Thanksgiving is a week away all while we are going in reverse with gyms and restaurants closing causing a potential threat to our sanity…what a weird time to try to be thankful, right? Covid makes it feel like Thanksgiving has suddenly disappeared from the calendar, and plans shifting somehow translates to eliminating the historical holiday that has happened since 1621. While plans for some families may not have changed, this is the first time in 22 years that I haven’t celebrated with extended family after coloring the turkey in the paper while watching the Macy’s parade. Even though my traditional family Thanksgiving was canceled (the email chain subject line was titled “Thanksgiving? Not this year.”), that doesn’t mean that all parts have to be demolished; just the part where I get grilled about my love life, job, future plans, avoid the rutabaga, and get stuck at the kids table on the porch. The part that I am keeping and sharing with you all, is probably the most important part, and the part that you probably lose sight of during the year because our brains like to focus on the negatives. With that, here are just 10 of many, perhaps random, things I am thankful for this year: Covid edition.
I will just go ahead and get the obvious, and least Thanksgiving-ish one, out of the way: I am grateful for making my own money! But, this isn’t the reason why my job is on this list. I am extremely thankful to have been offered a job from Boom Lab in October 2019, because I can’t help but feel the big man above was looking out for me back then, knowing that Covid was going to strike in the prime time of the college grad job search. Because of this, I have been granted the ability to live the life a 20-something should be living; first apartment, first car, working for an innovative company that I love, meeting new people and going to “adulty” happy hours, visiting new places I probably should have seen years ago (I’m not the best Minnesotan), sitting out on my balcony watching the lights of Minneapolis light up the night, date nights, making doctors appointments without my mom doing it for me, getting to enjoy my new sense of freedom, and learning that taxes make me sad.
I feel for those who have been impacted by Covid that may still be searching for a job, and are not at the point in their life they thought they would be at by now. It’s unfair the clock can’t be reversed after all this is done so those who feel they’ve been robbed can go back and experience life how they should be during their early 20s. Everyone deserves to feel, on time, the pride of their first paycheck only to have it replaced by the pain of their first rent payment.
Out of everything I am grateful for this year, this is close to number one. It may seem strange, but this summer, this alpaca changed my life. This is not comparable to when people say their pet has changed their life, I truly mean that a random alpaca in South Dakota actually changed and improved my quality of life till the day I die. It’s a long story, and a bit of a life update, but let me explain (although it would be pretty funny if I just left you hanging here).
If you have been following my blog for a while, you read about my FND story, and the theories and treatments I have tried for 12 years, but everything that worked for others and “should have” worked for me, never did. You also read my “Summer Summary” post and how I had a grand old time with an alpaca at my best friend’s wedding in South Dakota, as well as getting very sick in July but having no clue what it was.
After the wedding, a weird red circle appeared on my arm, but I chalked it up to no big deal along with my mom who received this lovely Snapchat. A few weeks after, I got very sick and was tested for everything you can think of….except Lyme Disease. Once I showed my FND doctor the weird spot on my arm and shared my 2 weeks of symptoms that truly resembled Covid, she proposed a new theory that I have maybe had Lyme for years. The only incident we could think of that could confirm this theory was a rash I got in 2004 with no known cause. Doctors gave me steroids to get rid of the rash back then, but they also got rid of my immune system’s strength to fight the Lyme. She explained the alpaca must have reinfected me which woke up the Lyme that had already been in my body for 16 years and seeped into my nervous system in the mean time. Hint: FND is a problem with the functioning of the nervous system.
For those who have Lyme that is untreated, stage 3 often presents as neurological symptoms that can turn chronic if not treated within a 6 ish month window. I got a very specific tick borne illness test, and found that I did in fact have Lyme since I was 6, which finally explained the rash I had back then that led to this tub toy photoshoot (the rest of the pictures are PG-13, sorry). The body is incredible at fighting off diseases, but when it’s had something for 16 years, it kind of loses motivation to keep trying at full effort once it realizes it’s not improving…kind of like me and golf.
In addition, the immune system and nervous system are terrible at multi-tasking: notice how you can only get one sickness at a time in most cases. My body is like texting and driving- you can’t do both without sending typos and wrong messages, but once you do one thing at a time, things work a lot better, and I’m not accidentally sending to Jeff “I’m almost a tree” instead of “I’m almost there.” This phenomenon is why my FND gets worse whenever I experience sickness or more stress- because my nervous system gets overloaded and sends wrong messages to my brain! Finally, the ultimate puzzle I’ve been trying to put together for 12 years makes a visible, clear, picture. To sum it up: I’m thankful that an alpaca reinfected me so the Lyme I’ve had all these years was finally found, and I may have found the origin to my FND!
All 5 feet of me functions
When paging through my “Gratefulness Journal” that I jot in every morning, this is one of the items that shows up the most because I often stop and remind myself just how much my body does and puts up with. Instead, most focus on trying to change it and what it can’t do anymore. I put my body through 16 years of flinging through the air and smashing into beams, body slamming mats, short landings on ankles, snapped toes, bending in half, holding on for life as I swung 360 degrees around bars 9 feet off the ground, and all this came to a halt once the permanent nerve damage set in…the graceful sport I call gymnastics. I did this all while my body managed to function somewhat normally despite 16 years of undetected Lyme disease and a movement disorder. It’s been hoisted in the air and picked up many times because apparently being small means that’s acceptable to others. Can’t forget the number of weeks I trained on wood floors to be a tumbling Russian Dancer in a professional ballet (long story). Lastly, it put up with years of malnourishment due to dealing with stressors the wrong way, and the unrealistic expectations on social media that humans should be pencils with abs.
This year more than ever, I have appreciated all my body DOES for me, rather than what it looks like, or that it is functionally dysfunctional at times. Now, I remind myself that I am thankful to have two feet that allow me to dance terribly with Jeff (and his aunt). My arms have allowed me to do my handstands all these years to knock every beefy bodybuilder off their high horse at the gym. I have two hands to bake brownies confirmed as “nasty” by my family. I possess a booty that can sit for hours at a time watching mind numbing shows on Netflix. My two legs helped me escape the goose that chased me down the road on a run. I have a stomach that can digest my favorite foods, but, most importantly, my body as a whole keeps me alive!
I always say it: it’s the little things, and this is just one of those little things that brings me joy every morning. I started off as a firm believer that I only needed one mug due to being an aspiring minimalist, but once my brother gave me my second one, I started to realize I had an emotional attachment with it because every time I used it or looked at it, I would think of him. This is the case for all the future mugs to follow. Whenever Jeff is gone on a work trip, or it’s a Terrible Tuesday, I use the mug he gave me and it’s like he is there with me, cheering me on (the mug says “Hot Stuff” on it, that may not be accurate in the morning). Choosing a mug for the day brings me a lot more joy than it probably should, but sometimes, being able to use the ugly mug I made in 6th grade art class with an awkward handle is just the kind of energy I need for the day. Not everyone may personify mugs to be like having coffee with the person that gave it to them, but every mug I have comes from someone special both near and far ranging from West Virginia to Colorado to good ol’ St. Peter, MN. Every mug has a story or deeper meaning behind it, but most importantly, they hold my coffee for me.
I told myself that once I moved into my apartment that I would become an avid cook. This lasted for about a week before I discovered the frozen “meals for one” aisle at the grocery. There are a lot more brands other than Hot Pockets now, and they offer quick, healthy meals for one. After work, the last thing I want to do is coat slimy raw chicken breasts or squeeze ground turkey chubs out into a skillet and try to forget that image in my mind as I am eating it. Not to mention, these homemade meals last for days, and I don’t know about you, but eating a giant pot of chili for a week straight is not my cup of tea. I have become a gourmet microwaver of meals that probably look and taste better than anything I could ever make, or if I tried to make, something or someone would end up burnt to a crisp. While I say my prayers of thanks before my meals, I pray extra thanks that the most challenging part of making my meal was getting the box open!
My support squad
If you ask people what they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, most of the time “family” is their cliche response. Well, I too, am cliche. I am thankful my family has gotten me through a lot of just downright unnatural and new things this year like having a graduation ceremony with my mailbox, starting my new job yet never have been to my office or have met my coworkers, quarantining alone in my apartment for nothing for 2 weeks because my Lyme disguised itself as Covid, turning 22, moving out, Terrible Tuesdays occurrences, etc…but not only my family gets credit for this. My friends, both old and new, and my little fur ball have been a huge part of making my 2020 manageable.
I already wrote a giant sappy paragraph about my boyfriend Jeff in my Summer Summary, and don’t worry I won’t do anything near that again for your sake, but even since then, I have become so much more thankful for him. He has introduced me to new people; being his amazing family that makes me want to spend more time with them whenever I’m with them, and my new friend, Megan, who is also a blonde psychology major that loves fitness and basically is the same person as me down to the smallest details…honestly creepy how similar we are sometimes. I often forget that college isn’t the only way to make lifelong friends.
Ok, so I said I wouldn’t write a giant paragraph about Jeff…never said anything about two! In all seriousness, I’m so thankful that he continues to blow me away with all he does and his ability to support me. He’s been here for me whether that be watching movies with me on days I haven’t felt too peachy, but also has been there for the celebrations, achievements, and everything in between. He’s seen both the good sides of me, but also the bad like witnessing an actual seizure due to Lyme meds which included going unconscious and my eyes rolling back in my head (definitely “Hot Stuff” like my mug says). I wouldn’t mention all these details if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve never had someone other than my parents be my rock like this during my weird FND quirks, that for some, I myself am experiencing for the first time. He’s my biggest hype man, and my best friend all in one which is the best combo because I know he somehow makes every situation better by a big hug, sending me unexpected stupid snapchats to make me laugh, wearing matching sweatshirts with me, or sarcastically roasting me into a better state of mind.
The nut milk movement
For those of you that have not picked up on it yet, I unfortunately live a dairy free life. This has led to a few sad Thanksgivings of bringing my own green beans because the green bean casserole has that dang can of cream of mushroom, surpassing pie, or having a mashed potato-less plate because they were pre buttered. Now, veganism has started to spread like Covid- even to McDonalds with their new “McPlant”, what a name – and things like almond milk, oat milk, cashew cheese, almond oil butters, and other things that I didn’t know nuts could be made into are actually getting space in grocery stores.
A lot more companies are reducing the discrimination against those whose digestive systems can’t “do the dairy,” and have worked to make non-dairy products actually taste good because they realize just how many people are dairy free, and will buy products that taste like the things we had to give up! So with that, I am thankful that Country Crock made a dairy free butter that doesn’t taste like wax. I am thankful that Nada Moo made an ice cream that doesn’t taste like a mix of chalk and rubber cement. I am thankful that Almond Breeze now has some friends on the shelf and isn’t the lone almond milk. I’m thankful that Sweet Loren’s has a great name and has allowed me to bake cookies again and eat half the dough before it even reaches the oven, instead of buying prepackaged hockey pucks. And lastly, I am thankful for Kraft Mac and Cheese for still continuing to use cheese that isn’t actually cheese.
TV dinner trays
I never thought I would be so thankful for foldable TV dinner trays, but they have been such a God send this summer since I have had to work from home in my apartment. When living in an apartment, there is not exactly a lot of room for a desk, or a reason to get one for if I ever get to go back to the office. These babies have allowed me to transport my work station to my balcony, to my living room, to my bedroom, heck, I could even set up in the bathroom if I wanted to (already got a “chair” in there). I went about a month without a desk, and put the “lap” in laptop, but that got old real fast. I use these more than any desk I’ve ever owned because after a long day of work, it turns into my kitchen table since that doesn’t fit into my apartment either. Best $3 ever spent at Savers.
Imagine Covid without technology. There would be no zoom meetings where your coworker forgets to turn on mute and is yelling at their dog but the presenter thinks they’re yelling at them (true story), no virtual school, no Netflix to pass the time, no texting your friends that you can’t see right now, no listening to music while working out, no stalking your crush on Instagram, no talking to your grandma’s nostrils on Facetime because she can’t see you all tiny in the corner, and I wouldn’t typing about your grandmas nostrils on this blog right now. Life would be so much worse without our tech during all of this. Watching paint dry might be the highlight of our day, or we would actually have to read a real, non electronic, book! I am thankful for the little rectangle I carry around more than I ever have been in my life nowadays, even the little flip phone I had in 7th grade that I only wanted because it was pink.
Dare I say this out loud; I am thankful for Covid. I am not thankful for the terrible disease itself, but more, the indirect effects it has had on me. Covid has opened my eyes to see that there is so much more to life than what I used to think was important, and as we go into lockdown again, this will all become relevant again.
First, I am thankful that Covid literally forced me to heal my several year battle with an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise from college and college gymnastics, by shutting down gyms and taking away my ability to spend hours working out like I used at practice or the gym. It also took away the ability to be super picky about meals since going to restaurants or the grocery wasn’t very convenient during lockdown, and turning my nose up at something seemed ungrateful and silly during a pandemic. I started to be more open to and grateful for the food that I did have, was less concerned about the numbers, and remembered how much I enjoyed things I swore off eating for years like any and all forms of dessert. Any exercise I did during the day such as old piano lesson book bag back squats (say that 5 times fast), or a walk, was enough, and I didn’t have to feel dead at the end of every workout in order to feel like it was successful.
The reason I am so thankful for Covid in this sense, is because it has allowed me to enjoy life and live again! It freed me from the grip of my all or nothing mentality and has allowed me to enjoy going on dates with Jeff, family ice cream outings to Seb Joes, breweries with friends, and give my body what it needs through my Lyme fiasco – all of this would have caused me extreme stress before. I started to enjoy working out again and now do it to stay healthy, bring out the strong gymnast in me again, and relieve stress rather than feel like a slave to it and have it be my source of stress. This pandemic has shown me that there’s a lot more to life than trying to be a certain way or trying to have control over all things and try to do things perfectly all the time… with that being said, live a little and eat the dang cookie!
I am thankful that Covid also forces me to work from home. It has been a blessing in disguise because if my ongoing Lyme fiesta happened any other year, I don’t think I would be able to get to the office much. There were some days this summer, and recently, where I could not get out of bed, and was so sick from the effects of Lyme exiting my body (fun fact, it is called Herxing), but because I had to work from home, that was totally acceptable. I fully believe there is no way I could have worked and recovered like I have been able to while working at home, and for that, I am so thankful. Lastly, the week I had sun poisoning would have been so embarrassing if I had to go into work with a swollen tomato face, eye sockets, and balloon hands making me look unrecognizable. Thank goodness I could turn my camera off!
Finally, it has also made me value time with family and experiences so much more. Before all this I definitely took it for granted, I mean, I could have flown to KY any time I wanted but I didn’t. I could have gone over to my grandmas and breathed on all her belongings for no reason, but I didn’t. I could have done a lot more sorority squats with my sisters, but didn’t. I could have had a giant group hug and sung Kumbaya at the last family Christmas, but we didn’t…new tradition?? And I never would have thought that having to stand across the yard from my Kindergarten teacher on my college graduation day would be such a bummer, but it was. Any time is now quality time with my family, and every experience is valued no matter how old I get or where I’m at, even if that means finally getting to have a college commencement 4 years later to recreate a “peace out Covid” rendition.
If Covid has taught you anything, it is to make the most of all situations, to get creative, and to forget about the petty problems you thought were a huge deal before all this mess. To bring this full circle, I think Covid has forced us to focus on the real meaning of Thanksgiving more than ever before because there is no rushing off to sit in the parking lot of a Walmart for Black Friday this year. It has forced us to focus on what we have, and quality time with loved ones rather than complain how garlicky the mashed taters are. I always like to find blessings in disguise, and maybe this is some twisted way to find those blessings in your life. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, eat your pie and be happy!