Today’s my birthday. For whatever reason, I often struggle around my birthday. It triggers an annual depression, which boils down to feelings of: I haven’t done “enough.” Or “I’m not where I should be in life.” This year, those feelings are even more painful for me, because I’ve had some career bullshit that has been a wrecking ball to my ego.
On top of that, my parentified childhood means that I get intrusive and cyclical and DEEP sadness leading up to and just after my birthday, mourning the “normal” or “carefree” childhood I never got. As if that isn’t enough of a shitshow, I’ve hit middle age, where I am feeling ever more viscerally that the remaining birthdays are finite…which exacerbates my anxiety about not having done enough. It’s a nuclear combination.
Even though I know that all of that is going to hit me, and it’s something I anticipate, and know will happen, it’s never something I have figured out how to cope with. I don’t deal well under normal circumstances. But this time of year, my emotions just make me a total wreck.
This year I decided to head it off at the pass. I decided I would try to cope by surrounding myself physically with loved ones. I sent out a mass email telling close family & friends afar to please come. Come be here. Come be with me. Let me *see* you because you matter to me. I knew most would not be able to drop their lives for all kinds of reasons, but I wanted them to know that I wanted to be with them if possible. Those who could let me know they would join.
Cue shit going sideways.
Coronavirus made some cancel their trips. Look, I am not blaming them. That came out of nowhere, and obviously the wiser-than-us expert advice is: if you’re healthy, don’t take unnecessary risks. And if you’re under the weather, *definitely* take precautions. And some of them
are were coming from harder-hit areas. So while I’m not angry, and I’m not hurt because it isn’t personal…it just adds another level of loss added on to what I’m already experiencing. Stressing my coping skills to the max. (When they’re at their weakest).
So I was doing my best to deal. And it’s not going well.
I’m dragging my really struggling, barely duct-taped together self through getting out of bed, going through the motions at work, picking up the kids, mustering my best chipper “I’m fine” to anyone who asks, and deciding “the hell with no money, we’re grabbing food because I can’t deal with grocery shopping or meals,” cue another otherworldly event from the universe.
There was a devastating tornado in Nashville this week, and it leveled the exact area where I grew up.
From what I can tell from the online maps of its path, my childhood home still stands, but the surrounding area was gutted. My first elementary school is the Red Cross shelter for that & the neighboring community. This 2020 tornado would have leveled my childhood church, except that was already pre-destroyed by the 1998 tornado (when I still lived there).
Seeing the devastation has triggered an even deeper level of heartache and depression in me. It’s like the photos are showing to me what it felt like to be me growing up there. Seeing the homes and families and schools torn apart is evoking incredibly painful and hard memories from my childhood, where any semblance of being a child was strewn about and stomped upon by forces beyond any child’s control. It’s the most apt universal metaphor for me, personally. That in the midst of my most difficult emotional storm, I’m also watching a devastating storm and its awful aftermath play out in real time.
So here I am, still struggling, but it feels just so, so hard. Still lowering my shades when I walk in to Starbucks to grab the coffee I ordered via the app, still sitting in my car before work trying to gather my professional self together because I can’t stop crying, but also have to keep going. Waiting for my storm to pass.