Caregiving, Disability, StaceyFH

February 10, 2021

Mutually Exclusive Negative Nellies

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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My poor Nan. She was a Nellie – Ellen, to be exact. A Negative Nellie she was not. A Nervous Nellie – absolutely. But it almost hurts my hearts to tie her name to negativity in my title. So please read on and don’t think of my Nan. But you can feel badly for her, that two of her granddaughters have earned the title of Negative Nellies, for all their complaining this week in their blog posts.

I had drafted this post last week and set it aside until it was time to post it to the site. As Editor to the Willowjak site, it’s my responsibility to take a last look at all of the other writers’ posts and make any last minute edits. So when Steph (my sister) submitted her post Missing My PeopleI was a bit startled to read that her post had echoes of what I had written about. I didn’t have it in me to tell her because I was worried she’d withdraw hers, so here we are. If you are a daily visitor to our site, you might think some of it sounds very familiar. Us sisters often think in sync. This week we’ve proved it.

It shouldn’t really have to be said, but I’m going to say it anyway:

We, as in everyone, have the right to our feelings right now. Denying that this is hard doesn’t serve anyone. Guilting or shaming anyone for how they are feeling, expressing or processing their emotions right now, is not fair either – with the proviso that they best be staying and playing safe and not denying that COVID is real. Parents everywhere have been especially vocal with their pandemic fatigue and their overwhelming fed-up’ness with having their kiddos with them 24/7, especially with virtual school learning thrown in the mix. While all of our whining is going on, the media is reporting statistics of a rise of overdoses and declining mental health in children – in everyone. Proof.. for me anyways, that this isn’t Old World whining. I say Old World, because let’s face it, we’re in a whole new one now and everything has changed. People are hurting and so are our kiddos. Some are vocal about it, some aren’t. We’re all doing our best with what we’ve got. 

I’m a joy-seeker and when I’m not, I try my best to find the light so I don’t sink into dark. I don’t accomplish that by pretending everything is okay. I have earned the right to want an authentic life and after this pandemic, I should say that we all have. If we need to complain about the pandemic, about the lockdown, about our kids, our partners… do it. But I try to talk about those feelings while being kind. Without malice. While respecting any persons I am referring to. I spend each day with the intention that I will try to be positive, so I don’t sink deeper into dark.

There will always people worse off than me. It could be worse. This is true. 

But it shouldn’t have to mean that our pain isn’t real. Saying that I am at the end of my rope after having spent an entire year trapped in a house with two young men who I can’t let out of my sight – I can’t have a shower, get a full night’s sleep, let loose with a glass of wine – saying all of that does not mean I don’t adore my boys. Saying I’m tired of being locked up because my kids’ anxiety is causing unbearable behaviours does not mean I don’t care or appreciate front line essential workers, who don’t have the privilege of complaining about being locked down at home. Complaining about a pandemic while having gratitude for front line workers, they can happen at the same time. In this time in history, it seems that there is some kind of energy out there, determined to polarize our world into two opposing groups on every issue, every thought and every emotion.

Things CAN be mutually exclusive people! It is possible to believe two separate and very different things about ‘x’ at the same time, without forcing them to clash. Those feelings can all live happily together, or at least, live without battling each other. 

Now that I got that off my chest, let’s start with stating the obvious about my own experience:

This pandemic sucks. This lockdown sucks. Being a single mom is hard. Being a single mom to O and W during a lockdown in a pandemic that’s nearing its 1st year (Canadian) anniversary.. is so fecking hard and it sucks. Not having a person who’s ‘got you’ through all of this.. sucks the most of all. 

That’s the crux of it. I don’t like that I’m on my own. 

I am often alone with my thoughts for days at a time, without having a voice conversation with another human. Sometimes those days have turned to weeks. I speak to my boys, but they don’t converse back with me. It’s a quiet and lonely life and I have never ever felt this isolated or lonely in my entire life as much as I have in this past year.  

I don’t like that I don’t have a single person in my life who would put me first. Who has my back no matter what. A year into this pandemic and I’ve got less than a handful of people who consistently check in on me and the boys. We are at the point in lockdown when it feels that if I don’t reach out to people, I might as well have disappeared. I think it’s assumed that because I have a lot of online support, I have a lot of real life support. What muddies up the waters even more, is the fact that often, my only interactions with people are transactional conversations. Because at the moment, I am 100% dependent on others to help me with shopping and I need to constantly ask for help. I always have the feeling that people are sick of hearing from me because I’m so needy – I’m either blabbing their ear off, doing a verbal dump because I need to talk to another grown-up, or I’m asking for a favour. I feel like people were understanding of my position in life and my neediness when my ex and I first broke up, but they think I should have it handled by now. The reality is, the needs have only increased with my boys. It makes me weary to even think about how many more asks I will have to make of my friends in the future. It never ends. 

When I think about my loneliness, I think about all the others who are out there. All the seniors who are on their own and especially those who have lost their mobility and who were shut-in even before the pandemic. I think about all the caregivers who have a person with a disability, mental illness or medical condition that requires them to be shut in at home – likely feeling too guilty to even think their loneliness matters because the person they are caring for matters more. I think about all the new moms with littles who are isolated and in the thick of not even knowing their day from night with or without a pandemic to worry about. I think about people who don’t have the luxury of a home to feel lonely in, who don’t have family or friends to even feel rejected by. I think about the single moms who are just like me, who are lonely and tired as hell, who don’t have a person to lean on, or bounce ideas off of – who don’t have someone to relieve them of some of the responsibility every now and then so we can just catch our breath. 

When I think about all the others I don’t feel so alone. 

These feelings are all real. I feel them. But there are other truths too.

I have a lot to be grateful for and I’m not really alone. I do have people who check in on me. I may not be anyone’s number one, but I’m in their top 10. I may be lonely, but I have three boys who love me. And I’ve got two dogs that won’t leave my ankles and whose eyes follow my every move. I have calls I haven’t returned and texts I still haven’t read from people who were reaching out because I’m just too darn mentally tired. Pre-lockdown, I had invitations I declined. I may not be invited to outings or girls’ weekends and our family might not get invited to visit people’s homes, but I’ve got thoughtful friends who drop off surprise gifts on my doorstep and kind neighbours who plow my driveway. I’ve got a family of women young and old(er), who are always there when I need them and who love my boys so much. Our mailbox overflowed through the month of December when friends kept the mail coming for Owen and Will to cheer them up. Ironically, this family’s number one these last few months has turned out to be my ex, who has become a reliable visitor and has become the only adult I see on a regular basis. Nearly eight years after a break up, who would have ever thought an ex would be the one person you were counting on in a pandemic.

Those statements are all true. They are as real and valid as my feelings of loneliness. 

For me, I am at a stage of understanding that my only chance for balance and happiness is to accept that all of those feelings and truths exist together and I can choose not to dwell on the negative. I need to feel them because to ignore them only blows them up. 

So I’m a Negative Nellie who knows there are positives too and who is grateful for the life that she’s got. Who knows it’s possible for all those things to be true at the same time. 

Feel all the feels, People. There are no rules. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Stacey aka WillowjakMama

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  1. Steph says:

    It’s kind of creepy how you are able to steal all of the thoughts that are in my brain, and explain them better than I would ever be able to.

    • Stacey aka WillowjakMama says:

      More like you steal from ME! Poor Nan would be horrified by how much we complain. I don’t think she ever did – about anything.

  2. Deb P says:

    As the Debbie Downer of the pandemic, I fully concur with all these mixed feelings. Love you girl, and love how your brain works, and in sharing, how you remind me that I too am not a total fuck up for thinking of myself and my own (may be perceived as unpopular and selfish) feelings sometimes. Rock on mama.

  3. Amanda Coolman says:

    Well now, I just read Steph’s post and here I am reading yours. I have actual tears streaming here. It is true that we are all, at the core, more alike than we are different. And I like to call myself an, ahem, “realist”. You may not like how I say it (I admit I can be blunt but am too old now to pussyfoot around all the words), but I will damn sure try to help you. But you have written a few posts that have honestly, could have come from my own mind. (Like the one on Faith I am waiting to write because you and Laura did such wonderful posts and I didn’t want to feel like a copycat!) But I really loved this one. Life is too short to not feel all the feels. x

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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