“Hey Ash, how’s it going? How are you!?” She asked.
“Good, how are you!?” I responded.
I lied. I’m not really good. Are any of us “good” these days? It’s hard to pinpoint these feelings of anxiety, depression and fatigue that plague me, but I know they’re there and I’m not sure exactly what to do with them.
The truth is, it’s been probably a year since I’ve felt “good.” Nearly four years since I’ve felt “great.” That’s not to say I haven’t had days, and weeks of joy sprinkled in there, but that overall feeling of “good” where I don’t understand sadness, guilt or anxiety is lurking just underneath the surface? It’s been awhile, and I’ve been afraid to acknowledge it; to all of you and also to myself.
I’m a writer, right? I write to release, I write to acknowledge, I write to get explore, and I write to normalize the thoughts and feelings swirling throughout my own head and heart. Writing, however, also captures and historically documents whatever it is I’m willing to share, and the truth is, I haven’t been willing to share these feelings with anyone this past year. Maybe it’s out of shame – how do I go on national media platforms and talk about moving from a position of tragedy into triumph, but secretly feel like I’m slowly sinking out of that triumph phase? I don’t feel triumphant these days. Maybe it’s out of fear – knowing members of my family and close friends will read this and not give me the space or comfort of just letting me write and release without the pressure of needing to “fix this” or intervene in any way. Maybe it’s out of embarrassment. It’s embarrassing to feel sad, or overwhelmed, or to acknowledge you have anxiety, right? It is for me. Why though? I know I’m not the only one experiencing these feelings, so why should I feel like I have to put on a brave face for the rest of the world when I’m just not feeling it? Is it the American way? Is it the life I’ve set up for myself? Is it for my kids? My family? My friends?
So what do I have anxiety about? Just about everything these days. Covid. Dating. Career. Kids. Geographic location. Weight gain. War. Travel. Therapy. My daughter telling me she’s getting picked on in school. I have anxiety knowing I have anxiety. I’m not an anxious person by nature, so the mere act of admitting I have anxiety – THAT makes me anxious. Weird, right? Maybe, but also very real. The fact my kids haven’t seen their friends faces at school in three years because of these face masks, and Izzy getting scolded by her teacher for hugging a friend on the playground. I’ve been going on dates and dating – anyone out there in the dating realm, you know how stressful this is, but I have the added element of guilt as a widow, and as a single mom. I feel like I have to get it right on the first try. I’m incredibly lonely – I miss my partner and my life as a wife, so I should date, right? To get back to that? Or the new version of it? But I feel guilt for attempting it, how could I possibly love somebody new when I loved Brian that much? I don’t want the kids to get attached to someone and then have it not work out. They’ve experienced enough loss in their lifetime, I have to get this right on the first try so they don’t go through losing someone again. That thought brings with it a lot of anxiety. There's a war raging between Russia and Ukraine right now. That's scary. I've gained 30 pounds in two years. That's gross. What do I want to do for work? I’m finishing up my Masters in Human Behavior with a specialty in Forensics. I would love to work as a crime scene investigator, or death investigator, but I also don’t want to work a full-time “real” job where I miss out on events with the kids. Izzy is 7, Hudson is 5, Addy is 3 – I only get such a short period of time where I can go to their school bazaar’s, and parades, pick them up and take them out for special 1:1 time just because I can and have the time to do so, and I know it makes them so happy. I know this is a privileged position to be in, but it’s one that gives me anxiety thinking about – I should work, right? I’m an adult so I should work a “real” job.
I also carry the burden of guilt knowing I’m their only parent and their childhood will be as good or as bad as I make it for them. Every decision falls entirely on my shoulders. Do I get them vaccinated? Addy has a fever, should I take her in or see if it comes down? Hudson has a cross-bite, do we do early intervention or wait it out to see if it corrects itself? Do I sell the house and try to move somewhere with more property so they have a place to run around? Where do we move? Can I afford it? Does this mean I’ll have to get a full time job and miss out on the kids’ stuff? Do I homeschool the kids until this covid craziness has passed to alleviate some of the back and forth of the schools closing down everytime somebody in their class tests positive? The car has something wrong with it, do I pay to fix it, or cut my losses and buy something newer? The garage lights stopped working, who do I call to fix it?
I feel like I’m whining. These are not out of the box incidents – these are questions every parent, every adult out there has to deal with, and this is in part why I’ve refrained from writing for so long. I don’t need or want to feel sorry for myself. I know I’ve been through it, but I also know I have it a lot better than many people out there. My kids are happy, healthy, and wise. In that regard, I’m lucky. At what point do these regular life tasks stop feeling overwhelming for me as a single mom to deal with, and start feeling like ‘just the way it is.’
I guess by writing this today, I’ve decided I’m not going to put on a brave face anymore. I’m going to acknowledge when I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious, or sad. I’m going to encourage you all to do the same, and to hopefully build a community where we can acknowledge that sometimes these normal tasks we’re faced with, and the world that’s happening around us, is hard. And that’s ok. And sometimes you just need to be able to voice that – without anyone trying to fix it for you. I’m going to get back to writing, to channeling some of these thoughts and anxieties out of me and onto these pages. Follow along if you’d like, I hope by me sharing my own fears, you’ll see you’re not alone in yours.