Writing this post

Someday I'll find the sheet of paper that my dad used to transcribe my first story. As the first child and before my sister arrived, everything I did those first 18-ish months of life was captured including the first story I ever told. It was about a squirrel, which were plentiful around my suburban Chicago home, and its fight with a corn stalk, which my parents planted in our garden.

I've written or pretended something or made up some story or told one, even tiny ones, probably every day of my life. I imagine we all do that. Humans love our stories. I can't imagine not writing. I use it to process my life's experiences, to hold memories, and to create more space in my brain. I forget a lot, mostly because I dump things in writing to refer to later. I like having a clear head and can't be bothered to retrieve information that I could easily find again or somewhere else.

I like the way words come together. I don't mean this in a romantic or lyrical way, though that's always a bonus when it's unforced and natural. I mean in a way that communicates and portends some kind of significant thought or feeling. I like the way words come together in that they connect us, you to me. I like connection.

Isn't it strange how humans have figured out all these different ways to communicate with each other? Through pixels and ink and brain waves and looks and music and gestures. It's as though the whole species can't get enough of itself and must constantly vibrate together, even across generations and millennia. The word "legacy" exists for a reason. We want to continue to connect even when we're gone, and people in the future still want to connect somehow with those past.

I've recently fallen into the rabbit hole of learning the history of the Windsor Dynasty. I've become fascinated by what it means to be a monarch, and how the landscape has been shifting for them as they marry commoners. As kings and queens have become sparse in the world, the ones left look to ordinary citizens as spouses, which can create a conundrum for the families. It's happening with Megan Markle today, and happened prior with Princess Diana and before that with Wallis Simpson. When you're not born into the gilded cage, it can be difficult to operate within it. When you are born within the gilded cage, it can be difficult to understand the outside. The mixed marriages of monarchs with commoners cause a stir, for sure.

Isn't that how life goes, always, in general? Things are going along until a new situation gets added, then we undergo a period of adjustment until things go along again and a new situation gets added. It's why we love stories. They reflect the continual ebb and flow of the waves of our lives. A character lives, something happens to them, they react to that thing that happened and adjust course, they go along the route until something else happens to them, and again and again and again. Life is story.

That's why I write. I write to process what happens in my life, to somehow reflect the story either directly or indirectly, to vibrate with everyone, to connect.

Caroll Spinney with Oscar the Grouch 2014, by Montclair Film Festival, licensed under CC BY 2.0, Cropped

I always wanted to be the kind of mom who her kids felt they could say anything to. Don't we all get stuck in predicaments where we wish we had a trusted person to hear us out and help? I hoped and will always hope that my boys feel they can come to me with any of their feelings and for guidance.

The good news is, I think I'm hitting my mark. But in the "be careful what you wish for department," I got an earful today. This is not a complaint. I don't want it any other way. It is an observation. Sharing in joyous feelings is super easy. Hearing about how tough things feel for my son and without much of a solution other than "this too shall pass," can feel exhausting.

A family member is a therapist, and she was empathizing with me on how much energy it takes to listen mindfully and (in my situation today) to deflect the negativity. The camaraderie felt nice, and I imagined myself in hindsight lifting a heavy golden shield to ward off bad vibes. So cool how hindsight sometimes works. That image helped.

It has taken me some number of years to learn self-care, manage my own emotions, and not internalize someone else's feelings. I'm not perfect at it, and sometimes I fail. I find that when I clear things on an energetic or spiritual level, that's when I get the most benefit.

The next step is teaching my kids how to clear that negative energy when it hits them. It's taken me a long time to figure it out. I wish that were something easier for me to impart.

Photo by Brady Knoll from Pexels

As the pandemic continues to wane in my bubble and where I live, I’m in a “taking stock” mode. What am I doing with my life? What will make me feel fulfilled? What will I feel proud of when I look back on it? We have had a year of slowing-down in many ways, being locked inside, being kept away, so it feels like there was a lot of time for self-reflection.

At the same time, I have lived feeling enormously anxious about COVID, especially in March and April at the beginning, and then feeling the sadness and loss in the spring of losing both of my in-laws who we could not be with at their time of death because of COVID protocols in the hospital and nursing home, and then feeling enormously upset about racial injustice when George Floyd was murdered, and then feeling some kind of relief about being able to be more open about that upset feeling through protests and honest conversations, and then feeling like I'm walking in land mines if I don't use the exact right words to talk about racial injustice, feeling anxious again about COVID when my oldest son returned in-person to his boarding school in July, all the while also feeling anxious about the civil unrest happening around me downtown where I live, and then the feelings of anxiety when I broke my shoulder in September and went through surgery and (am still) in rehab, all those feelings of hope/anger/anxiousness around the election. So much happened to me and many of it in 9 months' time. I think I was anxious a lot?

I spent the beginning of 2021 figuring out processing everything I lived through. That's how I work. I'm great in a crisis -- completely available, firing on all cylinders, going great, surviving, saving others along the way. It's when the crisis ends and the dust settles that I feel the space to process. I lived through a lot of business, and I feel like I'm finally coming out of that cave. The threshold is before me, but now what? What happens when I step out? Do I go back to that same terrain I've always known? Take up where I left off? Is what I left even there anymore? Or do I find a different path, a new campground?

That's where I feel I am today.

Today, I want to live a bigger life than I had been. I want to "make a difference." I want to volunteer and contribute my heart to more people. I don't know exactly where to place it yet. More searching required. And I have a passion for my artistic endeavors -- writing, filmmaking. Is there enough in me to do both, plus my family who is my first priority?

There is a tiny part of me that feels resentful that I didn't self-reflect enough in the past year to know what I want when I step out of this cave and know exactly which road to take next. But I shouldn't beat myself up. I lived through a lot. Self-reflect now, I suppose. I shouldn't need a pandemic to do that.