My dad used to tell me stories of what it was like for him growing up in Korea in the 50s during the war. He told me he would see dead bodies in the street and that he basically didn’t eat during all of second grade. I don’t think any of us today, who haven’t experienced war, could imagine what it was like for him growing up and how strongly that shaped who he is today. I remember when my brother was little, my mom used to cut his hair to save money. My little brother, who was maybe 6 at the time, kept complaining about it hurting as my mom ran the razor comb through his hair. My dad, annoyed and not understanding how a haircut could hurt, grabbed the comb and swiftly trimmed his hair as my brother cried and tried to keep his tears at bay so he wouldn’t get yelled at more. Later, when they opened the comb up, my parents realized there was a chip in the razor and with every pass, it was ripping little hairs out of his head. Just bear through it. That was my dad’s philosophy and he had little patience for any kind of suffering.

Stay positive! Be grateful! Reframe!

There’s been so much useful sharing on social media, including from me, about seeing the positive, turning to gratitude and reframing how we see things. These are useful and important tools but I think it can also be a source of anxiety. Because the truth is, things are not okay. The world is experiencing a pandemic and people are dying and suffering and everything is different. What makes this hard for most everyone is that we don’t know how long this will go on. I listened to “The Test” from the podcast This American Life yesterday which told stories of what people in NYC were going through. Stories included a couple with a toddler who have coronavirus, a woman whose mother is the only family she has in the world whom she can’t see because she’s in a nursing home, and an emergency worker. Listening to these stories is important so that we can know and understand the different experiences others are having, especially if you haven’t personally been touched by someone getting sick or dying. The point of this is that we are all in different places. Some have lost loved ones and some are doing okay and working from home, not worried about losing their job. Some of us are privileged and others are struggling to buy groceries. Regardless of where you are, you don’t have to just be positive and grateful. You can be sad and grieving or you can be angry. You can feel whatever you need to feel. I saw a friend post on social media that she was riding a roller coaster wave of emotions when someone else told her she was being selfish because she was privileged while others were worse off. Privilege doesn’t exclude you from having feelings and we shouldn’t feel guilty for having them. Shaming doesn’t help those of us who have the capacity to help. It just keeps us feeling guilty and bad and that doesn’t serve anyone.

The new space that I've barely been able to use before I had to close. I don't know what will happen to this space past April.

I’m sitting here in my pajamas still unshowered, managing my two boys and trying to keep them from fighting while I “homeschool” them (and I use the term very loosely). “Put on pants!” is something I say way too often in the mornings and I have no time to myself until 8:30 when the kids go to bed and that’s if my one who has anxiety at night doesn’t need us. I spent the first week when schools closed feeling sad and like a loser because I didn’t have any desire to be productive. I felt resentment at having kids because they were going through their own feelings and thought to myself how much easier it would be without them. I didn’t know what would happen to my studio which I just moved into because everything was getting cancelled and I didn’t know how I would pay rent past April. There was a lot of crying and yelling in my household that first week from everyone. Things were initially okay for a couple of days and then, excuse my language, the shit hit the fan. I was a terrible mother and wife, which was compounded by the dramatic hormonal shifts I suffer from due to perimenopause. I cried and felt bad, worried and useless. I grieved for the life we had. Our whole family did. Then things calmed down. We created a new routine, made sure we went for family walks around the neighborhood after dinner and I gave myself permission to not be productive. I asked my husband to take more responsibility for the kids so that it wasn’t entirely on me like it was when I was a stay-at-home mom and I always put myself last. Giving our family permission to go through this hard transition and not beating myself up or anyone else in our family made all the difference and helped us make adjustments and transition to a more calmer state much faster. Not allowing yourself to go through what you need to regardless of your circumstances and trying too hard to stay positive and grateful is akin to my dad yelling at my little brother for crying as he got his haircut. If he had just stopped to listen and explore why my brother said it hurt, he might’ve discovered the chipped razor. But I wonder if he would’ve been understanding even if he had done that because he’d suffered through so much worse as a child.

Give yourself and others space to be where they are because our emotions have a life of their own and we need to give them room to be there. Otherwise, they will consume all of us. I don’t expect things will be smooth sailing from here on out. There will be plenty of highs and lows while we live through this and all we can really do is just ride the emotional roller coaster wave. Currently I am feeling productive again, at a measured pace and on my own terms of course because I don’t believe that productivity proves my worthiness. I am also ready to connect again which is why I have the energy to write to you. If you are also where I am right now, I encourage you to visit my new project Visible Women Space, which was still under development but has pivoted so I can serve during this time. Visible Women Space is now aggregating meaningful low to no-cost Seattle-based virtual events designed for support and authentic connection. Please visit the site to see if there are any virtual events that would be helpful to you during this time to ground and stay connected to others. More events are being added all the time. And if you are up for it, I would love for you to join me for virtual Coffee with Intention this Saturday, which I’ve decided to start back up for now after a year hiatus, to help us connect in an intentional and vulnerable way.

As all my wonderful friends who have reached out have said to me, hang in there. You are not alone.

This is from a personal journal writing shared in the newsletter and typically not shared on the blog. To read these, subscribe to the “I Matter” newsletter below.