When I was a little girl, I loved coloring books and could spend hours with my crayons, meticulously coloring between the lines. It didn´t require much thinking. The assignment was clear and I got the job done. If I simply stayed within those lines, all turned out well. Lately however, life is not as simple as coloring within the lines.
At this point, I can firmly say that I am done with COVID. But that shouldn’t be news to you, right?
EVERYONE. IS. DONE. WITH. COVID.
I think I can safely assume that we all agree on this one.
Currently in the Netherlands, 86.2% of the population is vaccinated.
A large group declines from taking the vaccine. It is a diverse group of people that have different reasons for not taking the vaccine. Tensions between the vaccinated and unvaccinated are growing. Now that flu season has kicked off numbers are spiking again and the government has issued a series of new measures to try and control the virus. The most important measures: keeping 1,5 meters distance (6 ft ); face masks in public buildings, schools and stores; the government strongly advises us to work from home and non-essential stores, gyms, theaters etc. close at 17.00 (5 pm). There has been growing unrest as some take their grievances to the streets and clash with the police in violent encounters.
Enough is enough!
Oddly, it is not the virus that makes me weary.
It is the people that I’m fed up with.
I don’t think I have ever experienced this much negativity and madness in my life. I have never seen more distrust. And I certainly know that I am privileged to be able to say so. I’m done with seeing how we treat one another. I don’t think I have ever seen my country this divided.
So here is what I am going to do to get through this crisis.
I’m going to respect other opinions. Even if I don’t agree with them. Even if their choices make me angry and I inwardly need to restrain myself from slapping that person in the face. I‘m going to respect them and assume the best. I will presume that we all are trying our very best to survive in the best way we think we can.
I’m going to assume that we are the same. That we’re trying to live by our beliefs and make the best possible choices for ourselves and our families. I’m going to believe that we still have much in common. I am not going to lose friends over this. I will keep my eye on the bigger picture. When this is all behind us, I want to be able to talk about what we went through with my neighbors and friends. We should be able to grieve and celebrate in unity.
I wasn’t going to write about this.
I was going to write about coloring books.
About how I used to love picking up a good box of crayons and coloring between the lines and how everything was clear and structured that way. Lately it feels like I am back in kindergarten, sitting nicely at a table with my coloring book and box of crayons and all the other kids are going NUTS. The teacher left the room and some of them started scratching across the coloring pages, others are scribbling on the table or doodling on the walls and some are just running around in circles stabbing each other with their pencils.
I just want to yell at them to CALM THE HECK DOWN.
But I realize that we are all different and we all deal with crisis in our own way. And that people need to do whatever it is that they need to do before the teacher shows up again.
In whatever way, they are coping.
When this is all over, I just want to be able to sit with my friends, at the same table, with our boxes of crayons.
Tell me, how are you (still) coping with COVID? How do you deal with vastly different opinions?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by our contributor in The Netherlands, Mirjam. The image used in this post, “Crayon Heart” by mjcollins photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and is used by permission from Creative Commons.
Sitting with my feelings
I consider myself a highly sensitive person.
Some might even call me too sensitive. I cry easily when I watch movies and get teary eyed when something moves me. If you would have asked me, I would have said, that I was totally in touch with my feelings
But it took a pandemic to realize that I wasn’t really processing my feelings: I was simply DEALING with them.
Oh, I was GOOD at dealing with my feelings.
I stomped around the house when I was angry, ranted about my grievances, had heart to heart talks ‘at’ my husband and retreated in my bedroom when I was feeling really sad.
All of that for a brief moment, than I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and it was business as usual.
Because I was REALLY GOOD at dealing with my feelings, getting over ‘it’ and wiping my single tear away.
There was a lot tugging at those bootstraps, as I occasionally shoved a bag of chips down my throat before breakfast or decided to kill all my extra time, by binging Netflix series. Sometimes I felt an awkward lump in my throat or a heaviness in my step, but I just kept on stepping until I was, once again, OVER IT.
I was doing GREAT.
The pandemic gave me a new perspective on myself. My rollercoaster of a life came to a halt. I was in between jobs and stuck in a house with my family. And it was quiet. No job appointments, no social gatherings, no family outings. I had all the time in the world time to take care of myself.
In the absence of all those demanding voices, I became aware of my own silent cry.
“You know that bad experience you had? You haven’t really processed that, you have just moved on. You’re still full of anger, frustration and grief and you are carrying it all around in your body. You smile but the corners of your mouth are getting heavy, like those bootstraps you keep pulling on.”
I started to listen to what my feelings were trying to tell me. I allowed sadness, discomfort and anger to show their faces.
Now, it’s becoming okay to sit in the discomfort of negative feelings. I’m allowing them to exist.
I sit with my feelings, I process, I heal and then, when it’s time: I move on.
Let’s be real with each other: what are your healthy and/or unhealthy ways to deal with negative feelings? I would love to hear about it!
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Mirjam Rose of the Netherlands.
Photo credit to Sophie Burden. This photo was actually taken on a walking tour of Delft, Netherlands when World Moms, Mirjam Rose and Jennifer Burden, met with their children in 2018!
I worry about you.
I worry about not being the best mother for you.
About not giving you what you need.
I don’t have a manual.
All I have are my instincts, my feelings and my love for you.
No one tells me that I am doing a good job.
But there are plenty of hints and questionable looks suggesting that I am not.
So I worry.
My mind floods with fear that you might need more.
Something, someone to help you flourish.
And I worry that my love for you is not enough.
I carry this load and observe you daily, in silence.
I sigh of relief when I see you smiling and enjoying yourself.
My heart cringes when I see you struggling.
I’m afraid to share my thoughts, my worries.
To speak out about my growing sense of trouble.
About the signs that I see.
Am I seeing signs?
Or am I overthinking?
I struggle with acceptance.
Not because I can’t accept you for who you are.
Their silent question marks,
weigh on me like judgement.
And I have a hard time shaking that off.
I battle with misconceptions and harsh opinions of strangers.
But when I look at you,
I can tell every little aspect of you that makes you so precious.
I see your infinite worth.
You are like that one flower in the flower bed.
The flower that keeps drawing my eye
Uniquely shaped yet oddly colored.
The flower that I admire the most.
This piece is a combination of my own struggles and the struggles of the mothers that I face around me.
Mothers who have a child that is struggling or going through a rough time;
Mothers who have a child that is developing differently;
Mothers who have a child that has special needs.
I would like to ask you to withhold your judgment or quick advice.
Just see her, and respect her process.
After all she is just like you.
She loves and wants the best for her child.
Do you ever worry about your child’s development?
How do you cope? What are strategies that help you?
This is an original post written by Mirjam for World Moms Network
Today is my birthday.
It also marks the day that I’ll start to remain vague about my age.
A few years ago I turned 40,(No, I won’t give you specifics.)
And I remember a slight panicky feeling in my chest the night before.
I thought I was officially old.
But there was a life after 40 and it was a good one.
Some of my friends are approaching 50,
and they are making me feel pretty darn good about my age.
I have come to terms with myself and who I am.
The 40 something version of me is more outspoken and less anxious.
I feel older, wiser, and more at peace with myself.
Life has shown me that it is ever changing.
When I become too comfortable everything shifts and a new process begins.
The perfectionist in me has learned that there is no endgame, no specific goal to achieve.
I am an ever continuing work in progress.
But I do have the urge to be hopeful, helpful.
To spread kindness and positivity.
I want to fulfill my hopes and dreams.
I want to love and to be loved back.
Never stop learning and continue to grow.
My birthday is always at the same time of the year,
that I start to reflect and set my goals for the next year.
Oh, and what a crazy year it was.
This year I will just take a moment to count my blessings.
I have no specific birthday wishes or wishes for 2017,
only to be extended the grace to enjoy a fulfilling life.
I want to live my live to the fullest,
and not being held back by fear at trying to fulfill my hopes and dreams.
And I want to dance be silly and artistic.
Now excuse me while I go and eat some cake!
What are your birthday wishes?
Have you set your goals for 2017?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Mirjam in the Netherlands.
My mother used to say the same thing whenever I was sick: “Well, your hands are not sick.”
She expected me to do my chores and not to make a big deal about being sick. It was a motto she lived by. When I think of her in those days, I cannot picture her sitting down or lying in bed. She was always busy taking care of us and taking care of the house. I can almost imagine her feeling sick in the morning and saying to herself: “Well your hands are not sick,” and getting on with business as usual. I have tried to live up to this motto as long as I can remember.
This image of a mother that takes care of her family regardless the circumstances, was printed in the core of my being.
When I got diagnosed with depression, I was deeply conflicted within myself. Every moment that I needed for myself, every day that I couldn’t go on as usual, troubled me. I judged myself. There is always something the matter with you. Are you sick again? I felt like a sad excuse for a mother. I pitied my children and husband for having to live with me. Being sick has always been a powerful trigger for me to sink deep into depression.
In 2011 I got diagnosed with depression, which led to a long struggle with dealing with my depression and undergoing extensive therapy. Just as I started to feel a little bit better in 2013, I broke my right shoulder and as it started to heal, I had to have my gallbladder removed. After that, a long period of feeling sick and dealing with throat problems, led to a tonsillectomy in 2015. In 2016 my doctor referred me to a rheumatologist. The word rheumatoid arthritis was mentioned. I’m still in the process of finding a diagnosis and proper treatment.
But I am doing fine. In a sense, I am grateful. It is easy to find joy when you’re healthy and pain free. When you’re walking in the sunshine it isn’t as hard to be hopeful. I have learned to enjoy every single ray of light when walking in the shadows. I do have my occasional pity parties, and I indulge in them, because I allow myself to feel, to grieve, to be sad when I need to. But my pity parties end and when they end, I pick up positivity and make the most of what I have.
Depression always lurks in the shadows. But it is more a kind of melancholy that accompanies me, reminding me of its existence. It doesn’t bother me as much, nor does it scare me the way it used to.
I feel fine, I feel happy. We’re almost in the 11th month of 2016 and I have had approximately two days this year without physical pain. The other days have fluctuated between noticeable pain, manageable pain and excruciating pain. All things considered I still feel blessed. It could have been so much worse. I still feel privileged and grateful.
I have reshaped my image of what a mother is supposed to look like. No longer is she shaped like a rock, a bulldozer, a mechanical machine. She is covered in flesh, imperfect, she bleeds, she falls, she lifts, she cries, she smiles. She is shaped like a human.
How has your concept of motherhood changed since you had children?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Mirjam in the Netherlands.