Jan 3, 2021

I bought a planner for 2021. For several reasons I haven’t used a planner for at least 20 years; there are too many cute ones and it’s hard to pick one.  I couldn’t justify the cost when a combination of a wall calendar and my phones’ calendar seemed to work fine. And then what if I bought if and didn’t like it?? Some have all these “rules” of use that I found restrictive.

My sister is a great lover of Planners. She showed me several that she has… for 2021 alone. I began to feel like I could commit to a Planner. One in particular caught my eye; the “Seeing My Time Planner”. I have a habit of committing to lots of things and then feeling overwhelmed by what I committed to and then feeling shame for not being able to keep up with what I committed to. It’s a really (un)useful cycle.

The “rules” for this planner felt logical and doable for me even after I watched several video instructions that were emailed to me after I placed my order. I’m 4 days in and doing great so far!

Even when yesterday happened. On my planner I penciled in “unpack boxes from Mom and Dad’s”.  These boxes contained the items that I inherited from their house after they both recently passed away. When I returned home from burying Mom on the evening of December 1st, I put these boxes in the garage and left them there. I turned my attention to preparing for Christmas.

So January is here, I figured it was time to unpack those boxes. All the Christmas decor is put away, it’s a New Year. It just felt right.

I had barely gotten into the second box when I unzipped a tote bag and saw a neck pillow. THE neck pillow. The one my mom used for the last 48 hours of her life. The one that kept her comfortable because she would not rest her head back against her bed pillow. She had developed pneumonia and a terrible cough, which rattled her fiercely and left her gasping for air. So my brother bought her that neck pillow and it worked beautifully.

Me and Mom. She passed away a few hours later. You can see the neck pillow to the left of my head.

It’s hard to explain what happened when I unzipped that bag and saw the neck pillow. It was almost an out-of-body experience; I gasped and was suddenly choked with tears. I stared at it for awhile. I stroked it, but I didn’t remove it from the bag. I knew immediately that I didn’t want to keep it. But I also knew that I needed to allow that wave of Grief to completely wash over me. I could not run away from it, even though I was tempted to because it did NOT feel good.

The rest of the day did not follow what I had written on my planner. The Grief did not care what was on my planner. I moved in a haze for several hours. I tried to make progress on the remaining boxes, and I did, sort of. Conversations felt foggy. I stared at my phone for awhile. I cried. and then cried some more.

I helped my daughter rearrange the furniture in her bedroom. That felt good. We had plans to go to a friend’s house for dinner and I waited until the absolute last minute to get ready to go. I considered cancelling, but I didn’t want to give Grief the kind of power that would cause me to resent it. Instead I invited it to come along to the dinner party.

When I went to bed, Grief wasn’t finished. I couldn’t control the tears, so I just let them flow onto my pillow. I explained to my husband, “I’m just really missing Mom today.”

Then I remembered my Planner; I still needed to plan for the next day. As I wrote, I caught my breath and the tears slowed. I looked to the future even though it was just one day away. I acknowledged that I could still wake up with Grief, and I was OK with that. It doesn’t feel great, but missing my Mom is actually a wonderful thing.

Recently I read in the book, Burnout, The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, that there is such a thing as a Stress Cycle, and if that cycle isn’t completed, the stress gets stuck within us. There are actions we can take to complete that cycle, even if the stress happened years ago – even if we’ve eliminated what caused the stress – we still have to allow the stress to complete it’s cycle within us.

There are several ways we can help our bodies process and complete that stress cycle; exercise, affection, meditation, and creative expression to name a few. But this part really stood out to me:

“Because you experience stress every day, you have to build completing the cycle into every day. Make it a priority, like your life depends on it. Because it does.”

When I woke up this morning, the memory of the Grief from the previous day was there, but the Grief itself was not. Cycle complete.

At least that one.

Much love,

P.S. Stress is good for us. Chronic stress is not. We face stressors EVERY day. Some affect us more than others. Begin by noticing the vibrations in your body when you feel stress, or any other emotion. That’s basically what emotions are; vibrations in our body. Sometimes they feel so terrifying we suppress or run away from them. Over time this avoidance manifests itself one way or the other and can cause debilitating health problems. Life Coaching can help you begin to peel away the layers of emotions you’ve been holding on to. Deep trauma requires Therapy rather than Life Coaching. I can help you determine which might be right for you. Schedule a Discovery Call with me here: https://meredithgcoaching.as.me/