Author Archives: britamoore

On overcoming cynicism

NOTE: Contains minor spoiler of Avengers: Infinity War

It’s easy to think this world is too much.

The negative news which dominates our newspapers, Twitter feeds and television screens is all we can see in those moments we’re looking at them. In my line of work, part of my task is to read and share news that affects farmers and rural Minnesotans. Too much of the time, that news is not good. And it’s not just rural people who feel that way.

We’ve all heard the narrative that our society’s discourse is breaking down, that we can’t communicate with people whom we don’t agree, that our use of social media has devolved our arguments into screaming matches rather than a nuanced discussion that leads to some kind of consensus. I don’t disagree with that. I see it in myself, when I read a post on social media I don’t agree with, I immediately react internally, “OMG! That’s a horrible belief!”

This clog in our ability to communicate is part of why I’ve grown cynical lately. It’s not just policies being enacted that I feel are bad for our country. (My opinion. You have the right to disagree.) It’s that in situations where there could be the chance for more cooperative conversation, people of various perspectives cling to their own sides, desperate to be right and the other wrong, rather than to do some good. Keeping in line with the ideology you’re “supposed” to follow seems to be more important than paying attention to the actual problems you’re faced with. (Again, I recognize this in myself too, and others who share my political beliefs, as well as those who don’t.) Seeing this happen over and over again (and it’s been happening for years, not just since 2016) makes me cynical that humans will never be able to solve their issues. That there’s no point, that things won’t turn out the way they need to in order to help people. I shield myself from more intense feelings with cynicism. I wake up and go to work knowing that the email news feeds I get are going to be filled with bad news. I check Twitter and am reminded that our country is burning to the ground.

This week, I recognized this was unhealthy. Well, I’ve long known that cynicism is unhealthy. But I let it seep in anyway. Since I don’t really feel anxious anymore (hurray!), I guess it had to be replaced with something. For the record, my cynicism did not make me depressed. I’m still enjoying my personal life and the work I do. It has just been hard to find motivation to choose joy, to see the good in the world. Even Avengers: Infinity War, which I’d been looking forward to seeing, added to my cynicism. Thanks a lot, Thanos.

I need to get back to my roots that helped guide me through my journey with anxiety. I need to meditate again. I need to cook healthy, delicious meals. I need to spend time outside. I need to meet more people in the Twin Cities. I get that.

And I will work on all of these things, a little at a time. I have faith this will help me from becoming burdened by the weight of cynicism. There’s someone else I must mention, however, who’s helped increase the amount of light in my life this past year. His name is Dr. James Hainlen, goes by Jim, the retiring conductor of the Roseville String Ensemble that I play with. His final concert with us was 2 weeks ago, and tonight we honored him with a banquet and short speeches of recognition from orchestra members and other friends.

Jim is an artist in every sense of the word. Obviously he is a musician, the former longtime director of orchestra at Stillwater (MN) High School before RSE. He’s a music theory nerd. He’s also a painter, mostly of nature scenes. He’s biker and hiker, so he spends a great deal of time in nature. And he’s a poet and writing teacher. He read poetry to us often at our rehearsals.

There’s something about Jim’s holistic view of art that is breaking my cynicism. Even though I’m sure he’s just as informed about the state of current events as anyone else, that doesn’t diminish his dedication to his arts. In each interaction I had with him, I saw light. I saw the soul of someone who honored the creative spirit above himself. Someone who didn’t let anyone get in the way of his art. I haven’t taken enough time to cherish that. I came into RSE not knowing anything about Jim. Now that I know him, I hope to know him forever.

There are too many problems with our human world to count. Unfairness runs rampant. Our mistakes, our sins, our hubris divide and kill. We have to figure out ways to stop it. But if the negativity is all that dominates our minds and hearts, we become trapped. If we do not see the beauty in the present, what is there to inspire us to keep going in our missions? If we do not allow our creativity to shine, where will new ideas come from?

May we all be like Jim and keep our passions healthy, despite what the world throws at us. May it lead to an abundance of joy rather than cynicism, solutions rather than gridlock, art rather than war.

I don’t know what it will look like, but I know love will win. Arts will help us get there.

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A Twin Citian who overcomes

Looking through my archives, I see that it has been exactly one year since I last posted on this site.

I thought I was bad when I would go three months without blogging. I meant to update it every week when I started it five years ago. Then I switched more onto posting updates about my life on Facebook. Which maybe wasn’t a smart idea, as recent weeks have shown *cough* Cambridge Analytica *cough*. I’ve cut back on my Facebook use sharply – I can’t leave the site completely because my job entails using it to share information and events. But I don’t post long-winded or vague statuses anymore. I take a peek on my feed every now and then to see how people I care about are doing, but not every day. When I feel like sharing something small, I post it on Instagram or Snapchat.

What finally kicked me into writing another blog post was a desire to share what I’ve been working on in regards to my anxiety. It would take a lot of long Facebook posts to describe it well, so I’m putting them all into one blog post. But first, let’s rewind to April 2017.

I remember being unhappy one year ago. I was in Rochester, and I’d come to realize that it wasn’t where I wanted to be, despite all the relationships I built there. (I still have those relationships, even if I don’t talk to folks there every day.) I stuck it out for a while, looking to gain more skills in my newspaper job. Which I did. But I also felt that I wasn’t fulfilling my needs. I sought comfort in meeting men from online dating sites, which was fun at times, but never provided me the connection my soul was crying out for. Anxiety and depression were as strong parts of my life as they ever had been. Every day was a battle. Yes, I had my faith to turn to for refuge, but soon it became clear God was telling me I needed to make a change.

So I moved on. I chose to move to St. Paul, Minnesota’s capital, where I am now and have been since July 2017. I’m working as the Public Relations Director at Minnesota Farmers Union, a stressful but enjoyable career. I’m in a relationship with a wonderful young man named Adam, and have been for nearly six months now. I’m near many good friends from Luther and am slowly making new ones. I’m attending church at St. Anthony Park Lutheran, a smaller community than the church I went to in Rochester but equal in meeting spiritual needs, and passionate about justice. I play in two orchestras – the Roseville String Ensemble and Minnehaha Repertory Orchestra – as well as at SAPLC. I even have a solo with RSE, playing part 2 of the Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto at our concert in 2 weeks. I attend board game Meetups and other Meetup groups as I have time and energy for. Life is fast-paced, but thoroughly sweet. Moving here was the answer to many of my soul-needs. I’ve been happy the vast majority of the time I’ve lived here.

But anxiety and depression persisted. Learning a new job is no walk in the park, especially one that requires being so many places and trying to make the world a better place for family farmers. It’s a world that’s dark right now and ignored by too many people. There’s so much to do in St. Paul, and I want to explore all of it. But I simply do not have the energy to do it all at once. It’s going to take time. That was hard for me to accept.

I’ve been a worrier since my earliest days. That habit came to a hilt when I began working at MFU and my to-do list quickly piled up. I worried I wasn’t going to be able to get everything done and that I would let our organization down. Before I met Adam, I worried I wasn’t going to find a romantic partner who loved me. When I did get together with him, I worried I wasn’t going to be able to satisfy him. I worried about having enough money. I worried about keeping my apartment clean. I worried about having enough energy.

I found a new therapist here when things really started to pile up. She did help me – it’s nice to have someone to go to every other week and just talk about what’s on your mind. It takes a weight off you. But I didn’t get at my worry habit. I said I felt anxious. She gave me some ideas to help with it, which I took to heart. Overall, I was better than I had been in Rochester. But I still had terrible breakdowns from time to time.

Adam, bless him, would sit by my side as I let the horrible feelings pass through, and give me advice to try to help. My co-workers understood, too, and have left me the space I needed to work through things. But to turn things around for good, I needed to affirm to myself that I didn’t want to live that way. I didn’t want to live in worry and fear, with breakdowns always around the corner. I didn’t want to fear what others thought of me. I needed to take charge of my own well-being in ways I never had before.

One thing that helped was exercise. You’ve probably heard that advice before. It’s most certainly true. It also helped to cut back on caffeine – I get jittery from it, which can lead to anxiety. And for me, time alone. I haven’t been very social lately because work has brought me on so many excursions, which withdraws from my energy bank.

On a particularly bad day, I took an online quiz. I know, those aren’t the best way to learn accurate information about yourself. But this one led me somewhere. It led me to Recovery Formula, a program created by Rachel Ramos, an anxiety survivor, geared to help people stop feeling anxious or panicked. I didn’t know what to expect going in. I didn’t want to circumvent my therapist. I sat down on my bed for the first session a couple weeks ago. Immediately, my brain was changed.

(Disclaimer: I am not a brand ambassador for Recovery Formula, I just happened to have a good experience with it!)

Rachel’s instruction showed me that worrying was unproductive. To live a life free from it, I needed to focus on the positives. Not in the sense of ignoring negatives, but in the sense of focusing on what you can do to achieve what you want. If something’s out of your control, then let it go. The most powerful example she gave was of a parent worried that their child wouldn’t get into college. Instead of worrying, she suggested, why not find ways to work toward making sure the kid DOES get into college? Isn’t that what parents really want?

Anxiety has put a strain on too many of my relationships. So for me, a positive route I took with that line of thinking was, “How can I make my relationships strong and healthy?” Instead of worrying that I’m not satisfying Adam, I can ask what he needs, do for him what I can and let go of the things I can’t. He’s given me plenty of positive feedback, so I think that part is going okay 🙂

Recovery Formula is a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy, which I’d never done formally. It doesn’t work for everybody. I’m not saying you have to go do it right now. But the methods of thinking it gave me have become habits that have made my last three weeks nearly anxiety-free. Even if worries surface in my mind, they dissipate quickly. Rachel helped me remember everything about my life that was good, everything I listed a few paragraphs back. The healthier my mind is, the more good I can do for the world. I don’t need to post vague Facebook statuses looking for help, because I help myself. Work is easier now, and what do you know – it’s easier to stay on top of my to-do list without being worried about it!

My message is this: Your mental health is worth the investment. Many things contribute to it – where you live, whom you live with, your work. You can change those things if it’s clear they’re bringing you down. But so much can be improved within your mind that changes your life for the better. Examine your thought patterns. Are they helping you? If not, you can change them, too.

Each and every one of you deserves happiness and inner peace. The wider world isn’t doing a great job of providing us with that nowadays. You have more power over yourself than you may realize. Don’t let it go to waste.

So I’ll leave it with my first blog post in a year. I hope my next one will be sooner than April 8, 2019, and that I’ll continue to have happy news to report.

Peace,

Brita

Time for baseball

One of my strongest memories from childhood is lying on my parents’ bed at our house in Redmond, while my dad was watching a Mariners game. Randy Johnson was pitching that day, and Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez were all playing. My dad told me about each of them, and 3-year-old Brita was intrigued. Or maybe I was 4. It was 1995 or ’96. But I definitely remember him telling me that Griffey’s real first name was George. He denies to this day that he told me this, but it’s a fact, and not an alternative one. 😉

I tell this story because this was the beginning of my relationship with baseball. I never played the sport, but it was my obsession from then up until high school, when other concerns flooded my mind. That’s probably because the Mariners stopped being good after 2003 or so, and next time I paid a little attention, I didn’t know who any of the players were. But before then, I knew all of them. Everyone knew who Ichiro Suzuki, Martinez, and Buhner were, but I remember the less significant ones, like David Bell, Carlos Guillen, Mark McLemore, and Stan Javier. When my parents and I would go to Mariners games, I’d cheer just as loudly for them as I did for the superstars. In 2001, the year of 116 wins (and no world championship), I liked how everyone contributed to the team’s success in some way. Ichiro got a lot of hits and stole bases. Bret Boone hit home runs. Martinez was his usual clutch self. Jamie Moyer threw slow pitches and deceived hitters. Kazuhiro Sasaki closed out the close games. No one had a bad year. 9-year-old Brita was overjoyed.

It wasn’t just the Mariners I fawned over. I knew at least couple players on all 30 teams. So much that in 2003, I started writing a play called “Baseball Congress,” where a player from each team represented at meetings just like the ones the Continental Congress had during the years of the Revolutionary War. I’d become obsessed with the musical 1776 and combined my two obsessions by writing about them. My dad and I had fun making up stories for them to talk about in the Congress. And I would make sure my parents recorded the All-Star games on videotape (yes, videotape, not DVR) because I’d have swim meets while the game was going on. Complete obsession.

I don’t know why I stopped paying such close attention to baseball. By middle school, the Seahawks were taking over the attention of the Seattle sports scene. I became busier with swim team and orchestra. I spent much time away from home during the summers at music camps. I started watching football more. And of course, the Mariners were terrible. (Still are.) I stopped videotaping the All-Star games, though I did continue to watch them. It was part of growing up, I guess.

By the time I moved back in full-time with my parents in 2014, I had more time on my hands, fresh out of college, so I paid more attention to the Mariners. I didn’t know any of their names, except Felix Hernandez. I don’t think they were very good that year, but we kept the games on in the summer evenings. I was often too busy with my friends to pay attention.

In summer 2015, spending evenings in my apartment, I began to turn to baseball again. This time, the Twins. Also not a great team lately. But I found the broadcasts comforting. Watching baseball on a summer night seems like the right thing to do. Plus I enjoyed seeing whoever Bert Blyleven chose to “circle” on TV. I went to 2 Mariners vs. Twins games in 2016 – one here and one in Seattle. The Twins won both.

I hardly know any Major League Baseball players anymore. That’s when I feel old. The players I grew up watching have mostly retired, or if they’re still playing, they’re close to 40. Ichiro is still playing, actually, for the Miami Marlins now. George Ken has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Martinez is the Mariners’ hitting coach. Moyer and his wife run a foundation for helping children in distress. Hernandez is still pitching. He’s still one of the few Mariners I know, except for Kyle Seager.

My love for baseball has reduced from the obsession it was when I was a kid. But it still lives quietly within me, reminding me that I don’t have to grow all the way up. I still call my dad sometimes and ask how George Ken is doing.

I can’t tell if I’m okay or not

Most days I’m so busy sorting through news topics, inside my coverage area and out, that my emotions feel inconvenient. Or they come up, seeming as if they’re trying to convince me of something that’s not true, or that I should do something that I know from logic that I should not. That leaves me confused as to what I actually want out of life. Emotions are a here-and-now phenomenon – they evolve within you over the course of a day. I’ve always felt them deeply, sometimes destructively.

I’ll probably think differently by the end of the day, but right now, I dislike my emotions. I dislike how in middle school and early high school, I used them as reasons to do things that caused others to not like me. I dislike how in most of high school, they convinced me there was nothing worth doing other than hiding in my room, not interacting with anyone because I felt like I didn’t belong. I dislike how in college, they convinced me to stay with someone I shouldn’t have, while at the same time giving me all the reasons not to. I dislike how unclear they are, so my logical brain can’t translate them accurately into action. I dislike how when my senses pick up on others’ emotions, particularly negative ones, my emotions absorb them, dragging me down with them. I dislike how they make me insecure of how to act around people, which makes me act more awkwardly. I dislike how my emotions are what they shouldn’t be, responding to a situation with unnecessary strength, feeling rejection when I’m not being rejected.

I could level some criticism at my logical mind too, for unhelpfully chastising my emotional mind. For working up anxiety. For thinking up all the “logical” reasons why I’m a loser. For putting together the puzzle of failures that others must be building up in their minds and will someday use as reasons to phase me out of their lives. For simply saying to me, “You’re doing it all wrong.”

This is where I’m supposed to come back with my usual positive platitude about something I’ve learned that makes all of this okay. But I’m not going to do that right now. It doesn’t feel right. I don’t even know what does feel right. While I was at home on Mercer Island for Christmas, I struggled with the sense that I’d changed a lot since the last time I’d been there. I’ve created this whole life for myself in Minnesota that continues to become more and more complex, that going home and re-living what I’ve grown out of felt the most strange that it ever has. It was a busy break, filled with family activities, and it slipped through my fingers. In my downtime, I unfortunately thought of the depression I dealt with as a teenager and never addressed for what it was. I either blamed my environment or myself for “doing it wrong”. I don’t suffer from depression as strongly as I did then, although it does flare up from time to time, as I believe it is now.

The tough thing about depression is that it doesn’t make sense. Why would your thoughts turn on you like that when life is good? I really have nothing to complain about. One of my interests is psychology. I find myself reading a lot of books about mental health and have more on my to-read list. It would have been my second major if I’d known I had this interest. Most recently I read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, about using your first impressions to make better decisions. I also read The Highly Sensitive Person in Love by Elaine Aron, which helped me gain a better understanding of the inner workings of my personality. I also read psychology articles on the internet quite a bit.

The downside of this is that it tempts me to self-diagnose. I read something, recognize symptoms in myself, and think I must have XX disease. But that’s unhelpful. It makes my head spin. Self-awareness is good, but perhaps I should take it in the direction of knowing what is helpful. I didn’t start meeting with a therapist because I wanted a diagnosis; I simply wanted to find solutions. I love being able to talk about whatever is on my mind and have someone be a sounding board for me. I don’t have to try to work through everything myself.

And yet I still do it. I have this need to do everything on my own, to satisfy everyone. I know if I’m truly going to work through depression and anxiety, I have to care about myself. My progress should be self-motivated. Granted, my family and friends’ opinions matter to me. Being cared about is a motivating factor. But this motivation should be entirely internal. I know many people who have health or other kinds of crises make their children part of their motivation for getting better. I’m not ready for that yet, but I do understand that. Your children are a part of you and your wanting to be there for them is an internalized motivation.

I desire love from others, but I think I have done a poor job at seeing it. I have missed out on making friends because I didn’t want to be an inconvenience to people. Depression will do that to you. I don’t want to take advantage of people’s kindness to me because I don’t feel like I can repay it. I have gone to many people’s homes in Rochester to hang out, particularly Bill and Christina Tuckers’, but I haven’t had any events at my own place. I make the excuse that I just have a one-bedroom apartment, but it’s definitely big enough to host a gathering from time to time. Or maybe it’s that my condition has never been in a good place to do that. If I were to do that, I’d have to plan well ahead so I could clean adequately, and I’d probably still worry that it looked dirty. I’d worry that my guests would find my cooking unsophisticated, or they’d recognize that I’ve stretched myself a lot to impress them.

I worry that I talk about myself too much. I’ve been criticized for being self-centered in the past. I don’t want to be that way. But my mind is so full. I’m introspective and self-conscious. I listen to others when they talk, and I want to be someone people feel comfortable talking to. When someone makes themselves vulnerable to me, that opens up the kind of connection I desire. I worry that my constant blabbing about my minor issues is preventing that.

I think that’s enough documenting of worries for today. Maybe I do feel like ending with positivity after all. I don’t have any brilliant advice, other than to give all my worries to God, not to solve them all myself. My New Year’s Resolution is to reduce my self-judgment. I’ve written down what’s in my head, without telling myself why I’m wrong to feel it. I’m going to have tough days like this, where I just feel bad. More often than not, getting words on the page makes it better. Perhaps we can all work through what’s plaguing us by doing the same.

Politics-free zone!

That statement is as much for me as it is for you. I’ve had enough. When I went to church choir the night after the election, our director Pat declared right away that it was a politics-free zone, and I immediately felt lighter. So I’ll take her method.

I’ve been away for almost four months, at least off here. Before that I skipped for 3 months. My last post was remembering the life of my grandmother, Edith Swenson, whom I still miss every day. Christmas will be hard this year, I already know. But I also wrote in that post, “I’m on the verge of something. I can feel it.” Turns out, I was right!

At that time, I was unemployed, grieving, and uncertain about whether I’d be able to stay in Minnesota. The day afterwards, I got a call from the Rochester Post Bulletin, asking me for an interview for a reporter position at Agri News. After freelancing for several months at Agri News, a full-time position opened up, and I was offered the job at the end of July. I started there Aug. 1. It has been quite the ride. I take trips around southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa and connect with farmers and agribusinesses about what’s a big deal in their world. Many of them ask me if I’m a farm kid, to which I tell them, “No, I’m from Seattle.” It’s quite a departure from the bubble I grew up in. Even when I was at Luther, I didn’t think about agriculture much. But I’m grateful to be a reporter in this field, because there are so many issues people don’t know about. It’s important to know where your food comes from. It doesn’t come from the sky – it requires great effort on the part of many people. I’ve gotten so much valuable experience already, writing 3-4 stories per week, as well as creating the pages in Adobe InDesign. I usually take my own photos, too.

The coming week is a big opportunity. My boss, the managing editor of Agri News, is going on vacation (I’m really happy for him!), so I will be doing the whole paper. I have until Monday afternoon, but I want to stay on top of it, so I’ve already created templates for all the pages. I’ll be writing two stories, and I’ll get a few from my coworker Lisa as well. Otherwise, I pull agriculture-related stories off the AP newswire. I’m excited and have a good feeling about this.

I’m also excited because my parents are coming here for Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen them since July. The visit is quite needed. We’ll be hanging around here and probably going to the Twin Cities too. It’ll be my mom’s first time visiting here since she helped me move in back in January 2015. We’ll go to a restaurant somewhere for Thanksgiving dinner – I do not have the space or the energy to prepare that giant meal. If anyone has any suggestions for a good place to go, either in Rochester or the Twin Cities area, do let me know!

Speaking of space and energy… I’m learning quite a bit about how much of that I need. I’ve had some difficulty with anxiety and depression over my whole life, but more pronouncedly since August. That was when I started to acknowledge it for what it was, rather than pile blame on myself for not being tough enough. I started taking an anti-depressant and a birth control pill that helps with emotions. Both are working well so far. I can’t drink alcohol while taking the anti-depressant, but the sacrifice is worth it. I’ve also started seeing a therapist here. I go every other week, and every time I come out feeling lighter and more energetic. I’m not embarrassed that I’ve sought help for mental illness, and I’ve been open about it on social media for quite awhile now. I appreciate all the support and advice you’ve all sent me.

Meanwhile, I’m still learning how much stimulation I can handle that won’t trigger anxiety or depression. This goes both for real life and social media. I fit the definition of Highly Sensitive Person almost to a T. It’s biological and neurological. I can point to many times since I was little where my sensitivity has come out. I can’t bear to watch two people fighting with each other, or a parent having difficulty with a small child at the grocery store. So you can probably guess why I’ve had enough of politics. It also means that I have to spend enough time alone to recharge from getting so stimulated from life itself.

This weekend, I volunteered at church with Family Promise, a program that helps families in transition. They stay at local churches overnight. This week, we had four families with us, all single mothers. One had three children, one had four, and two had one each. The children were so fun and energetic, wanting to play tag and hide-and-seek constantly. By the end of Saturday night, I was shot. I couldn’t form a coherent sentence. I left, got home and cried. My energy was gone, and all that was left was depression. That was in combination with a stressful workday on Friday and working on Saturday as well. I just ran out of gas. I feel bad because I wish I could have been more present with the children, but I just had nothing. That’s what overstimulation feels like. I knew when I fell into that funk that I would snap out of it, like I have every single time. But it still sucked. I’m still recovering from it. Knowing what I can handle requires some planning on my part, and I never took into account how much energy this week would need. I stayed up late recording election results on Tuesday night and didn’t sleep. Plus, my job is tiring on its own. As I learn more about what it means to be highly sensitive, I’m working on finding these balances. I am working on being kind to myself. I am not going to solve all of the world’s problems on my own, nor can I understand them fully. People are complex. My goal is contribute to the world in the best way I can. If I’m not healthy, I can’t do that.

This week has been hard because at times, I’ve felt like my mental health progress has been knocked back a couple notches. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get back to where I was. I don’t need to live angry – I can live joyfully, in spite of it all. So, let’s all take a few deep breaths, and walk onward in the light of the Spirit.

Peace,

Brita

The Hardest Thing

I’m on the verge of something.

I can feel it. I was last time I posted (3 months ago, unacceptable) and I’m closer to it now than I was then.

I’m a believer in the cliché “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” These past three months have been a mix of both, but the darkest part just passed through. I did the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do: say goodbye to my grandma Edi Swenson, until Paradise. The fact that I call this the hardest thing speaks to my privilege, but also to how much she meant to me and our family.

Grandma was there when I was born. She and my grandpa Gordon lived in Shoreline, WA at the time, north of Seattle, and my parents were in Redmond. She stayed with us for the first little bit of my life to help out. While they were still living there, they took care of me when my parents had to be places. They moved to Boise in 1994, which I don’t remember happening, but we went to visit them several times a year after then. They got involved with King of Glory Lutheran Church, where the memorial service was held. My grandma supported their ministry by singing, playing organ, and making lefse to name a few things, while my grandpa contributed in the financial realm. When I’d visit Boise and go to church with them, I’d sit next to Grandma, and occasionally I’d see her shed tears during hymns. This was especially after her own mother, my great-grandma Gladys, died in 2000. Of course I was distraught at seeing anyone cry, so my mom told me that Grandma was crying because singing hymns reminded her so much of her mom, who had a stunning voice of her own.

Thinking of this memory is a comfort as I miss my grandma. I know she is back with her parents now after missing them sorely for 16 years. She served as the “matriarch” of the Anderson family, especially at our family reunion last year in Tahoe. She was the oldest of five siblings, four girls and one boy. She was married to Grandpa for almost 55 years. They had anniversary photos taken just two months ago, and she looked absolutely beautiful in them. They were on display at their house over the weekend of her memorial, where my Anderson and Swenson relatives reunited in Boise to celebrate her. I was thrilled to see them, but the circumstances were not what I’d have wished for.

Grandma was one of the healthiest people I knew. She cooked delicious meals, took walks, encouraged us to drink water, kept track of family members far and wide, and had a strong social circle. I’m thankful for that last one right now, because that circle has risen up and shown how much they appreciated her friendship by being there for my grandpa. Grandma also was a quilter. At the time of her death, she’d been working on a piece for her first great-grandchild, Judah, who was born June 16 in Walla Walla. She also made quilts for Grant, Laurel, and me when we graduated high school. She knew us so well that she knew just the right pattern pieces for each of us. Mine is mostly purple (my favorite color), but there’s also myriad shades of red, green, yellow, and blue mixed in. When she saw it, my cousin Marta exclaimed, “That is so Brita!” I couldn’t agree more.

Spending Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa was always a treat. She had all the special Scandinavian recipes I craved – Swedish meatballs, lutefisk with white sauce, lefse, rice pudding… My mom and aunt have both made these recipes with great success, so I know those traditions will never die. But I can’t imagine Christmas without Grandma. I’ve done it once already, this past year, since she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in early December 2015. It’s a cancer I still don’t fully understand. I read the Mayo Clinic’s definition of it right when I learned of her diagnosis, and even from that, it seemed like the prognosis would be positive, as in, she could live with it for a few more years. But cancer is unpredictable.

Grandma fought it hard. She wanted to live fully like she had for 75 years. I was in denial about her sickness perhaps the whole time. When I visited Boise in February, she had good moments and not-so-good moments, which was typical of how this thing went. She underwent chemo and radiation at a local hospital and was looking at changing treatments at the time of her passing. I believed – and prayed – that something would work, that would help her heal. But she died on July 6, 2016, a bit suddenly, but not without saying her goodbyes. She said it to me over the phone, the hardest phone conversation I’ve ever had.

That night of July 5, I was constantly in contact with my parents, assuring them I’d jump on a plane whenever they needed me to. I did on July 8, with the service on the 9th, and actually planned to drive back to Rochester with my dad, since I was swapping cars with my mom and they’d driven to Boise in the car I got. We didn’t end up doing that, but rather drove back to Seattle and regrouped. I’m really thankful I got to be home for a night. Then I quickly booked a redeye flight back to Minnesota on July 11 – those are never fun, unless they end in Europe. So it was very rapid-fire in terms of travel plans. I was pretty loopy that week, with moments of intense grief bound to hit at any time. I became paranoid, with Grandma having died so quickly after doing everything right to take care of herself. How could I trust anyone or anything? (Especially with He-Whom-I-Refuse-To-Name in the presidential race.) This was the real darkness, trying to regroup on life after the service. My dad drove my new car out here and spent a few days with me, which I was also very thankful for. He got to meet my boyfriend Bill for the first time, and he even played with the Bridge worship team at Gloria Dei, a fun experience for all of us. I think I had the most fun 🙂

Now, after two weeks of processing, I am at peace, and the darkness has passed. I have reminded myself of my internal empowerment, that anxiety and paranoia are neither helpful nor rational, and I am grounding myself in my faith to weather any more storms that come my way. That’s probably why I’m not bawling my face off as I write this. There will always be an Edi-shaped hole in our lives, because she is irreplaceable. But I know we will keep on living. And I know she is still praying for us in heaven.

This peace tells me something good is coming. However long it takes to get here, I will wait. I know I can do it.

Brita

Let go, but hold on

I need to take a break from this intense book I’ve been reading. It’s an autobiographical piece about a woman from Minneapolis named Alexa who had to work really hard to get pregnant, and when she did (with twins), one of them died in the womb and the other was born four months early. If that’s not enough, the woman suffered from panic disorder and had miscarried twice before using IVF. And the pregnancy itself was no bed of roses.

The book is hitting me hard. I don’t have the life experiences that this author does, but I feel familiar emotions with the way she writes. I’ve talked before about struggling with anxiety (undiagnosed, I should add), and reading it in her words seems to magnify it in myself, bringing up insecurities to light in me that I like to forget about. Alexa describes herself as dealing in absolutes. When her daughter is born at 1 lb 11 oz, she visits her daily in the neonatal intensive care unit and feels horrible for not being there, placing guilt in things she has no control over. We probably all know that feeling in some way. So this book is making me raw.

Also I haven’t blogged in over a month now. No time like the present. I’ve been stewing around with a topic over the last few days. Here it is.

I’m a nostalgic person. I place great importance in memories with the people I’m close to. This is not to say that I’m afraid of change; I embrace change and let go, but hold on to the joy of the old. If anything, moving forward in life makes the memories and traditions more meaningful.

I express this quality through inside jokes, in large part. When I come up with an inside joke with someone, I’m comfortable with them. I think of it and smile whenever I see that person, although it’s not always the best idea to bring it up with them. The first inside jokes I remember having with anyone were with my cousin Laurel when I was probably 11 or 12, when we played in the pool at Plantation Country Club in Boise. I’m sure we had them before then, because we’ve spent countless hours laughing together, and still do. Humor is an important part of nostalgia – it makes you feel good, and you need to be able to look back on that.

I also think of a new-ish tradition, within the last few years since the patio at my parents’ house was finished. In Seattle’s beautiful summers, we like to grill salmon and vegetables, pour ourselves some red wine, and sit around the table on the patio. I remember doing this several times a week when I was back living there in 2014. I came to associate this with my dad talking about fun times he had at Bethany Lutheran Church in the 1980s, the church where my parents met, my grandparents were memorialized, and my aunt plays organ. Particularly involving joking around in the choir loft. These conversations were, of course, humorous, and now whenever I go home (which I will be May 26-31), we repeat this custom. Who knows what stories I’ll learn next time?

The recent occurrence that’s got me riffing on nostalgia, though, was just this past Monday. I’ll preface with a story. My senior year of college, I became close with a boy 2 years younger than me, named Wes. We made a habit of going to T-Bock’s together, particularly on the night before school breaks started, and just hanging out and talking about life. He was (is) in Nordic Choir, and we share the talent of perfect pitch. This was one of the bright spots of my senior year, and I hoped we’d be able to do it again especially after I moved back here. Well, this past Monday (4/11), we finally did. Wes had his dress rehearsal for his senior vocal recital, so I decided to go listen since I can’t go to the event. That was all lovely, and then we went to T-Bock’s again. We sat in the same spot we used to, but unfortunately the shrimp basket that we liked is no longer on the menu. :/ But the nostalgia was very much alive. Oddly enough, we flipped the script in a way. It used to be that I would order a beer or cider, while he had to drink soda because he wasn’t 21. This time, he had the beer and I had soda, since I had an hour and a half drive home.

It was so interesting, too, to hear him in the same perspective I was 2 years ago, excited and anxious about real life. He’s still the boy I got to know then, but a little more mature and ready to find his niche in the musical world. We used to talk about sports quite a bit too, so we did that too. Leaving that night, I felt nothing short of content.

What this taught me about my nostalgic self was that returning to something you once loved to do a lot after a break in it shows you how much you’ve changed. Sitting across from Wes in that same spot at T-Bock’s, I was struck that I am not the same girl who sat there in May 2014. I mean, that’s obvious. But, like I said, I don’t like to think back to the insecurities I was suffering from long ago. I had a lot of those my senior year – while I was on the upswing after a rough patch, I wasn’t all the way better. Wes helped me with that quite a bit, to his credit. Now I don’t have them so badly (as long as I don’t read too many books about it).

The nostalgia of reliving this experience was happy both because it was a positive memory, and because it boosted me up, a reassurance to my 22-year-old self that I was going to be successful, that I do have the drive in me that I prayed for. I’ve discovered my core values that I searched for for 20-plus years – heck, I’m still finding them. I’m making new relationships and memories that give me joy just like the old ones. I do hope to keep returning to the old – living near my alma mater helps with that – but I won’t let that hold me back from life’s twists and turns.

In other aspects of my life, I’m pretty much continuing with what I was doing, although I’ve added more freelance work with the Med City Beat website. That’s quite a new thing – I’m only on my second story for it. And I’ve taken on new duties at Ashdown writing for Catworld magazine. I’m still doing Bead & Jewellery, don’t worry. I’m busy, but I enjoy what I’m doing, so I can’t complain. Doesn’t make me any less tired, though, so I think I will call it a night.

Peace,

Brita