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Hang-ups and personal growth

A year ago, there was a hush over my world that seemed to have no end in sight. We weren’t sure if things would ever go back to normal, or when. We circled the wagons. We counted our blessings and washed our masks. We were relieved that school would be virtual, and remote work was both possible and plentiful. We lost track of time, and an entire year of milestones passed us by with little fanfare or holiday spirit – except the fact that we were decorated for Halloween for most of September, October and November, and our Christmas decorations stayed up until mid-February.

We’re already counting the days until we can pull out the Halloweenies again.

We’re all vaccinated, and things are opening back up, but I don’t remember how to “people” anymore. I tried not wearing a mask into a store and couldn’t do it. Most of the people I see out are still wearing masks, and I’m so grateful to not be the only person in town who isn’t willing to just act like the Covid risk is totally gone. I spoke with a friend the other day – okay, we texted – and she’s also been feeling called to isolate and let the world rush on without her for now. She said that this last year has changed her. I think it has changed us all.

We’ve had a few opportunities to gather with our extended family since everyone is vaccinated, but we just haven’t really been motivated. On the surface, I think we’re all doing better. It’s a beautiful summer, the kids are able to see their friends, our workload has been manageable and we’re slowly inching our way back into some semblance of regular activities outside the house. We’re still not eating in restaurants or going to movies, but we might be, soon. Maybe.

After several years of talking about it, I’m finally working with a wonderful therapist to help me get a handle on my situational anxiety, which was super not helped by the endless crazy in the news over the last four years, brutal fire seasons for several consecutive years and Covid-19. And in many ways, I’m now much better equipped to handle what promises to be a stressful fire season here in California. She insists on asking me questions that challenge me, asking me to explore beliefs and put names to emotions and experiences that I’ve left unexamined for a long time. It is uncomfortable, like a working a knot out of a tight muscle. There’s that initial resistance that can be painful, and then the surrender to the process, and finally relief. Like with a deep tissue massage, I’m sometimes surprised that working on these mental knots doesn’t leave a bruise.

Journaling is a big part of my therapy, and I’m struggling with my internal editor. Even though I’m basically supposed to be free writing, even though these words are for myself alone and will never be shared, I am tempted to write and rewrite and edit these thoughts and feelings until they are made palatable. I want to distance myself, polish myself, smooth the edges and reframe what’s surfacing. This is hard, y’all, but forcing my inner critic to take several seats and let me just blurt out whatever floats through my head has been wild.

One of the areas that has really atrophied in my life is creativity. I’ve signed up for this year’s GISH again, and I am totally looking forward to a week of intensive creative projects and levity. My family is less excited about it, after spending a week with a papier mâche monster drying on the kitchen table, and being press-ganged into having cotton candy swirled into a wig on their head, but you know what? I need it. I’ve also signed up for a twice-a-week pottery class at the junior college for fall, and I’m looking forward to getting messy over there. I’ll probably be awful at it, but even if I am, I don’t care. It’s good to learn something new.