Unraveling

Pamela Petrus at The Eli at CottonSo much has happened over the last 2-2.5 years. I lost my home and belongings to a flood. I lived in that uncertainty and rebuilt. I went through a divorce and lost that home again. I moved twice. I experienced the tragic death of a cousin and then the same for one of my closest mentors immediately after. My best friend/new boyfriend died in my lap. And then came back to life. And then we broke up and got back together. And then I had $15,000 taken from me and was homeless for a week and a half. 

This September alone, I hosted a wedding shower at my condo, just 2 weeks before I had to be moved out of the place. I spent a weekend in Shreveport celebrating my BFF and her upcoming wedding. I drove to Baton Rouge for my first LSU football game and then drove right back. I lost my car fob on the side of the service road on the way to Chick-fil-A before said football game. I went to Houston one weekend to see the fabulous Johnnyswim in concert, and the AC went out in my car on the way. I got bad gas (it appears) and my car shook and freaked out on the way home from aforementioned concert. We closed a lot of houses putting us at #14 in the entire Northeast Louisiana Board of Realtors for the month of September. I joined a book club. I taught three real estate courses. I attended a bridal shower. I, with the help of some pretty rad friends, moved all of my belongings from my condo into an unfinished house. I was left homeless for a week and a half, as I prepared for my best friend’s beautiful wedding. September was a jam-packed combo of tough and beautiful. So much good and so much stress.

There have been good things that happened too over the last 2.5 years too. I have blossomed. Bidding farewell to the comforts of my previous life, forced me to look harder at who I am and who I want to be. It exposed some dark corners that needed work and showed me more of my real self than I’ve seen in years. I’ve made new friends, gone on adventures, and had a lot of fun. I saw so many beautiful sunrises from that wonderful condo and spent a lot of time in my thoughts, looking out over the water. (Want to live there? Let me know.) I’ve won awards at work and was a candidate for Ouachita Parish Woman of the Year. I’ve laughed at least as much as I’ve cried and even considering the heartache, I wouldn’t change the events of these most recent years.

Even though there’s been plenty of good, my brain has learned that right around the corner from the good, there’s the bad. I’ve been living in a constant state of waiting for the shoe to drop. The next tragedy. Honestly, I’ve lived my entire life this way. My dad died when I was 11. Followed by my grandmother. Then my grandfather. Then my uncle with whom I shared a birthday and in a lot of ways had taken my dad’s place. Then my great aunt who was more like a grandmother to me. Every year, someone close to me died. Every year, something good happened and then something awful. I took my senior photos and then went to a funeral. I understand that life is this way. It’s ups and downs, triumphs and tribulations, and yet I’ve seen so much darkness, so much heartache, that I lost track of how to feel joy and hopefulness. I became far too skilled at being prepared for the worst. At this point, I don’t know how not to prepare for the worst.

Suddenly, I’m at the end of 2018 and I can’t figure out why I’ve felt so out of sorts. Some of it can be attributed to the busyness and utter chaos of the last couple of months and yet it’s felt heavier than that. I’ve struggled with words and with feelings. I’ve felt bogged down in the worst way and while I’ve still done my job and moved on about life, it’s felt hard. I’ve often done the bare minimum and hoped no one would notice. I’ve smiled when I barely had the energy. I’m not depressed. I’m tired. I’m worn out to my core and no amount of rest or self care seems to help. It’s an incurable exhaustion that sits deep inside of me.

I’m back in therapy and I’m working on so much personal growth. I’m exploring and learning and working so very hard on being my best self and it’s in this exploration that I’m starting to see more clearly where this utter exhaustion comes from. It’s coming, not just from the events of the last months, but from the tragedy of the last few years. Possibly, from the tragedy of my lifetime. I am finally seeing and feeling the weight of it all, years later.

As I drudged through each of these traumatic events, I’ve maintained the motto that the show must go on. I did what needed to be done and I took excellent care of everyone around me. Somehow, even in the midst of a divorce and with a flooded house, my business grew. When I lost my mentor and friend, I organized things at the office. I worked. I piled things on my list and filled every second with a task or a person to care for. I worked and worked and left no time for taking care of myself or for feeling the heartbreak and pain that these events rightfully evoked.

So here I am, over two years after the first major event mentioned above, and I’m feeling it now. The culmination of everything that’s transpired around me is here and it’s bubbling over. It’s an unraveling of sorts, a chance to let the strings pull and unwind the tight package I’ve wrapped around myself. It’s like a thick mask peeling from my face. I’ve kept the edges securely fastened and one stubborn corner finally broke loose. In doing so, it began pulling away, exposing everything I’ve worked so hard to hide. There’s something freeing about that exposure. It’s as if I’ve put on layer after layer of costume make up. For years, I merely added a new layer when a new struggle would develop. Add a layer and keeping pushing. The show must go on. Now suddenly, it’s peeled away and flaked and there’s no point in trying to salvage the masterpiece that was those perfectly kept layers. There’s no energy left to reapply. Instead, I’m tugging and pulling at it, filing ripping off those layers and feeling the weight of it lifted. Feeling free. Lighter. Like I can breathe.

As with anything added in layers over the course of years, there’s residue left behind when you begin to unearth the contents below. There are streaks left behind that just won’t come off with a swipe or two. It takes some scrubbing. It takes persistence. It’s hard and messy and to have a face that’s finally free of the debris I’ve been carrying, I have to keep scrubbing. I have to keep feeling and resisting the urge to cover it all back up. That’s easier, you see, to find something to do besides your own hard work. I could use this time to work harder, to take care of someone, or to organize something. I could choose to do anything besides my own work. Without the work though, I have to keep my mask and I’m sick to death of that.

I write all of this as my right hand tingles persistently. It started a few days ago, tingling a bit on and off throughout the day. I’d shake it off, wiggle my fingers, roll my head around, and it’d eventually go away for a while. Today it’s been persistent, continually tingling, no matter how much I wiggle or twist. It’s a physical manifestation of what I feel inside. Stress. Chaos. Uneasiness. It’s like a flashing, neon billboard, screaming at me to pay attention. It’s not work stress or new house stress. It’s the stress of having been running for so long. Running from pain and fear and grief. Running from feeling any of the hard stuff. Running from looking at myself and my own brokenness.

Over the last few years, I’ve chosen to focus my attention elsewhere. I’ve focused on what was missing. I’ve thought that I’d feel better about life if this or that happened. If my marriage were stronger. If I had a nicer view out the back windows. If I had more time to write. If I could travel more. If I had more time with my friends. If I had someone to really love me well. I spent so much energy analyzing and inspecting what was missing that it caused this uneasiness inside of me. But the hard truth is, it hasn’t been about what’s missing. It’s been about what’s right there, just under the surface. It’s been years of hurt feelings and grief and loss. It’s been an inability to simply love myself for who I am, rather than what I accomplish. I’ve often said that I’m a master at handling death. I’ve seen so much of it from a front row seat. Yet what I’ve learned lately was that I’m not a master at handling death. I’m a master at dodging it. I wouldn’t say that I hide from it. I see it and I acknowledge it. I’ve just learned how to tuck it away. Sit it to the side while more important things get done. The issue with that strategy is that if you don’t ever come back to it, it sits there on the shelf beside you, eating away at your soul. It’s sneaky like that. It doesn’t take huge bites or offer up big signs of its presence. Instead, it sits next to you quietly and sucks a tiny little bit of life out of you with each passing day. It deteriorates your hopefulness a little bit at a time. And in situations like mine, where all of these events just stacked on top of one another, you wake up one day and you have nothing left.

That’s where I’ve been lately and I can finally admit that to you and to myself. I’ve woken up and seen this silent monster that’s been hovering around me for years now. I’ve been dragging him everywhere and I’m finally out of energy. I truly don’t know where to start with processing years of unacknowledged grief. Or how one learns to truly love oneself when they’ve never been shown how and it certainly doesn’t come naturally. All I know today, is that I must begin the work. I must look for ways to show up for myself. To feel things unapologetically. To be all of it — the good, the bad, and the ugly. All I know, is to sit down this load I’ve been carrying. To acknowledge the awfulness of it all and to give myself some grace for being tired.

6 thoughts on “Unraveling”

  1. That was some excellent Sunday morning coffee reading. You really do have a way with words. I hope this time allows you to heal In beautiful ways❤️

  2. You have always been the little big sis to me. We’ve always relied on you for everything. From making trip plans then even having to drive us. You are the strongest of anyone I know. Thanks and I love you. ❤️

  3. I’ve sat down to read this 3 times, and just now getting to respond. (kids!) I’m notorious for holding all of my anxieties in and not dealing with them. I had the exact tingling in my wrist and fingers just 2 weeks ago. (I’ve actually seen a cardiologist years ago and had him tell me I need to just chill out. My body handles stress NOT like a boss.) I love hearing your progress and your honesty. And you are so much stronger than you know because of it! Keep showing up for yourself!

  4. Pamela…I just love you. Even though its from a distance, & through the many connections we share. I have a soft spot in my heart for you. Thanks for being vulnerable & for sharing your sorrows & joys. I’m praying for you, that God will give you the sustenance you need to walk through the sorrows that you have not dealt with yet. I have been where you are…the ever present busyness, & the deep tiredness of my soul, from walking through too many hard things in a row. I pray that your soul finds rest. Love you much, my friend from a distance. ❤

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