How Can I Help You?

If you run or walk outside a lot in rural areas, you know there’s danger–people not seeing you or purposely trying to hit you with their cars, biting dogs, bears, you get the idea. I’ve had the misfortune to face all of those things. But tonight, as I took a pre-dinner walk to clear my head, I saw a truck pull over on the side of the road up ahead of me. First thought? This guy is going to try and hurt me. But I’ve got my phone, I’m not far from home and I can run. Then I hear a car coming up behind me on the other side and realize this guy is being incredibly courteous and kind. Once the car passes, the truck pulls back on the road and the driver gives me a big smile and wave. I yell, “Thank you!” because seriously, that shit never happens.

I continue my walk and can feel my eyes prickle with tears because I just want to sit down and cry all because of this kind gesture by a neighbor. But why is that? I don’t think people have been horrible to me lately, although there’s certainly judgments thrown around constantly and many by me. When I’m out with a mask, some people look at me oddly or with that frown. If I see you without a mask I know I look at you with that same frown. And it’s all just exhausting, isn’t it? I never thought of myself as being so judgmental before (although maybe I was?), but now I’m just….I’m really awful.

I’ve always had anger issues, but no one knew about them because I ate that anger. Just in the past decade have I been able to scream my anger out or sometimes run it out and occasionally breathe it out. I can (mostly) deal with it. But now? I feel so much anger and disgust and sometimes hatred towards people I never felt anything at all for before. Why do I care? Is it because their actions can hurt me or my family or my friends? Or maybe because they already have?

I read many of my friends’ social media posts and I feel so fucking helpless. I don’t know how to help them. Many of my friends are teachers and when I read how scared and frustrated they are, I just want to hug them and tell them this will work itself out and be ok, but I can’t. I physically am not allowed or able to hug any of them and this will definitely not work itself out. This will not “just go away” any time soon. Especially since no one can talk to one another if they have differing opinions on how to solve this mess. (Although it would be nice if we could all agree that facts are FACTS and not opinions.)

My friends who are parents, especially with little ones, are struggling just as much with all of this. Their posts and shared articles are just as fucking heartbreaking. I hear my friends that have adult children say how grateful they are to not have to deal with the education piece or having to stay at home and care for their child because they just don’t know how they could do it and still work.

Exactly.

How do you do it? Friends have cut their work hours, some have upped their anti-anxiety and anti-depressant meds or have finally begun taking them. Some are drinking more, eating more, crying more. (And I’ve done a little bit of all of these things as well as let my kid spend way too many hours in front of a computer.)

So what the hell are we going to do?

I don’t know. I wish I had some amazing piece of wisdom right here, but I don’t. I have sent wine to a few friends, cards to others, and messages or emails to some. If you own a business and want me to buy something, I’ll do my best to do that to help you keep afloat. If you need any of my librarian skills like pointing you in the right direction for forms you need to fill out or reading material to help you relax or what movie will help you cry then I can do that, too. But mostly I just listen. I don’t know what else I can do, but listen to you and truly hear you. I will respond if you want me to, or just nod my head in agreement and virtually hug you.

I do hope that some day, when the world is different but maybe feels a bit safer, I still like the person I’ve become. Right now I’m not so sure. I think at this moment I’m too selfish, self-centered and judgmental to really like who I am. Or maybe that’s the person I’ve become due to all the losses in my life. Either way, this pandemic has become a pivotal moment in our lives and it would be impossible to not be affected by it. I just hope that when all is said and done, I and you, too, will not have regrets about our words and actions towards others, and that we’ll be ok.

Let’s just be ok.

Serenity Now

Ever feel like “Red”, the angry bird that has a short fuse and explodes a lot? Or how pissed off Michael and Janet Jackson seemed in their Scream video? “With such confusion don’t it make you wanna scream…Stop pressurin’ me, stop pressurin’ me.” As a library director in the middle of this pandemic, this is exactly how I feel. I’m angry, confused, and just trying to do the right thing while voices from every side and direction continue to yell at you about one thing or another.

And I do mean yell. We have a library listserv in my state and lately it’s been downright awful. Mean people suck. And there not only mean people out there but rude and judgmental ones, too. (And I mean JUDGY!) Lately some of the comments on the listserv reminds me of why there remains the stereotype of a shushing bitch that we have tried so hard to demolish. And not just on the listserv but even among Zoom meetings or on social media. The library world is a small one, and the Maine library world is even smaller, so when you talk smack on one publicly, many of us listen and sometimes smack back.

There are also many Maine librarians that have been super heroes and awesome to the nth degree during this pandemic. Because that’s who many of them are and I try to ignore the others…or talk about them behind their back because you know we’re all doing that. But then I find myself lashing out at some colleagues at the end of this week. Some deserved it, others didn’t. I apologized to those that I knew I should, because that’s what I do and it is certainly not done enough, especially among co-workers and colleagues.

So to try and deal with all of this anger and confusion and grief, I attempted to do a few things this week to help me cope. Unbelievably, I did NOT eat my feelings this week. That was new! I attended a talk via Zoom on mental health co-sponsored by my son’s school, I talked to friends about all of it and I ran.

I’ve tried to begin running in earnest once again, starting 6 weeks ago with a running app called “Running to Lose Weight”. First off, I didn’t lose an ounce. I actually gained back weight, but I loved the routine so much that it didn’t matter. Instead the app eased me back into running with walking breaks until I was finally running my typical 3 miles again by the end of the six weeks.

Today I even hit a PR, at least a personal record in the past few years. I never, ever try and go for fast because I’m not. I would love to increase my distance back to my 10-mile Sundays that my brother used to be in awe and proud of. But that won’t happen for some time or maybe even ever again. But I’ll try. And maybe, just maybe, I can find some kind of peace while I’m out there or at least when I’m back home. I need to find a way to channel that anger, and not just just anger but all of these intense emotions that I seem to lose control over these days.

My “I kicked ass” face.

I know it’s ok to have all of those feelings–anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, and even intense joy. (Don’t let people take your happy moments away from you either, because they’ll try!) But I’d also like to be able to take a deep breath and find that moment of clarity and tranquility and carry on with whatever discussion I’m having with people and not lash out.

Hopefully I’ll find that bit of serenity when I need it. Until then, hang on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.