I had a hard week. And in it, a particularly hard day. And while I’m celebrating my birthday today—now officially closer to 40 than 30—when I sat down to write this week, what came out was what was happening. Gray. Blah. Tears.
I survived it like we humans do, and I’m on my way to sunshine. But I can’t help feeling these difficult things are as important to share as the travel tips and flight attendant secrets and over-the-top fun stories. Because none of us gets to have all of one and none of the other. We all get gray days and summer sun. No matter where we live or who we are.
I hope this year’s birthday post is not too much of a downer, and I assure you everything is and will be okay. My hope is you’ll get something out of reading this; If not enjoyment, then maybe feeling understood, seen.
If you don’t, that’s okay. Ultimately, I write for myself. Check back next week for some sunnier content.
HBD Aquarians. Here goes nothing.
Today, in the middle of the afternoon, I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes, pulled the sheets over my head, and cried.
I set the timer so I didn’t spend my precious crying time thinking about how long it was taking me or about the 20-item to do list I had accomplished very little of. Fifteen minutes felt like the perfect amount of time. Five would be ridiculous. Ten might be okay. But fifteen minutes would be enough time to give into the waves of emotion that had threatened my morning. I had high hopes that I would spend the last two minutes in quiet contemplation post-sniffles. Feeling better.
Guys I am so spent.
You won’t be able to find a tragic event in my life to cause this suffering, but man today felt like life was taking a punch. Today was hard. Just a mixture of normal side effects of the human condition, first world problems, and the disparity between expectations and reality.
That and utter physical and emotional exhaustion.
Okay, and hormones.
It all started like this. In fourteen days, I had one singular day off. Ten of those workdays were in a row. The nights I did have at home in between trips were short, rushed, and deeply unsatisfying. Do you know what 12-hours between trips means when you live an hour away from the airport? It means three and a half hours of commuting to plan for traffic. It means unpacking a suitcase and a lunchbox, re-packing the suitcase with clean clothes, washing the dishes and meal-prepping for another span of days on the road. Let’s say this takes us two hours. Maybe we even eat something. Let’s plan for a shower and getting ready for bed. Getting ready for work the next day. Another two hours. We’re following the math right? Sleep is hard to come by.
And do you know what a day off is like for flight attendants?
My one measly day off in between fourteen days of flying?
A physical therapy appointment. Perfect—something to have to show up for on my day off! Grocery shopping, to refill the lunchbox. Laundry, because I need more work clothes for tomorrow. Sleep! (haha, ya right!)
When you’re working a lot as a flight attendant, most of the time you do not even consider making plans to hang out with friends or family unless you have multiple days off. One just isn’t enough. I’m lucky that I have a lot of down-time in my job, but those at-home things you have to do—a trip to the pharmacy, your gym, the doctor, the dentist, the grocery store, cleaning your stupid house—these things all have to be crammed into a single day, making it feel very much NOT like a day off.
But I digress.
This post isn’t about scheduling. (Actually I am not sure yet what it is about) The schedule simply set the stage for my timed cry sesh with long-lasting exhaustion.
The start of my last trip before two glorious, necessary, omg-these-are-going-to-be-so-freaking-amazing days off should have been joyous. But instead, when I went into my basement to do laundry that morning, I found it flooded.
A burst hot water tank meant an emergency call to the plumber and a few thousand dollars. Luckily, I had someone to call who could be there quickly and do most of the work while I was away working. But alas, when I came home from work and we tested the system, the hot water worked perfectly, but my kitchen sink did not. It has ceased working altogether. That was last Thursday. As I’m writing this, I still don’t have a kitchen sink. Which is kind of a first world problem since I have heat, a roof over my head, good food to eat, another sink in the bathroom, and a dishwasher to clean my dishes. But let me tell you how much you will appreciate your kitchen sink once you lose it.
Don’t worry. We’re just warming up.
A loved one has been sick in the hospital. The emotional roller coaster was a hospital discharge Friday morning, followed by a trip by ambulance back to the same hospital later that night. Terrifying questions by doctors in harrowing moments. Questions that make you think about the end—the thing you try desperately not to consider. The thing you’re hoping you can will away with dietary changes and the right care and a positive attitude. The thing you’re thinking of when you say “I need a few more years.” Two more years.
The thing that makes you want to cancel your birthday vacation to Cancun and instead spend every single moment with them. Just in case.
To introduce them to your lover. In case this one is “the” one. On the off chance you ever walk down an aisle in a white dress and she can’t be there. At least she’d know them.
The type of thing that makes you joke about faking a pregnancy “To keep her in the game”.
God, I hope her head is still in the game.
The realization that someday it might not be.
I’m devastated at the future loss I haven’t suffered yet.
I’m enraged at the milestones in my life that might be missed. Heartbroken at the thought of not sharing them with her. Sure, I’m 36 and single and don’t have kids and my dream career hasn’t taken off yet. BUT JUST KEEP WAITING PLEASE. Just stick around a little longer. Be patient with me, I take longer to bloom. Stay and I’ll hurry. I’ll pick up the pace.
It was a long weekend full of emergency and worry, staying in hotel rooms and with family, not sleeping much in either place.
A family visit that made me feel at once comforted like a child and also like a traitor. Mixed emotions are my least favorite kind of emotions.
If I were a drinker, I would have had a lot to drink this weekend. I would probably be drinking now. And I definitely would be looking forward to getting fucking drunk at my all-inclusive in Mexico.
But instead, I ate ice cream Saturday night, and I zombied myself on Hulu last night, and I set my cry timer today.
It doesn’t numb the pain the same. But our feelings are meant to be felt.
It did not help that I got my period in the midst of this mayhem.
Now, if you happen to be a man reading this, do not take it as proof that women are irrational on their periods or whatever dumb thing you’re about to say to your wife to get kicked out of the bedroom.
I remember my first time taking mushrooms in college. My buddy and I, on a school night no less, ate some mushrooms with peanut butter. We watched Kill Bill and went outside on a walk where the squirrels startled me. I ate an apple, and it was the best tasting apple I ever had. It was the crispiest, crunchiest, juiciest apple of all time. Thanks to the mushrooms, of course. The flavor was intensified. The sensations of eating the apple were too.
This is what periods are like for women. We feel things intensely. The things in our lives—the good and the bad are more vibrant, more desperate, more important, more terrifying, more enraging. It’s not irrational or crazy. It’s the real things. But more.
Today was hard.
I have an emotional hangover from the weekend, but the stage was set weeks ago when I started working non-stop and sleeping very little. Sudden family emergencies with long, gangly roots that stretch back in time and wind through dark places. Home repairs snowballing. Feeling out of control. Questioning relationships, can we really trust anyone? Questioning your part in all the woes befallen you. Bargaining and praying. Hoping for time.
I tried to go about my day and function as a person and get my list done. I talked myself down from emotional overthrow again and again. I knew it would all be okay eventually, and I put into perspective how small my problems were relative to some other people’s.
But overwhelm and exhaustion and facing mortality can really do a number on you.
They can warrant a 15-minute cry after a failed trip to Lowe’s for a faucet.
They can warrant a thick sheet of “blah” coloring the rest of your day, even after tears have dried.
I’m a human and I had a bad day. When I wake up things will probably feel different tomorrow. But, if they don’t, I will remind myself that this is part of being human. That feeling blue is part of the deal. That it comes with the territory of those bright shiny days that are undoubtedly coming very soon.
And, if I need to, I’ll set the timer for 15 minutes and give in to all the intensity of my (rational-ish) human emotion.
Then I’ll get up. Send a funny text to a friend. Wipe my cheeks and put one foot in front of the other.
Happily, I can report that I did wake feeling slightly better the next day after writing this. Some of my problems have been solved, like the sink. Some linger, like the worry. They ache. After much debate, I am on my way to Cancun for a birthday getaway, thrilled to have a few days to sit and lay and soak in the sun. I’m hoping for lots of sleep and laughs. I’m hoping things at home remain stable while I’m gone. That I don’t feel guilty later.
Being a human can be really hard. But I believe it’s worth it. Loss and grief and complex emotions, pain and guilt and daily inconveniences, long commutes and injuries, injustices. They burn and bury us. But without them we get nothing. No joy, no love, no moments of contentment in our favorite places—our favorite people. No sweeping views to take our breath away, no happy tears, no beaming pride.
If you are having a hard day, if you are facing any of the problems—the life changing or mundane—that we humans are fated to face, I implore you to give yourself the same grace and the same reminders. You’re a person and sometimes that sucks. It’s the price we pay for getting to witness great beauty in the world. It can feel expensive on those difficult days, but nothing is forever. Tomorrow is a new day.
When all else fails, set a cry timer.
I love you and I hope you’re having the best day ever. If you’re not, I hope you feel less alone. <3
Cheers to 36 years.
Until next time.
Hey you! Yes, you!
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this dreary post (human-ing, amirite?) I’m Toni, and I run the show here at A Wheel in the Sky. Here, we take on a lot of personal growth topics like this one, but we also talk travel and all things #FlightAttendantLife. If you’re interested in insider travel tips and juicy personal posts, please consider subscribing!
If you liked this post and are looking for more intense vulnerability & struggles with human-ing, check out these:
For Flight Attendant Content, try starting here:
Looking for Travel Tips? Try these: