Taking the Bad to Fully Value the Good
As 2020 came to a close (thank goodness) I found myself reflecting more than ever before. A year that started off with so much promise and anticipated joy was muted by the woes of COVID-19, isolation, postpartum PTSD, and all the downstream effects. One day, I found myself actually muttering, "why does everything have to be so hard for me?" to my trainer, and a second later I instantly wanted to slap myself. I realized just how much I had let myself completely lose perspective amongst all of the internal and external chaos, and I have been reeling ever since.
Perspective is a funny thing and is perplexing how it fluidly shifts around due to the truly impactful events in our lives. I think of the "hard times" in my life and try to remember what I wanted more than anything in those moments. When my grandmother died I wanted a new safe, loving, consistent place to escape. When my parents divorced at 12 I wanted to have a good relationship with each of them completely independent of each other or any new significant others who might disrupt it. When I was 17 and my childhood love died in a car accident I wanted to find someone I adored that much again and to tell them how I felt. At 19 when I was diagnosed with cancer I wanted to be healthy enough to hang out with my friends and get a clean bill of health to be able to help others struggling with chronic illness. And this year when I had our miracle baby after expecting to never be able to get pregnant and miscarrying his twin, I was diagnosed with postpartum PTSD and I just wanted a clear brain to enjoy each moment with him and our friends and family in the same physical space.
That was a lot. And this would be a pity-party blog if I weren't as determined to grow from the trauma.
Having so much time as I've had during this past socially-distanced year, provided me with a chance to reflect and thus has been quite pivotal. I have realized when things get hard we have two options - dig deep and get through them or run away. I dug deep.
After digging so deep even when I REALLY don't want to, I have found this truth: - experiencing hard times always lends itself to making good times seem great. As cliche as it sounds, I implore everyone to do the same.
I'm not saying that it is easy - it is anything but that. The people who have been in my very tiny, safe bubble this year have seen me at my absolute worst and have heard me say things I wish to never have to feel again. I can honestly say that my postpartum experience during this pandemic has been harder than my cancer. The difference is that at least cancer struggles are becoming less and less taboo. Postpartum and anything that could potentially go along with it (sleepless nights, physical healing, changes in body image, anxiety, depression etc.) are still kept quiet. Moms don't even tell expecting mothers how truly HARD it can be as they think they would sound weak and ungrateful for the beautiful life they have brought into the world. Instead, we look at new moms and say "it's amazing, isn't it?" with a cute little nose-crunch smile or say "sleep now while you can!" as if the feeling of being well-rested can be compounded and stored in a jar on a shelf and opened in case of emergency. Never mind being a new mom while a pandemic is going on for the first time in a century. The "What to Expect" books certainly do not go over Zoom lactation consultations - they are literally everything your parents taught you NOT to do over the internet. If you don't laugh, you'll cry.
We can’t and shouldn't convert to hysterics to gloss over what happened this past year. There are loved ones we have lost, memories that we have all missed out on, and many, many smiles we haven't been able to give or receive thanks to masks. But maybe, the little things will start to mean more. Maybe we'll quit jobs that make us sick to our stomachs and trade them in for ones that have boundaries and allow for family time. Future get-togethers with family and friends won't be an imposition but a treat. Children will realize how lucky they are to go to school in person. We won't scrutinize waitresses and bartenders - we will just feel lucky to have service. Our heads will be clear enough to enjoy our baby's belly laughter. The grocery store will feel less like mission impossible and more like the first-world luxury that it is. We won't have to dig deep to find joy.
When I look back at all of those desperate “wants” during past traumas I realize I have every single thing I once craved, and I built it on my own. A safe place, good relationships with both of my parents, love, a cancer-free body, and the joy of motherhood. My point is, sometimes you have to take the bad to get - and fully value - the good. I think that is what I’m going to hold on to the most from this point out. If 2020 brought me anything, it was the gift of perspective. Things can be hard, but they will certainly be worth it. I hope everyone can hold on to that as tightly as I am as we move into a new year.
Photo courtesy of author.