As of yesterday night around 7 PM, I did not know how I was going to write this newsletter.
Excuse me for a brief session of whining: it has been A Week. The day after I got back from Sandra Day O’Connor’s funeral I started feeling crummy. By Christmas Eve, every muscle in my body hurt and this progressed into TMI gastric upset of no-fun dimensions. For a space of time, I couldn’t even drink tea without it hurting my stomach. I could manage hot water in a few sips at a time. I didn’t eat for 48 hours. (This was, by the way, COVID, yay?) And then, just as things were taking a turn for the better, my husband started feeling badly. At first we thought this too was COVID but after about twelve hours he told me he thought we needed to go to the ER to do an appendicitis rule-out, and since he is an ER doctor, I trust his judgement on that. So we spent about eight hours waiting in the ER.
But it is now this morning. He does not have appendicitis. I ate a whole bowl of soup with crackers. We were able to take the dog out for a short walk (and ball-throwing session). The sky was blue and there was snow on the ground. And for the first time in a very long time, I can stomach tea.
Smoove Cocoa is a lovely tea. It’s not the most complicated ripe pu-erh in the bunch, but it’s sweet and dark, and yes, it does remind me just the littlest bit of cocoa. It’s a perfect tea when your stomach is still just a little bit queasy, but you want to push it to be adventurous.
It’s a lovely reintroduction to tea after a break without.
Letting myself feel badly
A while back, I read Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (Amazon | Apple | B & N | Kobo | Google | Bookshop). The premise of the book (and this is a wild oversimplification) is that a lot of modern stresses don’t really have easy endings to them, and so we experience stress but never complete the stress cycle, and thus continue to feel the impact long after we should. The book then discusses strategies to complete the cycle of stress and help avoid the feeling of constant stress.
The first time I read it, I have to admit that I tried the strategies in it and they didn’t seem to work well for me.
It took me many years to understand that the reason they didn’t work for me was that not only was I not completing the cycle of stress, I wasn’t letting myself start it. I was raised in a very “no whiners” and “stop babying yourself” way. You shut up, you smiled, you took it. You did your best not to cry if things sucked, and if you did, you stopped as soon as possible and you felt ashamed for having had a negative emotion. Negative emotions were selfish, demanding things.
It took me far too long to figure out that if I didn’t actually let myself experience the emotions I was actually having, they would simmer underneath the surface, hidden and waiting to come back with an inexplicable vengeance.
So this week, I did let myself feel badly. It does actively suck to be vomiting on Christmas! It is really awful to spend the day after Christmas in the ER. These things are bad and stressful, and I don’t have to play the “well, shut up, because other people have it worse” game with myself.
Today I got to go on a walk. I got to watch my dog run in snow. I got to have some really delicious tea and feel the sun against my face. Today is a nice day, and I also have this.
And I can feel how good those things are today because I let myself feel how much the prior days sucked enough to acknowledge that yes, this stress was real…and then I can let it go.
A Kiss for Midwinter
This little novella has remained one of my favorites for years and years after it was written, in large part because the cynical Jonas makes a challenge to Lydia, who is constantly cheerful: let him introduce her to three people, and see if she can say something good about them.
Ultimately, it’s about being able to face the worst in yourself, looking it head on and saying… yes, yeah, you. You’re actually great and lovable.
(Also, this is probably one of the few romance novellas to ever be cited in The Michigan Law Review, a thing I made true by admittedly citing it myself.)
The older I get, the more I realize that the mission of loving others in this world is not at odds with the mission of loving myself—that I am not being selfish by meeting very basic needs, but instead, freeing myself to love others.
I don’t mean this in the sense of needs that feel closer to a consumerist “purchase this for self-care,” which is a different story and more convoluted.
I mean it in the very basic sense of treating myself as if I were a friend to myself; saying “wow, that is rough” when a time is rough and “hey, good job” when I do a good job. When I do those things, it helps clear my emotional field, and that, in turn allows me to have more patience and space for others. The basic act of acknowledging myself as a human being helps me be a better human being.
It is not easy undoing things you learned alongside speaking, but I am making my way there.
Until next week!
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