A Butterfly Spirit

Hi, friends. A lot has happened in the last two weeks, but I don’t want to talk about most of them. Most of them are minuscule and irrelevant at this point in time. This is not to diminish my experiences, but rather to express the fact that I’ve experienced a great loss this week. A loss changes your world, alters your perception, and minimizes all else around you. This past week my supervisor, my work advocate, my friend passed away- Vilma.

She was the light during one of the darkest times in my working life. I would work with her often and sit in her office. She had the worlds softest giggle that made things just seem like they would be okay. Vilma was an employee for 31 years, so her knowledge of the job was invaluable. I would often sit with her as she described what the role was like ‘back in the day’ and all the major changes along the way. During this time of uncertainty she would always say “Sarah, I’ve seen some really hard times here before. We’ll get through this.” She shared stories of her youth, how she would always leave her hair long and natural like I do and would only wear skirts and dresses, unlike I do.

We would often sit laughing at the fact that she had an iPhone 6 that refused to hold a charge. She would say to me “Sarah, come look at this. It’s at 15% and I haven’t used it all day!” I would ask her why she didn’t just get a new phone all the time and she always said, “eh, it still works though. Why would I get a new one?” And we would both giggle. She told me she loved her phone before this one and would still have it to this day if it didn’t shatter in her hands. We laughed at how the pieces of her old phone just broke. She thought it was a defect in the way it came apart. She made it clear to me thought that she didn’t need anything fancy, she just needed things to work. I admired this about her.

She also had a love for sweets. On my lunch break she would often give me her Starbucks gift card to pick her up a Frappuccino to help her get through the day. The last few times I worked with her I also would grab us both lunch to ease her need to walk far. Through this I learned that she loved Italian subs, with extra mayo, and Cole slaw on the side. She would also always want me to grab her a shake, but last minute would say- no I don’t need that, maybe next time. I wish I got her the milkshakes anyway. She would make hot cocoa in the break room, even on hot days when she needed a “quick fix”. Her face would light up when our coworkers would bring in donuts or bake sweet treats. I loved to see her smile.

She talked to me a lot about her family. It was clear she loved her family more than anything in the world. I got to hear stories of her father who worked in fancy hotels, and the stories he would tell her and the way he watched the landscape of New York City change over time. She spoke of her parents unending energy, even as they aged. She told me how much she hopes to have that much energy when she gets older. I wish I was right when I said “I bet you will, it runs in your family.” She should’ve have gotten that chance.

Her room was a spectacle and every patient that entered would say “I love all your decorations.” I wish I could’ve taken credit, but I’d always respond with “unfortunately, it’s not my room, but it’s my favorite room to work in.” Vilma was a big fan of tchotchke’s many of which she had collected over the years of working. I could spend hours sitting in her office discovering things I had no idea were there before. My favorite was a sign that read ‘kindness is always free” something Vilma always lived by. It sat across from where our patients sat, so I always wondered if it also served as a reminder for those sitting in that chair. Not that they would need it- Vilma was so kind it just radiated and permeated those around her.

Over the last few days I went from sadness that took over my entire body, to anger, to complete numbness. I knew writing this post would help me break out of feeling numb and enter a stage of feeling complete luck for having known such a beautiful person (while also feeling continued sadness). Writing and talking about my memories just reminds me that she was right when she said “I’ve seen some really hard times before. We’ll get through this.” The thought of getting through this without her is hard to imagine, but I know I can. She has given me strength over these last few months and will continue to be a guiding light for me. She may be gone, but her warmth, kindness, and maternal energy will always be with me.

I hope wherever you are, Vilma, there are endless shakes and sweets. I love you.

A[wo]men

your voice,

a memory.

ingrained forever-

soft,

gentle,

calm.

-a butterfly spirit

An Exercise in Grounding

Wassssup (entering old school today- tongue out and all).

I think we are all aware that the world is, well, to put it gently, “off”. Now, I could spend the next hour writing about how I am feeling and all the scary ideas that are running through my head. Most typically, this is exactly what I would do. I would want you to know your aren’t alone in this and we are all going through it together. However, I don’t think that’s helpful right now. I think we are all feeling the unknown and we all have a better understanding of just how intense anxiety can feel. So, I thought it might be best to switch it up on the interwebz for a moment. You know, share something that isn’t all about a pandemic, or anxiety, or toilet paper.

I’ve been racking my brain over the last few hours trying to figure out exactly what that would be. What I could write about when my mind seems to be consumed with all of these things and more. What would help me to slow down and for a moment forget I’m alone in my apartment, unsure about the state of the world?

Gratitude.

It’s so simple, I am surprised it took me a few hours to come up with it. Just hear me out, I know that sometimes it is annoying when you are feeling one way and people are like “just think of all that you have”. Sometimes it makes me want to puke in my mouth. Sometimes I want to be angry and scared and petty and vent and not think about all the good. Sometimes things just suck and I want to sit in that suckiness for a bit. We have every right to do so. There are other times though that thinking about all I have can alter my mood in ways I never thought it could. When a brain is on fire and is able to say I am thankful that I have water to put it out- that, my friends, is power. A power that is free of cost and fills up time and is totally doable in, let’s say, a quarantine situation.

Today I will be making a list of 25 things that I am so incredibly grateful for today.

  1. The sun is shining, baby. Gettin’ that Vitamin D under my skylights as I am writing this.
  2. I have a place to live.
  3. There is food in my fridge, freezer, and cabinets.
  4. My friends are amazing. They check-in on me. They call me. They send me texts. They remind me that I am loved. I may be physically alone in this apartment, but I am definitely not alone.
  5. I have hobbies. I write and I dance and I run and all of these things keep me grounded.
  6. I am working. People still need our care and I am going to help provide that care for as long as I am able to.
  7. Netflix.
  8. Hulu.
  9. Disney+. (Yes, they all get their own separate numbers because that’s how grateful I am for each one.)
  10. My family group chat right now is straight fire. We even got a water challenge going so we all stay hydrated.
  11. Memers are on the top of their game. They say laughter is the best medicine and damn, Instagram has been saving lives with its pure comedic medicine.
  12. I have a washer and dryer in my apartment. Thankful for this on a daily basis.
  13. I am healthy.
  14. I have running water.
  15. Electricity.
  16. My awesome book collection is, well, awesome.
  17. Coloring books are a gift.
  18. Fat activists/diet school dropouts reminding me that it’s okay to eat. That I don’t need to prioritize weight loss in this moment or any other moment. And that sometimes food is comfort.
  19. Healthcare workers.
  20. Grocery store workers.
  21. Therapy. Talk about your feelings- get support.
  22. Soap. and subsequently-
  23. Lotion.
  24. Candles aka therapy of the aroma variety.
  25. I’m alive. And while life can seem so fragile, it’s that fragility that reminds us just how important it is to live it.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed right now, just check-in with your body. You are here and that is enough right now. Maybe you could make your own list. If 25 seems like too much, think of 1. Maybe you’ll start and not be able to stop. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll remember all you have right in front of you. Or maybe you’ll just want to sit it in the suckiness for a bit. That’s cool too.

If you are struggling with any of the things on this list, like lack of food or TP or essentials in any way please reach out to me. I may not be able to help out a lot, but I will do what I can.

Also, if you’re just looking for an ear, I am pretty good at listening, or so I’ve been told.

A[wo]men

i

love

you

-simplicity