Hello, I’m Karen and I am Doing My Best
Hi, my name is Karen.
If we haven’t met before, it’s lovely to meet you. If we’re previously acquainted, I’m happy you’ve found me again.
Right now the world feels … a lot. It feels messy and confusing and scary and hopeful and I honestly don’t know what to make of it all in this particular moment of our COVID-19 global pandemic.
Our world is in crisis. We are struggling. We all feel it. I feel it when I’m at the grocery store and cannot purchase a box of macaroni and cheese. I feel it when my kids tell me about their friends who won’t eat if they don’t go to school. I feel it with every email in my inbox telling me that my plans, our plans, have changed.
Life as we knew it is over.
The worst part, far worse than no macaroni and cheese, is feeling hopeless, powerless, afraid, vulnerable. Like what if I stay home and wash my hands, and everyone else does, too, and the curve doesn’t flatten? What will happen if we do our best and still get sick? What about my graduating senior? What about his AP exams, prom and graduation? What about the dreams I had and plans I made? What about our future? What will happen to the economy, my favorite sushi bar or my kids’ beloved vocal coach? What if this is The End? What if it’s not and then we go back right back to polluting the planet and making each other sick with our filthy, face-touching hands?
We can play the what if game for the length of our quarantines, sheltering in place and toilet paper shortage, and it won’t change a thing. Hopefully doing enough of the right things will make a difference.
In addition to hand washing and staying home, I’m going to do one more right thing which is writing – as often as I can and altogether and imperfectly human. There’s a lot of feelings out there and I feel them deeply.
I published my first book at the end of 2018 and it was a milestone and a whirlwind and an unprecedented opening from which I began to share the chill of the iceberg (not even the tip) of my life’s experience. To most of the outside world, my sweet little book would not likely be noticed and that’s not a bad thing. It was huge for me to use the power of telling my story to open a window to my soul and let people see inside – to an extent.
I had hoped that opening the window would give readers a peek inside my journey and discover their own spark of magic.
I held it together for so long, doing my best, taking a “shit happens, let’s move on” approach to my own life and healing which worked right up until it didn’t which I wrote about in the book; as soon as it hit the virtual shelves, that string I’d started to pull at began to unravel the entire sweater of me.
When I acknowledged my childhood trauma, abuse and neglect, even in the smallest details I felt okay to publish, I felt like I removed my skin. I am raw. The floodgates have opened. There’s no holding back anymore, no pretending I’m okay, and no more gritting my teeth and bearing the pain, or pretending it doesn’t exist or that I don’t need therapy. I wasn’t fine, I do need help, and every day I try to take better care of myself. Now, finally, I’m healing.
I hope this is true for our world, too.
I have been lonely. I have felt so alone I have convinced myself that my existence did not matter.
I contrived that my own relevance – if and when I wasn’t producing an outcome or creating something of value that justified my taking up a few inches of space on this planet – would simply cease to be.
I have sat with and contemplated this aloneness and I have emerged in a place of knowing that I’m unique just like everybody else and that the fact that I exist, my very being, doing my best, is good enough.
I used to believe that all stories were universal and that our stories and heroic journeys were what connected us, which is true to a point. But my stories are mine and yours are yours and a lot of times there’s not that much we have in common. What I’ve realized though as I’ve begin to explore the depths and vastness of my own journey, I recognize that it is not the stories that bond us, it is our shared feelings that bridge humanity.
I’m not here to teach you a process of contemplation or even offer a message of hope. What I can tell you is that I understand aloneness and when I tell a story some of the aloneness goes away, for you and for me. We feel, together, and that is enough. We get to be humans, scared, hopeful, anxious, grateful. Alone and together. Feelings are worth sharing.
I want to write and share and be a safe place to express what I feel, to play with pieces I’ve been working on for another book or not. To do this, I have to put aside a good number of fears, of being judged, rejected, mocked, shamed or ignored. I want to write like a journal, like I used to write anonymously as “jakelliesmom” in my early days of blogging way back in ’06, polished but unfiltered, not concerned about being perfect as inspired to be present and real. I’ll do my best.
I noticed as I reviewed this piece that I repeat the words “right now.” I have a favorite old blog post published on a Wednesday ten years ago that didn’t make it into my book and feels worth sharing again.
Right Now – 2010-05-19 12:41
Right now, I am sitting on a blue couch in my home office. I am still wearing my pajamas even though it’s almost noon. I am listening to my children shuffle around, one fighting with her closet door, the other deep in a sigh.
Right now, I am cognizant of the clicking of my nails against the keyboard of my laptop. My hands are dry, reacting to the attempts at removing stains from my daughter’s school clothes. They are sticking to the computer, reacting to the change in temperature against the warmth of the battery. Right now, I am wondering if I am causing myself some kind of harm from sitting under the battery of a laptop. Right now, I don’t really want to find out.
Right now, I hear the sounds of the neighborhood, trash can lids slamming against their hard plastic basins, the wheels rolling against uneven pavement. I decide that these are the Wednesday sounds of working from home, but then acknowledge that it is merely my experience of the sound of this particular moment. A car passes.
Right now, I am concerned that if you are reading this, you are wondering, “What is the point?” I am wondering that, too. I hear a sound from above. Is it a bird on the roof or a rat in the attic? I am choosing to believe it is a bird.
Right now, I am missing my husband, for whom I’ve found a new appreciation since we now share the same working space, our home. I am grateful for the changes we have made in our lives that have taken us from working for employers to forming a professional partnership together and piecing together our strengths into a new collaboration. I am hoping he is able to surprise the children at their swim lessons later today. I am amazed at how much progress they have made in a year. I realize that I use the word “amaze” and its various forms ALL THE TIME. I consider that if there is a word to overuse, “amaze” is pretty cool, because it does reflect the awe with which I see the world and its infinite possibilities. Right now, I’m wondering if I’m sounding kind of woo woo. I use woo woo all the time, too. I am willing to be perceived as woo woo right now, but not always.
Right now, my stomach growled, but I know I am not hungry. I hear my son’s voice and wonder how soon the children will begin fighting over their game of Monopoly. I think about what it is to be the younger sister, and how kind her brother is to read to her instead of taking advantage that she does not yet read and making up rules to manipulate the game and her. I hear the tone of their voices change. I wonder if when someone is going to yell, “MOMMY!” I sigh and wait. I notice I am thirsty. My lips are dry, but not as dry as my hands.
Right now, I am hoping you are still reading because I think I’m about ready to make a point, though I am willing to believe that you will also get the point even if I don’t explain it. Right now is all we have. The story changes constantly, as does the mind’s interpretation of the circumstances. Right now, I have an instinct to push “Move to Trash” instead of Publish. I think there is a better way to make this point. I think I may write that another day. I consider that there are myriad ways to make the same point and that it is a point to keep making.
I hear the dryer beeping from the garage below. I am wishing that the laundry would fold itself and find its way to “away.” I consider if the children have abandoned their board game. I hear an airplane overhead.
Right now, I am scanning the page to see if these words are good enough. I feel an emptiness in my stomach when I type, read, and think about “good enough” because I know so many who believe they are not. Right now, I wish them the opportunity to see themselves as I do. My boy sneezes.
Right now, I feel the beating of my heart. I look down and notice how gently my pajama shirt rises with each inhalation and exhalation. I am thinking this is as close to meditating as I’m getting today. I look at the clock. After noon now, and still, pajamas. I love their colors, white, light pink, darker pink and a deep pink that verges towards purple, the pink of an accidental pomegranate stain but it’s not. I think my toes should be one of these colors instead of the Smurfy blue I chose last week.
Right now, I have copied a Note from the Universe that sums up what I want to say.
Karen, in the time that it takes you to read this short Note, you could have planted a new image in your mind (anything you like, ideally with an emotional charge); I could have reacted (realigning planets, people, and the sort), and the floodgates would’ve begun trembling violently as we’d have been drawn infinitely closer to manifesting the vision you’d chosen.
Fortunately, there’s still time.
Right now, I have just read this piece, and made some significant changes that you’ll never see. Right now, I am hopeful that something has connected for you, that you, too, notice how quickly your thoughts change and how much influence you actually have in being present to everything that is around you; to allow for the kind of thoughts that will help you to create the life you want, the kind that makes you almost embarrassed to talk about because it’s so good and so aligned with everything that matters to you. I think about what the world would be like if all the inhabitants lived fulfilled all the time. I wonder if writing this will be a catalyst for a reader to make a big change towards finding their own light.
Right now, I am satisfied that writing something is better than writing nothing. I hear the mail truck accelerating, then slowing to a stop nearby. Right now, I am amused at the passing thought of writing all of my blog posts like this. I remember that a prescription is ready at the pharmacy and we are almost out of milk.