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  • Writer's pictureJanelle

I'm Not Broken & Neither Are You

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

You decided to give up drinking during a pandemic? What are you, crazy?

We humans are constantly receiving messages. They come at us relentlessly – in person, online, in print, in advertising, from our families, our coworkers and the leftover gems from childhood. A never-ending stream. And, we have been good recipients of these messages. Our minds are never at rest – always sorting, evaluating, storing and discarding. The most untrustworthy messages tend to be so subtle and subliminal that we may not even be aware. They breathe into our subconsciousness as we sleep.

Fake it till you make it. You can have it all. You can do it all. You can be all the things to all the people at the exact right moment. Keep pushing. Lean in. Wait, lean out. C’mon, no pain, no gain.

It seems like there is always one sneaky message lurking beneath the surface. A dangerous riptide: You are not enough. You are doing it wrong.

There is one thing unequivocally that women are unmatched at. It's comparison. Could it be our deep-seeded desire to belong that always has us on the lookout for how we measure up to others?

Right before I quit drinking, perhaps at the height of my self-loathing, I had a little nickname for myself. Fat little troll. Cute, huh?

Anyway, the messages are a revolving door of what is fashionable, what is “in”. Then, we take that data and hold ourselves up to it. This is the system we use to judge where we fit and if we are ok. According to my social feed my butt needs a “face mask” and I am supposed to have 3-inch lashes.

Women are amazing, no doubt. But let’s be honest. We are tired. Comparison is tiring. Comparison is the thief of joy.

A healthier person might have exercised away their pain and self-loathing. I drank mine.

Wine became a comforting friend because I was balancing it all. The kids, the work, the house, the meals, the activities. Plus, the mental load, which I just learned is a thing. It’s all the unseen work. The appointments that need to be managed, the prescriptions that need to be filled, the sheets that need to be changed, the school forms that need signing, the pets that need food and vetting, the cars that need servicing, the clothes that kids have outgrown that need to be packed up for donation, the mail that needs sorting, the bills that need paying. The list is literally endless. Cross off one, add five more.

Wine represented a break. A moment. An off switch to the voices you – inside and out.

Motherhood is changing. We are raising families, crushing it at work and breaking through the glass ceiling. It's a great time to be a woman. It's also fucking exhausting. Then, 2020 added another wrinkle. Enter global pandemic. What does this mean for women? It means that, in addition to all of the above, moms are now tasked with eLearning. Some moms have even left their careers in order to homeschool/or facilitate remote learning for their children.

If you are not working full time and doing remote learning with a kindergartener, let me paint a picture for you. First, there are four things you should know about me.

  1. I have the patience of a gnat.

  2. I literally have no business being involved in my child’s education experience.

  3. If God had called me to teach, I would be a teacher. (God has not called me to teach. Not once.)

  4. Some animals eat their young and I feel that in my soul.

Now, two things you need to know about my son. His name is Monkey and he is in kindergarten. God love him, eLearning was about to be his first "school" experience. Like every other kindergartner on planet Earth, he had big dreams of riding the bus to school with his big brother. Instead, the following excerpt became our daily battle.

Me: Stay in your seat.

Me: Put your feet down.

Me: Stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance. Do you know the Pledge?

Me: If you are talking, you are not listening to your teacher.

Me: No, we are not eating now. Breakfast is over.

Me: Shhh! I don’t know what the instructions are because you were talking.

Monkey: *runs away* You yelled at me!! You’re mad at me!!

Me (Pointing to computer image teacher): Don’t look at me, look at her.

Me: Are you participating?

Me: Let me see your workbook.

Me: (Hissing) Get back in your seat, young man

Me: Are you on mute?

All the while I am supposed to be doing my job. The one that pays me actual American dollars.

Monkey: Crying real tears – SHE NEVER CALLS ON ME

Teacher calls on him – No response. Utterly mute.

Mrs L: Monkey, can you tell me what our letter of the day is?

Monkey: …

Mrs L: G, can you unmute your microphone?

Monkey: …

Me: Lord have mercy.

5th grader from upstairs: MOM, I LOST CONNECTION AGAIN!

By 4pm I had done precisely 3.5 minutes of work.

Living in my work world and kindergarten world simultaneously was splitting me in half. It was painful.

I am not broken. I am doing the best I can.

That sentence is the grace that I would pour out to any other human in a pandemic or not. Pre-COVID I had a vague idea that I was balancing a lot as a working mom of two young boys, one with ADHD. I had a long commute each day. Travel sports with our older son. A husband who often worked long hours in addition to side-hustles that kept him out of the house many nights at dinnertime, homework time, bath time, bedtime.

Nonetheless, I never gave myself credit because I was a hot mess. And, to be clear, I was not #hotmess with a cutesy bun, aviators and holding a Starbucks cup.

I was: Where is your backpack? Did you wipe your butt? Garbage fluttering out of my powder-blue minivan. When was the last time you brushed your teeth? I can smell your breath from here. Please don’t notice me. Am I wearing pants? Hot. Freaking. Mess.

I was squeaking by. Sure, my kids were sorta fed, mildly well-adjusted and usually on time. But I was desperately self-neglected, overweight and unhappy. I disqualified myself from any grace. I was existing but not living. Busy but not productive. Joyless.

Because we have so much resting on our shoulders it is easy to be tempted by quick fixes. We are the prime targets of this marketing. 5-hour Energy; sleeping aids, Spanx, wine. Truth: These are substitutes for actual care.

March 2020, I was just bursting onto the alcohol-free (AF) scene, scared yet excited. Two weeks later, I was homebound and newly alcohol free against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Among all the changes, I noticed that I did not begin to feel rested until three months into shelter-in-place. Three months of not drinking and not commuting. Three months of not racing to drop off/pick up. Three months of being connected and engaged with my new tribe combined with daily exercise, regular prayer and sleep. Actual restorative sleep. Not passed-out, garbage sleep.


That point underscores just how deeply depleted I was. I was trying to sustain my family while I was bone tired. I was applying Band-Aids to big problems. I was pouring from an empty cup. And above all, I was certain that I was failing in all areas – as a mom, wife, employee and friend. “I suck at life,” I would often lament. Friends would offer support like, “Oh you should take a personal day.” Nah, that’s not a solution. That’s like an empty promise. Useless as an umbrella in a hurricane.

I am 100% certain that my new sobriety was a handmade gift from God. A precious gift that He wrapped in righteousness and had delivered to me by his angels just ahead of COVID-19. God is good. It amazes me how He has sprinkled goodness into an otherwise dire situation. Maybe your gift was the same as mine. Sobriety.

He saw me and He knew that life as I knew it would not continue if my drinking continued. All that family togetherness within our four walls. All the stress and uncertainty of jobs and income and eLearning. If I had carried on drinking to excess each night, my husband would have caught on and would have seen through my thinly veiled secrets. In hindsight, it’s kind of funny how clever I thought I was in my stupor. Like, nO oNe CaN tElL i’M hAmMeRed – she says as she falls down the stairs.

I cannot state this emphatically enough. As drinking has reached a record high during COVID, some say, how could you get through shelter-in-place without wine? Hear me say: drunk me would have made quarantine and eLearning one billion times worse. A hangover every morning to start my day? Makes me cringe with disgust. And, beam with gratitude.

I am not broken. I am a work in progress.

I thought dropping my wine habit like it's hot would be a one-step process. Put down bottle. Done. Checkmark. Thank you, next.

I had no idea what was about to happen. Color me blindsided.

Apparently, all the emotions that I had neglected for a decade began to ramp up from a gentle simmer to a rolling boil. I was filled with buckets of unchecked rage that I didn't even know existed in me. I had a lot of angry questions. It's like I was Rip Van Winkle and I just woke the eff up. Only I was a female, passive-aggressive version.

Why am I the only one in this house who can find the garbage can?

Hear slamming cabinets and hostile vacuuming.

Weird things happen when you take off the Band-Aids. Turns out, we need to do the work. The actual work. Instead of expressing my emotions and using my big girl words, I stuffed it all inside and let it rot. Out of sight, out of mind? No, not really.

Instead, we need to move our bodies, learn meditation and emotional control. We need to connect deeply and meaningfully with other like-minded humans. We need to learn how to sleep and feed our bodies nutritious foods and fuel our passions. We need to learn to ask for help. We need to give ourselves grace.

Imagine if we all got our rest and supported one another. There could be a serious uprising. Like a phoenix.

I am not broken. Neither are you. <3

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