When I took a Facebook break in November, friends asked if I was okay. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I said. “I just needed a break for my sanity.” But I wasn’t okay.
I removed that blue logo with a lowercase f off my phone. I spent a few minutes looking at cute kids on Instagram. I implemented Screen-Free Sundays at home (it was short-lived), cooking with Ethan. I unplugged. I had time to myself. There was a freedom to it, but with that freedom came all the feelings I had shoved to the side so I could stay afloat in a year that brought stress so intense in all areas of my life from work to friends, life to love, that I almost came undone.
So as the curtain closed on 2016, I finally let the darkness in and owned it. I let myself crumble in the corner of a steamy shower and cry. I let myself create a Thai Phi-sized ass groove on the couch and watch marathons of Gilmore Girls and Grey’s Anatomy. I let my great friend pull me outside for long walks to clear my head. I overslept, took days off, talked too much and, some days, too little. I fell back into bad habits when I feel like life is out of control. I binged. I purged. I got angry. I fell apart. But if you saw me outside, I smiled. It’s amazing what happens behind closed doors.
But much like my divorce, by confronting the darkness, I could move on and even see the light in it. So here, in random order, are my lessons learned over the last three months:
It is possible to eat and drink my feelings, and by the end of 2016, I could actually quantify it. My feelings from November through December weighed exactly 13.4 pounds. On a related note: I really missed my carbs in January.
As you watch one of your best friends go through surgeries, chemo and lose her hair, it’s hard to find the words, the words to tell her how much you love her, how much her friendship brightens your life, how the thought of losing her can catch you by surprise in those quiet moments alone in the shower or the car and crush you, how brave and strong you think she is, how you know she’s going to be okay, how you wish you could teleport halfway across the country at a moment’s notice. You have all these words mashed in your head, but then you spend a freezing cold December weekend in Wisconsin watching terrible romantic comedies in your pjs, eating an absurd amount of cheese and watching the snow fall outside and realize that sometimes that’s enough.
When your friend tells you not to check the weather before you head to Wisconsin and “just pack layers,” it is not a good sign.
It’s an even worse sign when said friend texts you a day before the trip, “Don’t worry, Wisconsin airports only close for blizzards.”
Your kids may say something they can’t unsay, words that will worry you and break your heart. You fear those relationships will never be the same, but we heal.
Having a teenager will give you heartburn, but it’s amazing—and slightly unnerving—to watch them become an adult, engaging in real conversations about issues around the world.
Do not drink too much the night before a race. This, unfortunately, is a lesson I have to relearn a lot.
I spent my birthday month donating to various organizations from the International Rescue Committee to a scholarship for immigrants. I know you can’t just throw money at a problem, but damn does it feel good.
When you let work bleed deeply into your life, you can’t be a good partner or parent.
When you’re with someone for years, it’s impossible to feel connected all the time, but when you both had previous marriages that began to crumble around the 7-year-mark, it’s hard not to panic when you’re nearing that same milestone.
The morning after the elections, I sobbed into Mark’s shoulder for a long time. He had to get to work earlier than me, but he never left until I mustered the energy to take a shower. A month later, when I talked about eventually saving thousands of dollars to help a refugee family settle here someday, he immediately supported me. And even though I spent weeks snapping at him while he was trying to wrap up his final grad school project, he held my hand as I melted down before we were about to head to the airport so I could see my friend in Wisconsin. When you have a person like that, no matter how disconnected you might be feeling at the moment, you hold on to him and fight for it.
Penn State is a cult. Seriously. That’s an intense love of school, people.
I may or may not just be jealous of Penn State because GW’s not allowed to have contact sports, but hey, we rock the political activism like a boss. (ADDED NOTE: Political activism feels a little like a contact sport these days.)
It’s possible to body shame yourself at 10:30 p.m. while lying in bed and, on a whim, Amazon Prime yourself a treadmill.
If you order a treadmill, Murphy’s Law says you will throw out your back bending over two inches to the left and be told by your doctor to stop running for a bit.
It’s entirely possible to get a lot of work done from the floor of your house, even while on Percoset.
Do not take Percoset and a muscle relaxer at the same time. You will write an email to your boyfriend that he will dub “serial killer grammar” because it’s full of typos, random middle of the sentence capitalizations and nonsensical word combinations.
Even when you’re surrounded by people, life can sometimes be lonely.
Keep in touch with your college mentors. No matter how old you get, they always seem to have the right words to say. Admittedly, it really helps if that person is a professional journalist.
Being the person that is supposed to always be happy can be exhausting.
There’s a divide in this country that I don’t know how to bridge, but we have to keep trying and at some point, we have to start listening. I’d like to say that I’m there, but if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not yet and a lot of you aren’t either.
I know the most badass, powerful women. I am in awe as I watch them mobilize.
You don’t realize how sad you really were until you rediscover your center.