My wife and I went to NYC a few years back to see Broadway Shows. The following spring, while Ana was in Paris, we went with Jacob. A month later he was diagnosed with cancer. The last time we went anywhere before this was our honeymoon in 1998. Since then, we’ve raised two kids, had jobs, lost jobs, had jobs, coached, traveled, laughed, cried, experienced trauma, buried a child, witnessed a graduation, posthumously, sent a child to Chicago, and grieved. Man, we have grieved. Tomorrow, Naomi and I leave for respite. We are heading to the ocean. We will be alone. We still must work but get time to decompress. Working seems less like work with ocean breezes and warm sun sinking into our sunscreen laden skin.
Mental health wasn’t discussed when I was young. The masses weren’t granted access to millions with a press of a Twitter button. My information was filtered. I was an anxious child, but the levels have increased. It seemed fitting that I turned to fantasy utopic idealism, over-eating, and alcoholism. I believed problems would magically go away. Like most beliefs I once had, this fallacy was disproved from personal experiences. This morning, cloaked by Cleveland’s gray skies, I had my weekly call with Jackie. She’s my friend, consultant, empathy warrior, and collaborator. Amidst one of my diatribes about <insert calamity> one thing became clear: I need a break.
The trip to NYC in the spring of 2019 seems a lifetime ago. It was. Life was good. Jacob was healthy and happy. Ana was navigating her teens quite well. Naomi and I were in a nice groove of work, wealth, and health balance. Yes, I was overweight but mobile. I remember walking the Highline over Chelsea and smiling. Naomi and Jacob moved swiftly and went into Chelsea Market minutes before me. I didn’t care. Life was good. Who could see the train ahead? We didn’t, nor should we.
Since Jacob’s diagnosis, nothing is what it was. I will never be the Brandt I was. None of us will be. This is not to say there haven’t been good moments. We’ve shared in graduations, new jobs, Ana’s success, and happiness, and so much more. But we are tired. The fatigue is encompassing. My body has clear evidence of trauma. I am cloaked in fear, anxiety, stress, sadness, depression, and far more. Focusing on one thing is nearly impossible. Multi-tasking? Forget it. Impossible.
Tomorrow, we are doing something we haven’t done in a long time. I love traveling with “The Becky’s.” This is the nickname my friend appointed my sister-in-law’s family. Vacations with my daughter and her friends is a blast. This isn’t that vacation. In fact, WE AREN’T TAKING A VACATION. My weekly “Jackie Call” made something clear. This is a business trip with a clear mission: Respite and the other “re’s.” What is respite? A period of relief from something difficult or unpleasant, according to Merriman-Webster. Respite is a great start. It must be followed by refocus, restoration, and renewal.
This isn’t going to happen in a week. I am aware of what lies ahead. My gut is tightly wound. Finding my breath would help. Developing sustaining habits is a step forward. My “business trip” will have a clear, written daily itinerary. The day will start with 5 slow, deep breaths. Prayer will follow, along with a walk along the beach. I will cry while looking for “signs of Jacob.” This is empirical. My needs will be clearly defined. How do I know if I can meet my needs if I don’t define them? This is all part of my business trip.
I am the CEO of myself. It’s time for an Audit!