• Jody Kussin

#65 Family Matters - Baby Bird Flies

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin May 18, 2020

Do you know your triggers? What sets you off, emotionally, surprising your consciousness? Is it the smell of some homecooked meal from your childhood? The sight of someone in an old photo you stumbled upon while cleaning house? The taste of a particular coffee or beer you used to drink in college?

More than anything, my mind is shocked when I hear certain songs. You’d think my body would know this by now and be prepared. But, nope. For instance, I watched the High School Graduation presentation on Saturday night, and just the opening of the Star-Spangled Banner did me in. That was before the students spoke and Lebron spoke and President Obama spoke.

You’d think I would have been prepared.

I like to prepare for things, even on a micro level.

If we were going to a concert (back when we could) I’d prepare by listening to all the old and new songs of the performer. If we were taking a vacation (back when we could) I’d start packing (and shopping for new underwears and socks because as soon as you start packing, you wonder, how is it I only own three pair?) as much as a month before. I prepare for my professional life by staying on top of taxes a quarter ahead of time, when possible. I prepare for my holidays at least three months in advance, sometimes setting a table so early in the process I have to take it down multiple times in order for us to just live our lives and use the table for regular daily usage, and then putting it back in place.

Turns out yes, I’m neurotic and also, I enjoy the process of preparing almost as much (sometimes even more) than the actual event or happenstance. This was especially true when my children were little. I loved prepping for their birthdays and life’s milestones. I made each a book and updated it annually with a new chapter. This was before computers, cell phones, google photo or drop box storage, and when Kinkos charged an arm and a leg for color ‘xerox.’ Even my children realized (by age seven or eight) that while it was a gift for them, it really was something I did for myself. I liked reflecting on the previous year and collecting the memories. I did not scrapbook. Or write long notes. Mostly it was a photo journal of their journey through my lens.

Mostly, I think I’m doing ok in these times. Doing all the things. Walking. Trying to be helpful. Calling and connecting. Using positive self-talk. Setting low expectations for myself. Eating healthy (ok, maybe not so much….)

As my friend said today, however, “I sometimes feel very emotional even when I mean not to.”

Because I think “I’m not sad. I lead a blessed life.”

And yet, there it is. Underlying sadness. Sense of loss. Mourning. Grief. Right below the surface.

Our ‘baby’ is graduating tomorrow, with his master’s degree, far away in the East Coast. He has worked hard and loves his field and is excited to go out in the world and use his knowledge and skill set. There will be a ‘pre-recorded virtual graduation ceremony.’ He tells us he likely won’t ‘attend.’ There are no ‘in real life’ festivities. The master's hood is 3.5 feet long and features a three-inch velvet trim that indicates the graduate's academic discipline (pink salmon for public health) and looks like it is out of Harry Potter. The inside of the hood, displayed on the graduate's back, shows the colors of the school from which the student is graduating (blue and white and black from Johns Hopkins.) He will not be wearing the gown or the hood or the cap or taking photos all dressed up. I will have to use my imagination.

Perhaps one photo of him with his mask on, standing in front of an empty building?

Many parents are worrying about life and death scenarios, so it seems ‘little’ to be sad about life affirming scenarios. But we are, nonetheless. Lots of commencement ceremonies around the globe, not happening. Weddings postponed or cancelled. Lots of living is now ‘on hold.’

It's okay to be sad, even if your life has other blessings. It’s okay to miss people, even when you know others have it worse. It’s okay to have a cry for the national anthem by the graduating high school seniors and to have a cry for “Some Good Things” with John Krasinski. It’s okay to wish you were going on the vacation you planned a year ago and that your kids were performing in their Spring musical or at least going to summer camp.

Remember that book, I’m Okay. You’re Okay.

Maybe we should write a new version – I’m Not Okay. You’re Not Okay. And That’s Okay.

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