realize they had been left behind.
I think many of us feel like this pair of shoes. Forgotten. Left out in the weather. Hoping to be retrieved by someone who obviously valued us at some point in the past. It feels like the world is just passing us by. We are missing the best years of our lives while the world just keeps on spinning underneath us. The next day, the shoes were gone, hopefully picked up by a panicked owner who was so glad to see their shoes were still there, waiting.
I only have myself to blame for my near death experience.
I tried to kill myself. I don’t remember the exact trigger that made me decide life in this realm was no longer a viable option for me. All I remember is a year of heartache, isolation, and a feeling of such darkness I never thought I could be happy again.
I never believed in guardian angels until that day. I grew up Catholic, but we were practical Catholics. Church was great for community and a place to go on Sundays when everything else closed, but I never bought into the supernatural-ness of it all. I envied those who believed, but I was not one of them.
It was also not my first attempt to enter the afterlife. Let’s just say that my existence and I have always been at odds with each other. I have never feared death, only the idea I will miss out on something someday.
I had it all planned out. The where. The how. The when. I was desperate for it to work this time. I was sitting on my bedroom floor, mentally saying good-bye to my old life, when a figure appeared in my mind’s eye, crouched in front of me. He had a look of such despair on his face I forgot all about mine for a moment. Even I could not comprehend such sadness. All he did was look into my eyes and weep.
When you’ve hit this point in your life where you feel the only solution is a one-way ticket out of here, you rarely stop to consider other people’s pain. Specifically, the pain your death is going to cause them. It must be what the first speck of the universe felt before the big bang. The darkness and emptiness of space crushing you to the point you finally explode. The main difference between that speck and us is when we explode, we don’t make universes, we create chaos.
To me it was simple. It was the only decision I would ever make where I wouldn’t have to live with the consequences. But that’s all wrong. We transfer all this pain to other people in our lives. Our suffering becomes someone else’s problem.
I felt all this while I was looking into his eyes. I felt the pain, sadness, guilt, confusion, anger, and desperation of the people I thought would be better off without me. I would create a hole in their heart. It would be with them forever, always expanding to fill every aspect of their lives.
In that moment, I knew this figure was my guardian angel. Ten years later, I question that resolve, but in that moment I knew. I also knew the universe was begging me not to do it. It was not only my loved ones pain, but the pain of the universe as I destroyed the bright star it had created in me. All the potential energy of my existence was going to get chucked back into the void.
My tears joined his as we both sat there and cried. I have no idea how much time passed before he straightened, gripped my shoulders, and shook me until my teeth rattled. Subtlety only goes so far with me. I need a swift kick before a lesson sticks.
This was my final warning. No more saving me from myself after this.
Pain, like energy, can never be created or destroyed. It can transfer to those around us or transform into something more useful like courage or empathy. It makes us strong enough to conquer the big things and perceptive enough to appreciate the little things.
I will always appreciate the universe for sending me a guardian angel that day.
You can learn so much from a person by what is tucked between the pages of their books. Some mark their spot with the standard bookmark found on racks at the front counter in every gift shop. Others use receipts, post-it notes, and forgotten to-do lists. But some make it more personal by using photos of loved ones, prayers, and postcards from favorite far-off places. Some don’t use anything at all.
In my work at a university library, I am always amazed by what is left in books that people deem unworthy for their own collections so they are donated to ours. The hardest, and most interesting, items come from the library of someone who has recently passed away. Their literary lives are frozen in time—half-finished books, forgotten letters, and grocery lists never shopped for. What forgotten memories do these items hold?
I have found political brochures from the 1950’s. A list of deceased family members to be prayed for. Postcards with no return address. Military coins. Dried flowers. Stamps. Divorce papers. Plane tickets to Paris. And of course, bookmarks.
I always wonder if their soul will ever find out how the story ends.