Freeing Myself of a “Can-Do” Attitude

It seems that all my posts are going to begin with an image: how that image totally connects with how I feel is utter nonsense. So, the story behind this picture. I was reflecting on one of the “early” days of COVID and how I was working hard to keep up this can-do attitude. I stared out the window for a solid few minutes because it felt like those days were years ago. Then I decided to see what Google produced if I searched “can do attitude.” Millions of results came up, many including the importance of having a can-do attitude. If I performed this search at the start of 2020, I would have been totally inspired to try and read the steps and apply them at least several times a day. But in late March, I simply stared at the pictures and laughed. It’s amazing to me how global events can humble you so much. And that’s exactly what I want to share today.

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you are excited to try new things in a controlled way that maintains your sanity as your world crumbles around you? Have you ever felt as though your optimism is the one thing so many people are clinging to because they don’t know how to manage their own distress? And have you ever become so exhausted with the charade even you believed that you just want to take off the mask, sleep for days, then start as the real you the next week? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you understand exactly how I felt at the start of this pandemic. If you answered no, you must be an incredibly lucky person.

And now I will channel my inner Sophia from Golden Girls. Picture it, central Massachusetts, March 2020. A pandemic is rapidly spreading across the US, my kids have been informed they will not physically return to school for the next several weeks, and we have no preparations for this. What do I do? Everything! I took on roles I wanted. I took on roles I didn’t want. Handywoman. Head mistress. Robust Amazon purchaser. Scheduler. Therapist. And that’s the heavily redacted list. One day I even found myself taking apart and repairing our washing machine and vent hood. Please don’t ever ask me to do either of those tasks again. The point is, in the middle of national and global distress I figured my resilience and strength were the only things needed to get my family through what we thought would be an unorthodox few weeks. Little did I know.

Between getting my sons’ bikes ready for scheduled outdoor time, ordering hiking shoes, and attempting the tightest schedule possible to provide continuity for my sons, I was tapped. Putting all of my energy towards taking the bull by the horns left me depleted, anxious, and despairing. As much as I kept moving and pushing forward, I quickly felt like a shell of myself and extremely guilty. How was I, the keystone for the family, feeling like I was failing and giving up during the worst crisis we’ve all collectively experienced? I was so hard on myself that I felt like I was failing to keep everyone else mentally, physically, and emotionally above water because I was drowning. There were my 73-year-old parents and three sons to manage. My husband is an essential worker so there’s always the fear of him becoming infected and bringing the virus home. We’re all vulnerable and scared, and I thought I could do all of this alone.

I quickly found out I couldn’t, like everyone else. I don’t write any of this to end with some therapeutic way you all can live your lives moving forward based on what I learned. But I am sharing because there’s so much I learned, and I think a lot of us learned this lesson early on. Others of us are able to keep going for much longer before reaching this realization. Wherever we are on the journey, I only hope at some point we all have that quiet moment with ourselves to say it’s okay that we can’t do and be everything because we were never supposed to. Once I freed myself of that can-do attitude, I felt loads of burdens figuratively lift from my shoulders. Let those burdens fall and free yourselves. Right now the only thing we can do is stay home, be mindful as the country starts opening back up, and be vulnerable with the people around us when we feel ourselves putting on the can-do mask to avoid the reality that we aren’t in control. Freeing ourselves of that mask and control makes it so much easier for us to finish this year stronger than we started. Until next time.

Be well, my friends ​♥

Keep Calm and Carry On?

“Keep Calm and Carry On.” Five little words that are so hard for many of us to do these days. I was scrolling through Urban Outfitters’ website and saw the most wonderful stock setup. I loved the relaxing vibes, the exposed brick and plant, the openness of a bronze palm sitting on the table, thought about how I could get some amazing sleep on that pillow. The only problem was that possibility was about as real as those items currently being in my house: not real at all. As 2020 presses on, we remain in uncertain times with the continued devasting effects of COVID-19, social dynamics shifting as we knew them, and the never-ending desires to return to a normal life that seems like it was decades ago. We are constantly hearing information on the news about vulnerable populations around the world, many more months without a vaccine for the virus, and unemployment rates increasing every day; yet, we’re encouraged to maintain hope and continue to uplift those around us.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself on an emotional rollercoaster over the past five or six weeks. I started out concerned about the regular operations of the outside world: when can my kids return to school, how will they see their friends, how do we need to alter our work schedules? Then I became really excited that my family was having so much time together to embrace one another and share space. That was quickly followed by feelings of overwhelm as I tried to become three different teachers for my sons as we figured out schoolwork and work/life balance. There were days where I gave up trying to be optimistic because my kids could see right through me. There were other days where they didn’t have to say a word because we were so emotionally connected, almost like how we were when they were babies. And there were other days when I was grateful we all ate something and didn’t try to kill one another. Like I said, an emotional rollercoaster.

Yet, in all of these feelings and attempts to control the situation, I (and I’m sure you all as well) have learned we have absolutely no control. Even the control we thought we once had was nonexistent. Now the last time you were here, I was telling you about a horrible accident I was involved in and how I’ve been recovering with the guilt and shame of my actions for the past two years. I realized I didn’t have control over many things a long time ago, but I never thought I’d not have control like this. I mean, a global pandemic has uprooted the entire world! But there has to be some glimmer somewhere, right?

Over the past few weeks, my glimmer has been in being kind to myself and those around me. Each day I have increasingly perfected the balance of talking about the current reality of the world with not becoming overly consumed by information each day. I need to understand what’s happening on a weekly basis to avoid feeling isolated and weary, but I also need to not overconsume to avoid feeling hopeless and depressed. I allow myself and my family one COVID-centered conversation a day then we bookend those conversations with our goals as a family and as individuals. I’ll cook dinner, my sons will do a homework assignment, I will fix something we hadn’t gotten to for years. These conversations remind us that we’re not alone, but they also give each of us agency over how we need to manage our feelings and concerns. I’m immensely blessed to have my family with me during these frightening days, but I realize that’s not everyone’s reality. Some of us are physically and emotionally alone. That’s why I wanted to create this blog, as a place for us to come together emotionally and spiritually, sharing space and kindness because we could use a lot more of that in the world these days.

For the past two years, being alone isn’t a new experience for me. Many of my relationships shifted or ended because people didn’t want to be associated with me. But there’s something utterly eerie about pandemic aloneness. It brings out a raw form of depression, anxiety, and fear for even the strongest of us. Many of us are usually worried about the future, but COVID-19 has some of us paralyzed with fear about the present. We question so much and wonder how we can escape. We’re vulnerable in ways we’ve never been vulnerable before, whether it’s a new outlook on life after surviving the virus or a sense of despair after grappling with the death of loved ones at the metaphorical hands of the virus. Or it’s possibly something existing in the middle of the wide chasm of experiences and emotions between those two poles. Whatever the fears, we aren’t alone.

The lack of clarity from our federal leadership doesn’t help the cause any. I need a moment for a quick aside. I watched a briefing the other day and I heard the “leader of the free world” say we should attempt to inject disinfectant into our bodies to wipe out the virus because disinfectant kills the virus in seconds. Who says that?? I don’t want to steer the conversation into politics because coronavirus is so much bigger than politics, but we’re vulnerable as a nation with the lack of regulations on the types of information that can be shared as people desperately search for ways to manage symptoms and avoid contracting the virus altogether.

Even reading these realities in black and white causes me to experience my vulnerabilities in ways very different from processing my internal thoughts or having a verbal conversation. Seeing the words, my words, is wholly different. I’m reminded of all the things I used to do to avoid seeing the words that describe my reality, and I’m reminded of the things I try to do now that are so much healthier for me and my family. There have been times in my life where stress, anxiety, and worry have driven me to vices. My vice was wine. After a long day, I’d pour a glass or two and mellow out without having to think about what happened earlier. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to work through my experiences and feelings, and I honestly didn’t want to at the time. Knowing that was a reality for me now terrifies me for so many others. It’s so easy to have alcohol delivered to our homes or to stop by the store the few times we go outside for a walk (while maintaining social distancing advice, of course), grab a quick bottle, then head home to get comfortable and drink our sorrows away. It even sneaks up on some of us. One drink becomes three drinks becomes the entire bottle. We’re all trying to escape because there is such a weight in staring down the truth.

I hear it everywhere that coronavirus is the great equalizer. In many ways it isn’t, but in some important ways it is. We all know what each of us is feeling because we’re all sharing the same emotions, albeit at differing levels depending on the day. We’re all thinking of the ways we can escape for a brief second to feel normal. And we’re all brought back to reality when the next notification of what’s happening around the world pops up on our phones. Like I said, it’s heavy.

But there are so many people we can reach out to, from the random person on Twitter to the friend we haven’t gotten a chance to talk to in years. We’re all working together to build community and eradicate the self-doubt we all grapple with as the weeks wear on. The world has changed. The world IS changing. But so are we in incredible ways. We’re taking risks to connect with we people we let slip away. We’re re-evaluating what’s most important, no matter how difficult it is to wrestle with fifth grade math when you learned it one way and your child is being taught another way (if you couldn’t tell, this is still a serious frustration in my house). Even though we can’t physically see people, we’re maintaining relationships through social distancing and virtual hangouts. We’re meeting our neighbors and caring for strangers when we learn they’re in need. We’re embracing our feelings and learning how to process our emotions. We’re seeking various forms of therapy and having those hard moments with ourselves, so that when we come out of this, we will be a more beautiful version of ourselves than when we turned inward to our homes and immediate families. We’re letting go of those things that hurt us so we can open our hearts for more love and joy than we ever imagined.

I’ll admit, when I started writing this post I wanted to conclude with an answer about how things were going to be better and offer a regimen of activities to do to get through the day, along with the apps you could download for exercises and recipes. But I was again struck by the the mantra to keep calm and carry on. The internet is full of lists that we can implement until we phase out of social distancing. You don’t need another. I don’t need another. But what we do need is the encouragement to keep calm, to continue carrying on. We need to know that it’s okay to not be okay. We need to know that we have the option of deciding the mood we will take into our days and that there are no right answers to this.

I was recently sent a link by a friend of the author Glennon Doyle’s Instagram. She was talking about mothers and mothering, and she said something that absolutely brought me to tears: “the miracle of grace is that you can give what you have never gotten.” I never got the words that whatever I’m feeling is okay because I needed to put together action plans: get out on bail, go to court, check on my kids, complete probation criteria, the list goes on and on. But I offer to each of you the affirmation to be calm with yourselves. You don’t need that drink because you are allowing yourself to feel and not have every answer. You don’t need to hide your tears from your children because we all need to experience the beauty of our emotions and learn the process of sharing burdens with one another. You don’t need to question if you should reach out to that friend because we all are desiring connections. You don’t have to get all of the work done by the deadline because each of us is reinvesting in the people and time that are most important to our overall wellbeing. As I experience the miracle of grace, I hope each of you will give yourselves the same grace I extend to you. Give yourselves what you’ve never gotten. Rest in that grace.

Be well, my friends ​♥

Starting a Blog in the Middle of a Global Pandemic

It’s the middle of April 2020, a significant portion of the world is staying inside their homes to reduce the spread of COVID 19, and I’ve decided to start a blog. I’m sure lots of us are trying to figure out how to balance our time and connect with as many people as possible. I believe this will be mine. I just realized you don’t even know my name yet! 

Hi there, my name is Victoria. Welcome to a space I hope to cultivate for any and everyone to share and find something that can help them navigate the unknown world we’re living in. After reading tons of blogs to figure out the best way to introduce myself and seem catchy enough that you will want to keep reading, I’ve been inspired to share an intimate story that has taught me quite a few lessons these past couple of years, lessons that are paying off very well as I navigate stay at home advisories with my family.

Almost two years ago I became complicit in a case that remains unconcluded. The most fascinating element of the story for me is how normal that day seemed until everything drastically changed in a matter of seconds. On June 28, 2018 I awoke around 5 am and stared out the window for a while listening to the birds. I eventually got out of bed, made a cup of coffee, got my sons ready, then cooked breakfast while listening to a favorite playlist. I went about the remainder of my day and got everything done so I could join a friend for trivia and a drink later that night. 

I love the rhythm of my life and the role I play in all my relationships, but that night I was just going to be a woman hanging with my friend and enjoying a night out not regulated by being a mom or wife. I finally made it to the restaurant. My friend and I had an amazing time eating, drinking, and playing trivia then parted ways to return to our regular lives. I thought it’d be a good idea to get gas before going home so I wouldn’t have to stop the next morning before dropping my sons off at school since I had a morning appointment. I didn’t make it to drop off my sons nor the appointment. Sometime between my home and the gas station I swerved into the oncoming lane and hit a car. 

I have no recollection of the crash. I only remember being pinned by airbags, smelling hot metal and oil, and hearing painful cries. I remember my glasses being smashed on my face and struggling to get out of my car. I remember being asked questions, although I don’t know what they were. I remember having a splitting headache and feeling panicked. And I remember asking repeatedly, “Are they okay? Are the people in the other car okay?” I spent the following eighteen hours in police custody, halfway through realizing I also sustained injuries along with the people in the other car. I had a concussion and many broken bones, but still needed to appear in court the next afternoon to be arraigned before being released on bail. 

That afternoon I learned the extent of the damage of my actions. I was responsible for something I never thought possible: death and irreparable harm. I didn’t think I was impaired and unable to drive, and I definitely didn’t consider myself inebriated. But there were better choices that I should have made to save my victims’ lives and my family’s, and there are consequences that I now face. 

Before I tell you more about that night, I want to hopefully give you a fuller picture of me as a person. There are so many ways that I could describe myself. I am a woman. A daughter. A wife. A mother. A real estate agent. A native Massachusetts resident. And a college graduate. I am also a person facing felony charges and living with remorse for the death and injuries of two innocent people. Since then I’ve been working to add activist and advocate. Even though it’s been almost two years, I’m constantly evolving through the process of owning my responsibility in the lives I changed as I negotiate how I should live knowing someone else died. It’s also difficult to move forward in the process of acceptance when many parts of my life remain in limbo and I feel constant fear of the unknown. But the tragic events of two years ago motivate me to make every moment meaningful and beautiful. All of these elements are part of my process. 

Prior to the accident I lived an offense-free (excluding the speeding ticket I got in high school) life that some might assume was close to perfect. My three sons attended the very school I attended as a child. Their education was excellent, and they were privileged to learn in an environment that valued their minds, bodies, and personal growth. My husband and I built a life together, with him creating a successful contract business and expanding our home set atop a country hill while I became an established real estate broker. I enjoyed leisure time and played tennis competitively. I was one of many proud parents volunteering at my sons’ school and our local library. And the best part was that my parents remained in good health and were fully supportive of the work my husband and I were doing to craft a family in which our children would only feel love and security. 

Yet, for as much love and happiness that surrounded me, my family and I had our own struggles and growth periods like any other. As prosperous as business was and as secure as my children were, there were many stressors, pains, and dangers that existed, and I went many years not addressing them. I strove to be the perfect parent and was very hard on myself when I didn’t reach my self-imposed perfectionist standards. My marriage contained unhealthy elements that came to light after the accident that demanded work years before, but we plowed ahead hoping those problems would magically disappear. There were seeds of emotional barriers before the accident that became full-blown obstacles after the accident. I thought if I alone did the work I could fix our marriage, but there wasn’t equal effort to bring us out of our budding toxicity. None of these realities are excuses, but I hate that it took someone’s death to reveal to me crucial elements of my life that needed addressing and professional help. I find myself spending time now wondering how different June 28, 2018 would have been had I addressed long time problems in my life earlier. 

I mentioned I’d continue with the rest of story of what happened that night. That requires acknowledging that there are layers of emotional trauma that continue to be felt because the facts of that night don’t tell your loved ones how to respond to a call that you’ve been arrested and others were seriously injured. Those facts don’t tell others’ loved ones that they were being rushed to the emergency department for another driver’s negligence and may not survive the next morning. My husband got a call that I was being detained, but other families got calls that their loved ones were in a terrible accident and they were being rushed to hospitals. I got out on bail. One woman never left the hospital and her family had to grieve her untimely death. I was never prepared for that worst-case scenario because I never thought it’d happen to me, nor my family, nor the victims, nor their families. But it did.  

Yes, the road was unlit. Yes, it was foggy. Yes, the weather conditions were unideal for driving. But there were other factors: I was impaired, distracted, and shouldn’t have been driving. Those are the factors that led to someone’s death, someone’s lifelong injuries, and my felony charges. Those are the factors that took two innocent children’s mother away from them. Those are the factors that put my children in jeopardy of losing their mother. Those are the factors that put tension on my marriage and incessantly worry my parents. Those are the factors that ended some relationships because people didn’t want to be associated with me. Those are the factors that leave me detached and sullen around the 28th of every month. Those are the factors that shattered the light I once saw in life and leave me grappling in darkness.

There are many elements of life I have struggled with this past year, most of which center on reckoning with still being alive and another mother being dead. My children still have me physically present in their lives, but other children will never see their mother again. I also struggle with how I relate to the image of a “criminal” and what that actually means. I would assume that when people think of the average middle-aged, middle-class woman in the US, they don’t think of someone capable of felony charges and killing. In fact, I didn’t think of myself as a “stereotypical criminal.” I didn’t think of myself as a criminal at all. I’m the middle-age, middle-class woman in the US who doesn’t have the capacity to kill someone in a tragic car accident. But I did, and that is the power of my story. Anything can happen to anyone. There is no stereotypical criminal. There is no image to which the mind travels to put people in a box that labels them negatively without the assistance of social conditioning from a system that sees dollars instead of people. And I learned that there is no way I could continue to navigate this experience and create a “me against them” divide because I’m here, I’m telling my stories, I’m learning of so many other stories, and I’m learning the power of all of us doing good and working to overcome the shame we place on ourselves and the shame we assume from society. And I now live my life aimed at doing good for people who find themselves in my position and for people who find themselves in the position of my victims.

Every day since the accident, I have carried the victims’ death and injuries and their family’s pain in my heart. I’m constantly seeking ways to dedicate my life’s actions and choices to their memories, and I know I will continue that honor and burden for the rest of my life. There is an immense power in the number one. One moment. One action. One anything changes everything forever. Two years ago, one drink, one extended glance from the road, one distraction got me here. But I hope my newfound purpose as one person will change many people’s lives for the better.

If you’ve read this far, take a deep breath and let out whatever you’ve been holding in these past few minutes. There are lots of things you’re probably thinking, like what does this have to do with COVID 19 or why is this lady telling us this? Well I hope you come back for more posts as I share those answers and welcome you into all sorts of conversations. What I can say now is thank you so much for reading and getting to know me a bit. Until next time.