I can’t stop looking back. I have so much regret for this past year, and while there have been positives I can unequivocally state that this year has been the worst year of my life so far (and hopefully ever).
It’s not like there’s even anything juicy to reveal! This is the most garden variety unhappiness.
I am happy, and I’m a typically happy person (with depression and anxiety). But the past year has had more anger, sadness, panic, and hopelessness than not.
I feel that life this past year has been an unceasing exercise in control, and if I lose control in one place, it rapidly compounds to an unmanageable space. Tolerances are nil. Here’s a dumb, relatable example: I have to either constantly do the dishes (like, many times a day) and be very aware of the dishes situation and on top of the dishes situation, or the entire sink is chock full of dirty dishes and a child will be drinking out of a bowl and another will be using a straw to cut up a banana. That quickly escalates to the entire island countertop being piled sky high and the garbage overflowing. Things all over the floor. Crumbs everywhere. Have you ever finally dropped into bed and some child has left crumbs for you? That, but everywhere. And my “job” isn’t to do the dishes. It’s to do my actual, paying job, and also be a parent, and take care of household chores/general household management, and be a partner to my husband. When one piece falls out of place, all of a sudden I’m a shrill harridan because mess and disorder triggers my anxiety, and I’m not a good parent, and I’m not a good partner. The dishes aren’t done and messes are piling up, and the kids start squabbling, and I’m screaming, and then I have to sit down and work.
I’m lucky, because my schedule has settled down a lot in the last month. I haven’t yearned for “the old days” but I have had an absolutely desperate need for stability. I have a ton of stability right now, and it’s only going to get better. Sure, in the back of my mind, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop — the call from school or daycare that someone needs to be picked up, or that everything is shut down for COVID-19. But for the most part, life is returning to predictable. I’m able to enjoy time with my family again. I can think about how the past year has impacted my kids without feeling a black tide of panic welling up. I feel it’s something I can logically and compassionately consider and work on with them and with Bob. I wasn’t sure we’d get to this point.
Have I mentioned the laundry? I’ve given up, and it’s a constant itch between my shoulder blades, knowing it’s there. Waiting.
This past year brought with it a milestone I didn’t anticipate at work. I considered quitting, for the first time ever. Often. I resented feeling that way, because I love working, and I love the work I’ve been entrusted to do. I felt it was stupid to consider removing the thing that I felt the best about, but I also couldn’t quit life, which was a whole layer of confusion and upset on top of everything. And work itself was stressful for me, personally. I changed roles and divisions, learned a whole new job, helped launch a new division, and shepherded my team through changing a fundamental aspect to how we hire Happiness Engineers. I cried a lot. I never cry about work. I’ve never felt more unfit and generally disappointed in myself. But I am also very excited about the work my team is doing, and I’m proud to be part of it. And I feel that I’ve done a very good job! I think feeling like a duck out of water and being uncomfortable and growing through and out of that feeling is essential to overall growth. The toll, however, has been significant this year.
Maybe this is what slowly pulling back up from burn out feels like. Things hurt, it’s all very tender, the memories are painful almost beyond bearing, but… there’s something new there. Where before there was nothing, or rending, or a sort of emotional dismemberment, now there’s something fresh, delicate, new. I don’t know what. Spring, I suppose. Certainly warmth and longer days are helping. I know there’s a lot ahead of us, individually, but also as a country of people. I am starting to feel like I have my own oxygen mask on and can have capacity to help others with their oxygen masks — I haven’t felt like my own (metaphorical) mask has been in place for a long, long time. I’ve felt deprived of something essential, struggling without much hope of improvement. But I’ve had Bob who has been helping me with that metaphorical mask, and that has made every bit of difference. There are fewer days when I have to chant under my breath “no one is going to die” until I calm down. Far fewer.
Every day, a little less bad, a little more good.