I read because I love stories. I love being transported into another person’s world and perspective. Occasionally, reading helps me understand life. Last week I was finding respite from the chaos of real life, reading Sarah Gailey’s new book When We Were Magic, when I came upon this gem:
Paulie pats my thigh. “It’s okay,” she says, “It’s okay to be upset at upsetting things.” I’m struck by the sentiment. “It’s okay to be upset at upsetting things,” I repeat, and Paulie taps her fingers on my knee in a pattern I don’t follow.
Anyone else had a rough couple of weeks? Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with arthritis in my left knee. The constant ache and sharp pain waking me up in the middle of the night had a name. My daughter didn’t make her middle school soccer team. Last year when I asked her why she played soccer she told me, “Because I want to play in middle school.” One dream crushed, she rebounded to play brilliantly in a club tournament , but lost in the finals. This all happened before I knew it was okay to be upset at upsetting things.
Last week was finals week. This was the first quarter in my almost three years of graduate school that I took two classes. For ten weeks I’ve been a demon. The pull of work, parenting, sports, pets, life, plus two graduate school classes – Geodatabases and Advanced Geospatial Statistics – was a grind. I was awful to my friends. I was negligent to my family. I was a drag on my projects at work. Everyone had been warned that this was going to be unpleasant, and it was on everyone.
If I finished successfully, I was going to celebrate. With those two classes finished I would only have two more classes left before my degree was complete. I was going to go have a drink with friends. I was going to apologize to my family, maybe go get ice cream. There were going to be donuts at work. Pizza too.
I finished Saturday, March 14th. No one went to the office on the 16th. There was no one to celebrate with. Getting ice cream with my family seemed irresponsible. COVID-19 hit and social distancing had started and my ten horrible weeks was transitioning into a different unknown horrible with an unknown timeline, but by then I’d finished Gailey’s book. I was angry and annoyed and frustrated, but I knew it’s okay to be upset at upsetting things.
Now, I sit in the same horrible chair I sat in for 10 weeks doing homework and I wish things were different. I wish my knee didn’t hurt. I wish my daughter had known the joy of making the team or winning the tournament – especially now when soccer looks unlikely until fall. (Please, let there be soccer in the fall.) I don’t wish I would have been kinder during my 10 weeks of school, because I just don’t work that way, but I do wish I could have had a moment of joy. Sharing with others the accomplishment that I’d done something really hard really well: 99.4% average between both classes – a not humble brag.
I wish my kid could see her friends. I wish I could see my friends. I wish my dad took the health risk of this disease more seriously. I hate that I have to keep sitting day in and day out in my homework chair, but now it’s my office chair, my school chair, my writing chair. It’s the only chair my butt is going to reside in for weeks? Months? But I am so grateful for the escape of books. That I can go to world where life is different. Where I can find wisdom from a bunch of magical teenagers:
“It’s okay,” she says, “It’s okay to be upset at upsetting things.”