The goal of this 'what does it mean to be a human brand' is to connect. Connect with a stranger through a mutual experience. Or maybe just learn what it's like to live as someone else. It's easy to forget that multiple stories are making up us as people. Whether you meet someone in person once, have known them all your life, or develop a relationship online, they are human at the end of the day. They are more than just one interaction, one moment, or one mistake.
These posts tie back into the central theme in my novel, The Human Zoo; what does it mean to be human?
I hope as you read these stories, you can connect or at least appreciate the spectrum that is humanity.
As a reminder, these stories are personal and hard to recite. Please be respectful when commenting.
Imagine that you are a boat.
A small, lonely boat cast out to sea.
I am doing my job, staying afloat.
I have not sunk.
But the waves are pounding, the skies are black, and I fear I've lost all sense of direction.
It's just a matter of time until I succumb to the elements.
They are too strong for how tiny I am.
That was all of 2020. The above was and still is how I feel some days. Cast out in a lonely sea of motherhood. The tide is receding on friendships. Footprints of humanity washing away in the sand. I feel helpless to it all, just forced to survive.
I was already on a mental journey before the pandemic invaded our lives. Since I became a stay at home mom 3-½ years ago, I feel like I've experienced an array of emotions ranging from elation to hope to insanity. It has transformed me. In the beginning, I remember being bright-eyed. I had a different version of supermom in my head. I had projects, dreams, and hopes of what would happen.
When did I start waging a battle against myself? I continuously go back and forth in my mind about what I should be doing. I will feel ok with myself for weeks at a time, and then I will fade into self-doubt other times. There are so many emotions, new and old, that enter my soul on a day to day basis. I genuinely feel it is a war within myself. It's given me this new layer that I never knew I had. Do I call it anxiety? This constant worry, self-doubt, self-incrimination sits on my shoulders like some deranged parrot squawking incessantly.
I have always had two sides to my personality. Sometimes I confuse myself. How can I consider compassion and empathy my two most vital attributes but still have such hatred and disgust for certain things? How can I feel mentally sound but break down in a heartbeat? How can I have so many ideas and passions but not do a damn thing about it? How can I feel every emotion so strongly but be able to turn them off and power through my days? I can be seething with red hot anger but remain calm on the outside. Is this a mask? Is this normal?
When asked to write about my mental health journey during 2020, my brain just fritzed out. No one has asked about how I'm feeling in a long time. And if anybody did, it was always the standard, "I'm doing great, thanks for asking" spiel. I spend every day taking care of others, concerning myself with other people's problems and how I can help them. I rarely get time to be in my feelings and to ponder how I'm doing. It's like the movies when someone gets shot, but they don't want the person they care about to know exactly how bad it is. And it isn't until they are done dealing with the situation that they realize the other person is bleeding out and won't make it. Now, listen, I'm not over here bleeding out, but sometimes I wonder if I should've at least did the double-check around the corner before running out into a blazing gunfight.
I have always been able to "buck up" to convince myself that things aren't as dire as they are. I use the mentality that "someone is always worse off'. It's like a guilt trip for my brain. Suck it up, bitch. It works for me; I don't believe I have any deep-rooted issues since my life has been pretty cool so far. Plus, I have a fan-fucking-tastic family who loves and appreciates me. Every day, I hold this god damn house together and usually with a smile on my tired ass face. These kids run rampant through our house, tearing it apart, asking a million questions, throwing tantrums, wanting to play games, learning in school, becoming little humans, and I watch them in awe. To know that I'm a part of this, as tired, as out of sync with myself as I am, to give up parts of me, for them . . . I'll do it every day until I die. I'll hold their hands, rub their backs, read them books, give them tough love, baby them, let them have candy, the whole gamut. Motherhood is like that sometimes. So, no, when it's all said and done, I don't have any complaints.
However, my mental health journey, specifically in 2020, seemed to fan the flames of insecurity and fear within me. What do I do the most? Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a worrier. A bundle of nerves. 2020 amplified that. With the unknowns of the virus, our daily routines changed, medical professionals saying we should stay away from our loved ones; I wondered would we die if we got this thing? The number one thing I fear is death (that's a whole other topic). This virus spread like wildfire and held that genuine fear of death coming for me and my loved ones. It was just too much at once.
Who am I as a person? I'm social, funny, empathetic, adventurous, to name a few, with the pandemic that was quieted. You couldn't go anywhere, plan dates, see your friends, plan vacations, connect with people in general. For someone who needs social interaction, I felt caged. Pre-covid, if I was ever having an awful day in motherhood, I could take off for a bit, either meet a friend for a drink, go to the library, get out. Now, this freedom is taken away. I could retreat to my room, but when you hear your kids fighting, and you know they're right there, in the next room, that mom guilt instantly flares up. It is physically impossible for me to take 10 minutes to myself in my household.
As a result, I've let relationships slide. Gauging everyone's reactions around me has been exasperating. Do they have the same views as me regarding mask-wearing and social distancing? Should we stay in a little longer or start to relax our stance? It has created, what I guess I can assume, is a growing platform of anxiety within myself. I've taken it out on myself physically. I've sunk into this rigmarole of laziness and self-depreciation. When you go for days at a time without doing the things you love, it creates these new habits, and ultimately, you forget that it used to be another way. It was a simpler time. You didn't need to get up and get dressed, put on makeup, make an effort. You had to dig deep and find parts of you you didn't know you had. I call it 'resolve.' I call it humility. Looking at yourself in the mirror and making sense of what's looking back at you.
Motherhood, adulthood, societal rules of how a 33-year-old woman and mom should live her life aside, I measure my life in moments where I feel the freest. Because in those moments, I believe I'm myself. It's crucial to remember myself when I feel carefree: uninhibited, driving fast, in the dark, slightly intoxicated in the passenger seat, where I've left my worries before beer one. To taste chaos, to feel young and reckless. So much of how I was is packaged with unpredictability. It was wild and fun and dangerous.
Turn that music up. Who cares that it's a Monday in the middle of a pandemic? I'm here for it, the rapid beating of my heart. Past memories assaulting my taste buds like a shot of whiskey. The memories are what get me. They always lure me back and pull me undertow. What is my mind trying to pull? What is the point? I revisit, I think about all the details. I yearn and pine for those times, even though it is not my life anymore. But still, I miss them, those feelings of unabashed behaviors. Maybe it's me not necessarily missing these people and the times; it's just missing my shameless youth.
How can I be who I was then and who I am now? It doesn't seem possible to hold so many versions of myself in one body. There are too many variables between then and now. I always think about how you get one life. It petrifies me that every day is one step closer to dying. Is everything I'm doing worth it? Can I make an impact? Is this it? What happens when I'm gone? A lifetime, no matter if it's 40 or 90 years old, it's not enough. These relationships that I have are never enough in a lifetime. I spend all my time worrying about when I'll leave them and not enough time enjoying the present.
I want to be uninhabited to the fullest and enjoy life. I don't want to be plagued with worry, sadness, anxiety. I need more moments of inebriation, of driving fast, loud music, reminiscing, recklessness. I want to be myself because I'm fun, and life deserves to be lived with abandon sometimes.
For as long as I'm alive, it will be impossible to forget the taste of 2020. Like sour cough syrup that your mom made you choke down when you were a kid. A scent memory that brings back all the things you thought were buried deep. That time when you had to forget everything you learned, shift your perspective, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and figure shit out. How am I not a broken mess? I do believe I have the innate capability to find the positive. I wouldn't say I like to let others down, so I became a beacon when others broke down. Not to say my light stayed bright, it surely flickered, but I was able to keep going. Life is always going to be the next challenge. It's important to me to teach tough love and mental fortitude to my children because the world does not care if you're a good, kind person who has blissful intentions of flowers and rainbows.
For 2021, I need to find it within myself to overcome my mom guilt, anxiety, and irrational fears toward everything and take better care of myself. The going and going and not remembering that you're a fucking person has got to stop. I cannot tell you how many times I've caught my face in the mirror at some random point in the day and thought, "Holy shit, there you are, you're really in there. Em, slow down; how are you feeling? Are you ok?" Even then, I'm thinking about the next thing I have to do. The lists, the duties, the appointments, where I have to be, what's for fucking dinner. To date, this is where I'm at, recognizing the needed change. My biggest obstacle is myself, with whatever I'm trying to do. If I can remember to give myself grace on the days I'm too hard on myself, that will be nice. I can give out solid advice to anyone who asks it of me. I need to have that same upbeat, substantial inner dialogue with myself.
Mental health is whatever for whoever at any time. It is not a destination; it is not a race or a definition of you. Whatever you're feeling is validated. For me, it's about putting substantial effort into myself as I do with every other relationship and situation in my life. It's about slowing down, remembering to do things I cherish, even if it's for 10 minutes, to indulge from time to time, to love as hard as I can, and appreciate the present. To always remember I'm a person.
There's a saying that a calm sea never made a good sailor. So, this tiny boat that's been struggling against the elements will find a way to prevail and live to tell tales.