The Monday in March That Started It All.

For most people March means the welcoming of Spring & St. Patricks Day. But for me, March will always make me pause, make me look around and think about all the different ways my life could have gone. Three years ago on a random March Monday our world flipped upside down. I thought I was taking my husband to the ER for an unmanageable migraine. In the hours that followed, his mentation deteriorated, I held my 10 month old son, and watched as my coworkers work fervently trying to figure out what had caused my high functioning husband to suddenly become unable to finish sentences, use his hands, or even follow commands. I sat beside him as a machine breathed for him, in the same room I had cared for countless intubated patients over the years. Stunned that this was my reality.

About a month after Chris’ “outage” as we jokingly refer to it now, I did write a post about our experience with viral encehphalitis, you can read it here . It’s funny because there are similar threads, thoughts on immense gratitude for life but reading it now it’s clear that at the time I thought “welp processed that, time to move on”. I refer to Chris’ recovery in the past tense, when in reality it would be over a year before he truly felt like himself again. And I would spend the year having intense flash backs and resisting attempts at truly processing it. Perspective baby.

I wish I could say that those nights in the ICU were the hardest part but the weeks and months that followed would be far more arduous. The get well flowers wilted and life outside our apartment walls went back to normal but inside I felt shell shocked. I was on edge wondering if every bout of dizziness or return of a headache was the start of Chris’ encephalitis returning. In the midst of balancing the household responsibilities and caring for our ten month old son the trauma loomed over us. At the time, I remember mostly saying “I don’t wanna talk about, let’s just move on”. Spoiler alert – you can’t just move on from your trauma without ever processing it.

I resisted for so long, thinking the walls I was building up would protect me. My decade as an ER nurse has been a masterclass at keeping trauma at arms distance, emotionally detaching myself from immense sorrow. It’s how us nurses are able to go from compressing a lifeless chest one minute & doing a vision test the next. A skill that I’ve since learned should be used with measure. When it came to this, the more I turned away the more it hurt. As much as I yearned for everything to “be normal” again it wouldn’t be. And that was the point. This was meant to transform us, if we’d let it.

I started recognizing that even though I didn’t want to “relive it” I already was, and it was happening out of my control (usually at work). Those memories seared into my brain, played like a movie with crystal clearness. I would get flashes of what happened that day, my coworkers sprinting around. The looks on peoples faces. The same hallway I walk dozens of time per shift, that I sat and sobbed in, all those memories loomed under the surface, red hot. About a year ago I was transferring a patient to the ICU. The patient was going into the same room Chris had been in. When I crossed the threshold in an instant I was taken right back to being at his bedside. The first two nights I had ever spent away from my son. As I wheeled my patient waves of overwhelming heaviness and fear washed over me. Fear of not knowing what life would be like when he was extubated. Wondering what would he remember, how much PT would he need, how far from baseline would he be starting at? Would I suddenly be caring for my son & my husband? All the feelings and fears I never allowed myself feel in real time because I was flexing my detachment muscle as hard as I possibly could.

That night I went home and wrote. I wrote about what it felt like to walk back into that room, I wrote about my fears, I wrote about the last twelve months. I wrote about things I didn’t even realize were below the surface. Some of which would be the skeleton of this post. My younger self used to fill journal after journal growing up. That habit abruptly stopped when nursing school took over my life. Writing in journals suddenly felt juvenile, like something I did only as a kid, before I had real problems. But here I was watching the words pour out of me. Chris’ encephalitis albeit life altering and terrifying has been the single biggest catalyst for change for not only Chris but myself as well.

This transformation certainly didn’t happen overnight, and in writing this, I know it is still ongoing. In some ways this experience feels like yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago. It isn’t until you’re met head on with life’s raw fragility that you’re faced with either growing and evolving or hiding away. I could have continued to turn away, continued to say “I don’t wanna talk about it or relive it” but I’m convinced I wouldn’t have grown. Instead, eventually, I turned into it.

Right away we prioritized physical health – Per his doctors recommendations we did the Whole30 diet to figure out what had caused his body to be in such a hyper-inflammatory state. Chris embarked on Neuro Physical Therapy. I leaned into my at home workouts that I knew were keeping me from totally losing it. We slowed way down. Chris started talk therapy, and I actually agreed to open up about my experience. We discovered our enneagram types and recognized the role they played in our relationship, our daily lives and the way we communicate with one another. I started writing again. And last year I started meditating. Sitting with my thoughts, creating space and stillness has opened entire new worlds for me. I started intentionally choosing to use that experience to shape my life going forward. I recognized that through bettering myself, through facing my trauma I could help others.

This March I felt a very strong pull to lean back into things that bring me genuine happiness. I bought a doodle pad, I dusted off my sewing my machine, I’m reading books that make me laugh and cry. I’m posting here more! I’m planting flowers in every open space in our yard. I’m filling journals again, I’m overcommitting to projects (because I secretly love that)!

So this morning, this March Monday, I’m up before the sun. I’m giving my mind the gift of pausing. I’m moving my body and overall I’m thankful. Because even thought it may not seem like it it. It’s all connected. Your gifts, your circumstances, your purpose, your imperfections; your journey, your destiny. It’s molding you. Embrace it.

21 in 2021

Nearly all of us have made New Years resolutions only to watch them fizzle out before February. The end of the year can stir up all kinds of feelings. Whether your year was filled with great change, new additions to your family or maybe your year was filled with setbacks or grief, or maybe like most of us, a little of both. Sometimes it can be hard to look back and try to set goals especially if maybe your goals haven’t changed much. I love reflecting on the year, and thinking about what I want to take forward with me into the new year, but the idea of making resolutions is kinda bleh. A few years ago I was listening to a podcast where they shared the idea of instead of making resolutions creating a list for the year (20 for 2020, 21 for 2021 etc). Often times resolutions don’t strike us as fun things, although they certainly could be. The list is a way to reframe resolutions. You can fill your list with anything you want. Maybe it’s a list of 22 recipes to try this year, or 22 hikes. Or maybe it’s a list of half fun half tasks. They even suggest leaving a few spaces blank so you can fill it out with throughout the year when you get inspired. I personally like to fill my lists with some fun things, a few larger goals for the year, and easy things that I’ve been putting off but that can be crossed off in a day. The goal isn’t necessarily to get every single thing crossed off the list. It’s more just about thinking of what you’d like to accomplish in the year and adding some whimsy! I figured I would share both my 2021 & 2022 lists to give some inspiration!

21 in 2021

  1. Take the boys to the snow!
  2. Go to the dentist – did this with 8 days left in the year!
  3. Night away with Chris
  4. Take the boys to the beach
  5. Meditate / gratitude daily
  6. Take Will on day dates (I want to do more of this in 2022 – we only did a handful of these this year)
  7. Read 10 books (currently reading book # 10)
  8. Create 2020 photo book
  9. Holiday photo frames
  10. Get family photos taken – had these scheduled but bad weather had us cancelled. 2022!!
  11. Swim lessons for Will
  12. Have a spring garden
  13. Get vaccinated
  14. Host at our house
  15. Redo boys closets
  16. Find a PCP
  17. Go to Yosemite
  18. Less than 5 hours screentime / day
  19. Get Johnathans birth certificate
  20. Hike LimeRidge – This was a 2020 roll over! Made it happen this year.
  21. Overnight BFF trip – This did not happen this year but will happen in 22!

22 in 2022

  1. Get family photos taken
  2. Read 12 books
  3. Trip to NYC
  4. Redo front yard landscaping
  5. Day dates with boys
  6. Switch to clean makeup
  7. Run a 5k
  8. Go to the dermatologist
  9. Find a PCP
  10. Do 3 Day Refresh
  11. Get pictures off old macbook
  12. Do a 30 minute meditation monthly – I want to push myself to sit in stillness longer this year.
  13. Take boys to Tilden / BADM 3x
  14. Plan and Plant a spring / summer garden
  15. Pay off mazda
  16. Take Juno on weekly walks
  17. Make an album of now
  18. Paint master bath / add shelving
  19. Take a social media Sabbath each week
  20. Go to a National Park
  21. Try therapy
  22. Shiplap entry way

I’d love to know how the ending of a year makes you feel? Do you enjoy reflecting on the year? Is it hard to come up with resolutions? Or do you take a spin on resolutions and do something whimsy filled like a fun list?

I think most of our lives are more complex than just “good year” “bad year”. 2021 for me was filled with seeing more family, getting to take our boys on adventures, finding a new world of calm and presence through meditation. Turning inward and looking at barriers and old wounds that are holding be back from being the happiest version of myself. There were also moments of grief and struggle. We lost my cousin this year. And in October I laid with my son in a hospital bed for 70 hours while doctors decided if he needed to go to the ICU. None of us are immune to the sorrow that life will inevitably throw at us, but we are capable of looking for light & allowing that light to come in. I’m always brought back to a quote by Milan Kundera from his book The Unbearable Lightness of Being “The heavier the burden the closer, the closer our lives become to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. what then shall we choose? Weight or lightness”. No matter what 2021 brought to you, I hope you are able to find light & take that light in 2022 with you!

Cheers to a New Year! Oh & if you make a list I’d LOVE to see it!