For 2021, I chose to do better.  I sat down and looked at my overall life and knew that word resonated with me on a deeper level than perhaps I wanted to admit.  I’d been dealt more than my fair share of hurt over the past few years – I mean I’m 36 years old and have no living grandparents and have lost my mother-in-law and my mother, as well as numerous friends and family.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m blessed to still have what I do, but damn it I wanted and needed to feel the severity of that hurt, that loss.  I felt it non-stop for years.  It consumed me – daily. 

Growing up, I had always been the optimistic, overly talkative friendly type.  I got that from my mom – and goodness knows that as I age, I tell my ‘stories’ to more cashiers than I’d like to admit… I simply walk away and think ‘wow, I just pulled a Lola’ by telling some random stranger my entire life story when all they really wanted to do was ring me up for my cart full of crap.  But as the years of hurt and emotional hardships continued, I noticed that I was losing who I once was.  I didn’t initiate small talk with friends; I put my head down, got the task(s) done-ish and moved on.  I wasn’t the person who could make you smile on your bad day – I was too stuck in my own bad day to worry about yours.  It wasn’t intentional though, I promise.  I was just down the hole of darkness so far that I didn’t even notice you were there.

It was all dark – my heart was hurting, my brain was overwhelmed and annoyed at everything and I just did not care about myself or anyone else – except for those that I had lost.  It legit consumed me.  I’ve battled anxiety and depression in the past, so it wasn’t as though I was ashamed to admit it, but I just didn’t even care enough about myself to notice.  I was ‘going through the motions’ of life – getting the kids where they needed to be, working full time, part time and volunteering for just about anything.  It was all easier than dealing with what was going on when I was alone in that darkness.  So, for a long time, I just kept piling it all up – the emotions, the overwhelm, the ever-growing tasks and community commitments – because avoidance was far better and easier than acceptance.  

I’ve slowly started to ‘wake up’ over the past six months or so.  I look at pictures and I don’t recognize myself – from the lack of smile to the obvious weight gain.  There are honestly moments that I don’t even remember because I was not mentally or emotionally present.  I noticed that I hadn’t even taken as many pictures WITH my kids because I didn’t like how I looked.  I sat and thought about it – they don’t care how I look, they just love me – unconditionally – and someday will wish they had pictures with me in them so they can hold onto the memories – just like I do now in my mom’s absence. 

Just like that, reality hit me – hard.  I know that I need to be better for my kids, but I cannot do that until I decide to be better for myself first.  My girls (9 and 6) will not be young forever – they won’t always want to spend time with their mom and they most definitely will learn FROM me so I had best make sure I’m giving them the best me to learn from.  I finally followed through on talking to a therapist which in reality was simply following through on myself.  The first session was a huge eye opener for me on just how much I had hidden deep down in that hole. I was afraid I’d have nothing to say and would avoid the hard stuff but turns out I just opened the floodgate.  It made my random tell all’s to cashiers look like a literal anthill in comparison to the mountain I had just exposed.  After I hung up (as it was a virtual session thanks to our good friend COVID), I remember thinking how refreshed I felt but then thought well shit, what did I actually just tell her?! Did I really just air all of my dirty laundry to the world?! 

Yep, you betcha – but guess what? It was extremely necessary for me to start to truly be my better for myself and man did it help make me feel more like my former self little by little.  I’m a work in progress and I’m okay with that.  I’m taking the steps to be a better version of myself so that I can be better for my children, my family, my friends, my community and frankly just for me.  I can be that smile that brightens the room and that soul that senses when you need just a little extra to keep going.  Those attributes come from my mom and I’d hate to live in a world with even less Lola in it.  The tremendous losses that I’ve endured haven’t changed, the pain is still there, but I know now that I can continue to change how I let it affect me and how I, in turn, affect the world around me.  


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