Saturday, July 18, 2020 - Stage 3 - I'm scared

Ontario has now entered Stage 3 of reopening and I have mixed feelings. I am scared but also very hopeful at the same time.

Our office will begin rotating shifts to accommodate spacing and people physically being in the office. I'm excited to see people and interact and talk and bounce ideas off of each other and LAUGH!

But I'm also nervous about wearing a mask all day. I don't know if I'll be able to do it.

I have done scary things before.

In fact, I've done a shitload of scary things during this whole self isolation period. (Do you realize it has been just over FOUR MONTHS since Doug Ford announced the lockdown, just before St. Patrick's Day? WTF, right?)

I have faced my own mortality. I have been terrified of death, even before the pandemic. When I was younger, I did any number of reckless things, almost on a mission to see how many times I could cheat death. But it's not rocket science (OR rocket appliances - as Ricky from Trailer Park Boys would say) to figure out that my fear sprung from the rapid yet devastatingly sorrow-filled death of my mom from cancer, and then less than a year later, the shocking death of my younger brother. I am the oldest child. Logic says I'm next.

Previously I had the 'comfort' of believing that maybe there was a 'better place' they both went. Those thoughts help you cope. But as I've aged, read and learned, I don't believe they are together, frolicking in white, smiling and laughing and doing whatever one does in a magic fantasy land, their ashes have been spread in different spots and I suspect some of my brother's are still with his wife. But that lack of belief left me wondering what the value of life really is? Why are we here? What is the purpose of a life? What is the purpose of my life?

I hadn't figured that all out yet and I was scared that my time was limited. The pandemic only magnified my fear and left me paralyzed, isolated with my own storied, and unstoried thoughts. But that's the thing, everyone's time is limited, we just don't know the number of hours, weeks, days and months we have. The value in a life is how many others you can serve; how many others you can affect by being your most vulnerable self.

I learned to forgive myself. When my mom died I had a lot of regret and shame. I felt like my mom thought I was a disappointment. I wasn't a gardner, like her. I wasn't crafty life she was. She sewed, knitted, crocheted, quilted and embroidered among many other talented things and I had no interest in any of them. We fought often. She would criticize me every time we spoke. It wasn't until she was dying that she began to give me unprompted compliments. It felt foreign and uncomfortable to me. I loved her, but we had never talked about her dying. I couldn't see her as a human in her last days, I saw her as the mother who was never proud of me. But now she needed me. She came to live with me. I worked during the day while a nurse would come to my apartment to take care of her. After work, I took her to treatments and then home for something to eat and more meds. Sometimes we would lie on my bed and watch a TV show on my iPad together. I felt so much responsibility, I didn't have time to worry about anything but just making sure she was okay.

My brothers came when it was near the end. It was so hard to watch her die. I have written about it before, but I crawled in to bed with her and held her when she couldn't speak anymore. I forgave her. I hope she forgave me.

During this time of quarantine, I finally forgave myself. But first I had to go through all the feelings I'd pushed down and numbed for the past five years. It was humbling but I feel much more powerful having been honest with myself.

I found my voice again. I haven't written about it much but after an abrupt departure from the radio business 10 years ago, after a decade in radio broadcasting, I felt lost. I didn't know what to do. I went back to school as a mature student to take broadcast journalism. I felt washed up and people took to forums and social media to tell me how unqualified and uneducated I had been and that they were glad I was leaving. It stung, and as one of the few women talk show hosts in our media company's chain at that time, it felt like an even bigger blow to women in broadcasting. After writing about being unemployed at a time when the region's unemployment rate was at its peak, the London Free Press let me have an opinion column. I did that for close to 7 years, but the last couple were wrought with copy editor's comments that bordered on abuse, so I decided to quit. I never went public with some of the 'suggestions' but suffice it to say, it wasn't worth how it made me feel.

I had always been fascinated by social media and became a student of the platforms. Specifically, I saw how vitriolic Twitter had become, with polarized and angry folks spewing whatever pithy comments came to mind, with the purpose of belittling and attempting to silence one another. I waded in now and again but didn't make a practise of it, for fear of saying the wrong thing. My confidence had been shattered and I still couldn't take it. To be honest, I really hadn't done a good examination of who I really was and what I really stood for.

And then we were stuck in lockdown and I had a myriad of feeling that I wanted badly to put down; document during this time. I started writing it all out. It was therapeutic to know others were feeling the same way.

And I had been researching and listening to podcasts for a number of years, desperately seeking the right niche; the right tone to start one. I had most of the equipment already.

I had also been writing a column in Business London Magazine that I pitched to the editor at the time called The Broad Perspective. It's about women's unique lens when it comes to work. I would question three women in the same field each month. Leah Hunt provided the most frank and funny answers in the many years I'd done the column. In typical Leah style, she later reached out to me, asking me how she could do more. I asked her if she wanted to do a podcast. She immediately said yes. That's how Kitchen Confessionals was born (her brainchild title by the way). And yes, we started it during a pandemic and have still not met in person.

This podcast has meant the world to me, both in stretching me out of my comfort zone in expressing myself but also in being accountable to someone for some huge growth opportunities. We talk about hard stuff. But we do it honestly and we talk about how we mess things up, and about things that we may have missed or didn't realize until now. Sometimes we have epiphanies as we talk. Leah has been an amazing inspiration to me. And so have the folks that have written to us and started conversations with us.

We see you and we appreciate you.

I've also been playing around with the idea of recording guided meditations. Listening to nature sounds in my earbuds from a meditation app really helped me focus on the present moment, and through my anxiety during the first month or so during the quarantine. More recently, I found guided meditation really helpful to start my day with purpose. Suddenly, I thought, "I can do this, why don't I try?". I've been actively working on it and will share more soon.

I allowed someone to take care of me. I have always been the caretaker. Women in general seem to take on that role but taking that on makes it difficult to ask for, and to trust that, someone can deliver that care to you, when you ask for it. Even the act of asking becomes a risk. I read a lot during the lockdown too and one of the things that stuck out for me was that in our adult relationships, we live out the unresolved issues we have with our parents, over and over again, until we resolve it and/or learn the lesson. Thinking deeply on that during meditations, and mentoring sessions with a trusted friend, I realized that part of that was trust. When I needed parenting, I couldn't trust a parent to deliver, for various reasons, so I kept choosing partners that simply could not deliver the care I so desperately craved, and it made me afraid to ask for it. That, in turn, made me leery to trust anyone and it became a vicious cycle.

That is, until I trusted someone that could be there for me in a meaningful way. The actual ASK was what was really missing. I didn't have the words or strength to simply ask. During this quarantine, as I mentioned earlier, I really thought I might get the virus and die. I needed comfort, I needed care in a non judgemental and gentle way, and my partner Dan delivered. And you know what? In being vulnerable enough to ask, HE felt okay asking for care and comfort when he needed it from me. Contrary to some couples that have had other not-as-gratifying partner experiences during this time, our relationship has just become more cohesive and genuine. We have both grown individually AND we have grown together.

I have faced my own prejudices. I have had the courage to sit in my own complicity and feel uncomfortable with the fact that white supremacy exists here in Canada and that I have done nothing to stop it. I am learning and will continue to learn so I can be helpful rather than part of the problem. My challenge has been patience, and not making myself the story. I am quietly learning what I need to do, and trying to keep my mouth shut about ME. I'm not perfect, but I'm awake now.

These are only a few of scary things I've done over the past few months, and I'll write about more as they come to mind.

Back to work this week. We can do scary things.

Contact me.

© 2019 Shauna M Rae