Lifestyle

REAL Life

1.24.21
learn more

Hi friends,

I hope you’re all doing well and are safe. I have read many emails from you all expressing interest in my departure from social media.

“What’s it like? I’ve been thinking about doing it, too.” You ask.

It’s great. I needed time and space to be me and, like many of us, focus on the additional roles I was thrusted in to during the pandemic. I don’t know how some of you handle it–maybe you don’t and you cry in closets. No judgement here.

I, for one, am not one for distress. Eustress (the good stress), I can lean into. I can see how the good kind of stress adds value in the long game, and I have perspective that it will make me a stronger more resilient individual. But self-inflicted distress? Eh-eh. I’ve cut out all the things that tic the box and add negative stressors into my life, because mama ain’t got no time for that.

When I saw how much time social media and scrolling my stupid phone was eating up, and also took a hard look at the things I was dropping the ball on in my “real life,” I made the decision to cut out the fat. I made the decision to show up in my real life.

I didn’t need social media–especially at the time. In fact, I needed to get off of it, to gain perspective, to loosen up the reigns of perfection and comparison, stop feeling like I need more material things (those damn media ads!), and just go live my life. Read books. Go to bed early. Have an uninterrupted conversation with my husband. Enjoy cooking meals without rushing, pouring myself a glass of wine and savoring it all. Actually interacting with my son, instead of hovering over him trying to draft my next social post, pretending to be with him. I wanted those moments of time in between “doing.” So I intentionally lose my phone in the house now, and it’s wonderful.

The regret of the moments I have missed with my son, husband, family, and friends because I was trying to construct a story for the public world is greater than the regret of missing the hours spent on social media trying to grow a network of friendships I can’t personally keep up with. If I didn’t take a moment to hop off the fast “new media” train, I would regret inhaling the moments with my son, and I don’t want that to be the reason I decide to have a second child–to make up for the time I lost with my first. So I put down my buzzing phone with its growing red DM inbox niggling at me.

Real life is not pretend. This the only rodeo I’ve got, and I want to be here for it. So I’ve been showing up for myself the best I can the past five months, in the way I know works best for me.

On top of all this–full transparency–we have taken a deep dive into allergy treatments for Ollie’s food allergies. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting to manage allergic reactions, drive across the state every week for treatment, along with posting up at Airbnbs with polyester sheets and pillows that don’t fluff. But truly, we are making the best out of it and laughing along the way. If we can keep our sense of humor about us, I’m certain the treatments and road trips are going to fly by.

I recently heard Robin Arzon (on Peloton–best pandemic investment ever!) say, “The only certainty of failure is giving up.” I chose to forgo social media for a while, because I wanted to show up for my family, especially our son, during this time. I knew that if I wanted my family to thrive, if I wanted my son to have the opportunity to succeed during his allergy treatments, I had to show up fully for him. For us.

That’s what we do for family. Right? We give up parts of ourselves that hold us back from fully showing up for the people we love. When we cut out the distractions, we can fully engage in life, embracing the unbelievable miracles happening before our eyes as well as the suffering, anguish, and grief. We do this together and sometimes we do this alone.

In a recent journal entry, after a scary encounter holding Ollie in my arms as he was experiencing anaphylaxis, I wrote:

“Grief and sorrow are felt acutely and intensely. The feelings are personal and belong to me right now. They cannot be shared over the phone on FaceTime or even with my husband. My mother cannot take the pain from me as she did when I was younger. I am the mother now. It falls on me to be the brave one, venturing out and creating a path unique to my family. I must earn this. This grief and anguish, this courage and bravery, they have put lines on my face where there used to be none. Those lines are the roadmap life has impressed upon me. I have earned them.”

Emily Nolan

Emily Nolan

The next entry was after Oliver woke up from his nap and I decided we all needed to go to the beach, a ten minute drive away, to change up the energy and routine that day. We packed up some toys and went to the beach to be completely silly for an hour before dinner. It was so relieving to be out in nature and to have a moment as a family together. A moment that had nothing to do with the allergist’s office, Ollie getting sick in bed, feeling acute grief, helplessness, and loneliness, or failing an allergy test. It was just us, together as a family, in a happy place, making a happy memory to replace the sad one–like intuitive cognitive behavioral therapy. We ventured off to make a happy memory, replacing the sad one, challenging the bad memory and allowing space to believe that it’s possible to still associate happiness with this challenging time in our lives.

When we got back from the beach, I added in my journal:

“When you have a sad memory, you need a happy memory to replace it with.”

Emily Nolan

Remembering the balm of the ocean waves crashing and the soft white sand under my feet, I wrote:

“God, or a prayer, can be at the edge of the ocean. They (It/He/She) can be the happy memory that replaces the sad, grief-stricken one.”

I reached for my necklace and rubbed the hanging pendants like a lucky penny, accompanying it with a silent prayer to keep my son safe and healthy.

“I need SOMETHING to believe in. We all need something. Call it God, or the ocean waves crashing. We need things to replace our anguish, grief, and pain. We need things to bolster our bravery and courage, even if–who knows–it’s a false sense of security. Standing there, at the edge of the water or wherever we may be, we pray for protection for our loved ones. God is there with us, in the places we go to when we yearn the most for the priceless immaterial things, like the health of a child. The happiness of a family. Love. Pregnancy. Peace…God is where you find it. Where you find yourself.”

When you go looking, God will be there alongside your prayers. When you arrive at those moments that beckon incredible bravery and courage, we have to believe in something.

Even when believing in something also means that suffering is unavoidable–God still shows up in those moments. It’s always there; the Earth underfoot, the snap of the twigs along the path, the unlikely friendship, the remarkable sunset, the wind blowing by your face, obstructing your hearing. The stroke of your fingers through your brave child’s hair. The bee sting, the illness, the diagnosis. The pandemic.

Wherever you find God, in whatever form, you are celebrated and you are scathed. The wind does not discriminate. The sun sets for all of us. And the bee will sting eventually if you’re brave enough to walk past the hive to see what’s on the other side. We’re all a part of this incredible, tragic, miraculous collective story. And we’re trying our best. We’re failing, we’re falling, we’re flying. Alone, together.

Sending love and more bravery than you ever thought you had,

layout component 0

Emily Nolan