121: it’s not just you
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Today I turned on the podcasting mic and decided to talk about two things that have been on my mind lately: a) “it’s not just you” – everyone is struggling, even if it looks different and, b) none of us have been in this particular place before.
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Over the last week or so, a couple things have happened.
- I’ve received several emails from y’all talking about struggling with life, struggling with people, struggling with “all of this”.
- I’ve been watching how people in my life deal with stuff and things in different ways.
Ok, friends. Let’s talk.
1. It’s not just you
Things are hard right now for a lot of people. People are tired. Stressed out. Depressed. Pissed off. Struggling. Frustrated. Exhausted. Lost.
Do you feel me?
Nobody has “it” in them. What makes it worse is that nobody has it in them to deal with the fact that nobody else has “it” in them. Now that the distraction and drama of the election is over people are thinking… now what? Things were supposed to “change”, regardless of who was elected, and yet so many people aren’t feeling any big shift.
I’m not talking about politics here. I’m talking about the mood. The energy. The general feeling out and about (or online).
I had a cashier yell at me in the checkout line last week because she didn’t like how I had stacked the dog food on the conveyer belt.
(Sit with that for a minute.)
And the more I thought about it, I realized you guys, that is nothing about the dog food. That’s about a long term employee, 60ish years old on her last nerve for a thousand different reasons who is ready to break because the guy before me had yelled at her for taking too long checking out his food. And she’s probably wondering why do I work in a town where they don’t have self-checkout so I have to deal with all these crabby people?
We are all struggling with something and we are losing the ability to deal with the fact that other people are struggling because we are struggling too.
Struggling looks very different in different people. It is not just “I’m sad” or “I’m angry” or “I don’t want to get out of bed” or “I fly off the handle”. There are many ways that people show they are struggling. Sometimes it shows itself by acting like you don’t care because nothing bothers you or you look down the end of your nose at someone else’s issues.
I recently saw a mom on social media overwhelmed by distance learning and working from home and struggling with bills and in the comments of her very raw, honest post, there was another mom who said “so, you’re basically just struggling with being a mom? What about all those other people out there who have been working from home and homeschooling before the pandemic?”
Some people might think this comment was trying to bring some “perspective to the conversation”. As in, hey girl, you’re not the only one.
But my gut feeling is that’s not what the comment was for.
And my guess is the comment didn’t help the person who posted.
And my guess is the commenter is struggling with her own stuff.
Here’s the thing: when we are all struggling we forget how to act like decent human beings.
In the pandemic (or whatever you choose to call it), people’s lives have changed. And people are dealing with the fact they have changed.
And I can already hear you. “Yeah, life changes. That’s what happens. So what, snowflake?”
Let me pic up the mic again, for the people in the back: there are two different ways to go about “yeah, well life changes”.
a) It changes. Shut up. Suck it up. Get over it.
b) It changes. Let’s talk about it, let’s deal with it, let’s be honest about the fact everyone is dealing with it, and let’s figure out how to get through this together so the whole world doesn’t burn up around us while we’re fighting about who has a more stressful life or who has more to deal with?
I have always been someone who is very active on social media across various platforms and what I’ve felt over the last month is that much of it has become a ghost town. I don’t know if this is your experience as well, but I feel like so many people are just “I don’t know what to say anymore”. I see it on MeWe, I see in Facebook, I see it on Twitter, I see it in the specific spaces within those networks that I used to hang out — they are just very, very different lately. So many of the people who used to talk and bring the spice and the joy… just aren’t anymore.
We need lighthouses. We need the people to be lights. But sometimes lights get tired.
Can you blame them?
This not political. I’m talking about the mood. I’m talking about what’s going on beneath the surface, what’s swimming underneath all of this.
It’s been almost a year since all of this began and we were strung along with the it will get better carrot in front of us. Now people are realizing this is a longer term thing than we first thought.
Example: If you’re a musician, you’re probably not playing live gigs right now. And for awhile it was like “okay, we can do this, at least we have online options.” But it’s been a year, and yes they have options, but it’s not the same as being able to just go out and perform live. Which is what lots of musicians enjoy about being…you know, musicians.
And they’re being told just deal with it.
And they will.
But it’s not the same.
But this isn’t just musicians, these are people across the board who had changes happen in their life and they’re wondering if they will get back to the way things were, or if “the new normal” is going to be something they even want to participate in. Do I need to pick a new path? Okay. But then we have more changes and forks and questions and answers.
And you file all that frustration and hurt and loss in your body with every other thing that has changed and that you’re being told to just deal with and that’s why you freak out that grocery store doesn’t have any parsnips in stock.
Is it right? No? Is that the best way to react? No. But does that matter?
You guys, it doesn’t matter if it’s right. It’s what’s real. It’s just what’s happening right now.
“Just deal with it, snowflake. Life changes.”
Yes, sir. I mean, I’m sure you’d understand if the pandemic came along and you were told there could be no more…um… “in-person romantic relationships” so you would just have to hold off. It’s fine. Lack of cuddles and romping around together shouldn’t be a big deal because, like, you have pictures you can look at, right?
Just deal with it.
And you will deal with it. But you will also squash a lot of anger and frustration and thirst and depression because everyone around you is pretending it’s not a big deal, and what we really want to do is just get in bed with our partner.
And everyone squashing all that anger and frustration and thirst and depression comes out in totally different ways. But it comes out.
Multiply that by a trillion and I feel that’s what we’ve got going on right now.
So what do we do?
Do what gets you through. If what helps you is to hyper focus on a project that really doesn’t need to get done but that’s what your brain can focus on right now and it keeps you busy, do that. And realize that if you have someone in your life that is hyper focusing on a project that doesn’t need to get done but that’s the thing that keeps their brain busy right now, THAT MIGHT BE WHY THEY ARE HYPERFOCUSING ON THE PROJECT RIGHT NOW.
If watching videos on TikTok that make you laugh so hard you actually think you might need medical attention because you get a cramp in your side from laughing so hard, do that.
If putting pink and purple streaks in your hair makes you happy, do that.
Struggling is not an excuse to act like a jerk but it sure explains why it happens.
2. None of us have been in this place before:
None of us have been where we are at the age we are in the situation we are in right now. And the way we process things, the way we deal with things is NEW to us.
I’m not saying you haven’t been through things in your life, we’ve all been through things. I’m saying you have never been through the place in your life that you are right now.
Which is to say that all of us are learning. Every single day.
I’ve never been married for 20 years before. I’ve never been the mom to an almost 18 year old and an almost 17 year old before. I’ve never been almost 42 years old and reassessing what I want to do with my life. I’ve never before been a friend, a mom, a wife, a writer, a daughter a year into a pandemic.
We think we’re supposed to know how this goes.
You think you’re supposed to know how to react.
You think you will know how you’re going to react.
You don’t know that until it happens. You don’t know how you’re going to deal with the thing until the thing happens and you deal with it.
And no one else does either.
We are all in the same boat and we’ve never been on this body of water before.
Experience can be a teacher. It can be a guide. Hopefully it tells you when you to use oars to push yourself along and when to just float. But experience is not an absolute. And we all screw up. In 5-10 years when you look back on this time you will probably realize there are lots of things you messed up or things you would have done differently.
And that’s okay. Because you know what? You’re human. And this is all new.
Allow each other the space to be human. It’s the only way we can help each other be better humans.
— Amy Dingmann 2-8-21
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