(53) Getting Pantsed by 2020 with Ronnie – Part 2

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Ronnie and I continue the real talk about how 2020 changed us, including a surprising insecurity the pandemic brought forth for me. We also discuss the various layers of stuckness many moms felt, the reshuffling of friendships (and how we found our ride or dies), and what small things are giving us hope and bandwidth for 2021. 

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Brandy:                  Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. Welcome to Part 2 of “Getting Pantsed by 2020 with Ronnie.” In this episode, we’re validating a possible lack of goals for 2021 since we’re all just trying to make it through. We also talk about the various layers of stuckness that many of us moms feel, and I share an unexpected, maybe even embarrassing, insecurity that this pandemic brought forth. Ronnie and I also discuss the reshuffling of friendships this year, how we’ve found our ride or dies, as well as some hard, humbling lessons and small things that are giving us hope and bandwidth for 2021.

Brandy:                  In Part 1, we talked candidly about how 2020 changed us and how that affected the way we are moving into 2021 and plotting out our goals for the new year — if we’re doing it at all. Before Part 1 ended, the super wise Ronnie talked about how she’s changing this year’s goals to be less outcome-focused and more intentional on what she can control, even in a pandemic, which might be very little. I really loved this idea of distilling things down and just as the episode ended, Ronnie was giving some words of warning which we’ll continue now. On to the show —

Ronnie:                  For me, it took the rug getting completely ripped out from under me for me to realize exactly what I can and can’t do. I can write this book and get it to whatever point of I say, “Done,” and it’s done. I can’t make a publisher buy it. Instead of me saying, “I’m going to be a New York Time’s bestselling author. Oprah’s going to call me,” and all of that, I now am like, “Okay, my part ends here. My job is to get it here and let it go.”

Brandy:                  Right.

Ronnie:                  Here’s the other piece of that though because I don’t want you or me to sell our dreams short. So, here’s where I’m at. There are the concrete goals or things that I will be apparently willing to do during a pandemic, like continue to work on my book kind of thing, but there are also the dreams. I think it’s important to have those dreams too. I still have that bestseller dream, but I’m not putting it as something that is on me. I have to get the manuscript written. Then, I can maybe have that dream come true, but that dream is outside of my — it’s not part of my list. It’s part of my dreams.

Brandy:                  Right.

Ronnie:                  The last thing I want coming out of this is for all of us to be like, “Next year, I’m going to organize the kitchen.” I don’t want people making safe goals. I think we’ve been safe enough. We still have to dream. For God’s sake, we have to dream. It’s all we have right now.

Brandy.                  True.

Ronnie:                  Those are very, very important, and I feel like in some ways our dreams are what have held us together through this. It’s one of those things where it’s like, “I need to have these things that are keeping me going, feeding me creatively, feeding my soul, and feeding my spirit, but I also need things that I can achieve.”

Brandy:                 Yes.

Ronnie:                  Instead of what I have done in the past which is kind of merge the two and been like, “My dream for 2021 is a Top 10 Album” — I don’t even sing! {laughter} Collaboration with the Beastie Boys or remaining Beastie Boys where I fill in for MCA.

Brandy:                 Right. “I’m gonna win American Idol. I’m not gonna try out, but I’m gonna win it.”

Ronnie:                  Right. {laughter} “I’m going to win the Boston Marathon!” No. I can still have those dreams, but I need to have them in a separate place.

Brandy:                 {laughter} They can’t have the same weight, I feel like. They hit differently.

Ronnie:                  An achievable list is the vegetables that you eat to keep you healthy. Your dreams are the cake you eat sometimes, but you gotta have it because that brings you joy.

Brandy:                 I love that I basically said how ridiculous it was to ask somebody how they’ve changed, and then asked that, and then you answered it in such a shrouded way.

Ronnie:                  {laughter} I like how called it out. That actually is ridiculous, and here’s my answer.

Brandy:                 I do remember when you were answering it, there was a point where you were like, “What I’ve learned about myself…,” and I’m like, “Oh, my God. I totally did ask her. This is where we are going with this.” {laughter}

Ronnie:                  {laughter}

Brandy:                  I will say that one of the things that happened for me this year and what I’m looking at in 2021, aside from this, I love the idea of the list having different weights and letting go of the outcome for some things. I really love that. I had such high in the sky dreams last year, and this year I’m like, “I need to get enough water.” I basically am treating myself like a house plant. I need enough water. I need adequate nourishing food. I need enough sunlight, and I need outside activity.

Ronnie:                  Yep.

Brandy:                  I feel like what I want this year is so small. It’s not any of the big stuff. Even though when I really sit down and do my list, I’m sure there’ll be bigger through lines for career stuff, my work, writing, and whatever, but I feel like that’s one of the things that’s happened to me. I’ve distilled down to, “I want to feel stable, and I want to have enough bandwidth.” I don’t know if anybody else out there was feeling this with the holidays, but I’ve felt like, “Oh, my gosh. I am hanging by a thread, and I am scared of what happens if that thread breaks.” We’ve all been saying this whole time, “Oh, my God. I have no more bandwidth. I am just totally gassed out.” I’m trying to get to the place where I don’t find out what I feel like and what it looks like when I am completely gassed out. I feel like everything has gotten very small for me, which actually feels good, and trying to figure out how does one get extra band or width. I don’t know which is the thing I’m trying to get. {laughter} Is it band? I think it’s more band. Width of band? I need more of it, and I’m trying to figure out how to do it. I’ve come down to the most basic things like, “What does a human body need to function?” Hopefully, I’m going to build from there, but I feel like it’s okay if our goals this year are very, very small. Obviously, the dream goals can still be there, but I just want to validate for people. I almost feel like it’s a little bit of a luxury to be able to even have these bigger picture things when many people feel so flattened by this pandemic and how long we’ve put up with it. Even thinking about this next year and what it will bring, it’s like “Will it be harder than 2020?” I can’t imagine, but who the hell knows. I just want to validate for people that like, if you’re just trying to get by and this whole idea of having a list that you want to manifest, there’s a little bit of privilege and luxury in that.

Ronnie:                  I think what I’m hearing you say, too, with, treating yourself like a houseplant {laughter} is that I feel like for a long time, moms in particular, we’ve been at the bottom of the list of taking care of ourselves. Self-care is a whole separate — I can barely say those words because they leave a very bad taste in my mouth.

Brandy:                 Oh, really? {laughter}

Ronnie:                  Yes, they do.

Brandy:                 Yeah, I know. Tell me more. {laughter}

Ronnie:                  Really? I’ve never heard that before. {laughter} What I think I’m hearing you say is, “Your goal for next year, with the houseplant analogy, is to care for yourself in such a way that you strengthen the foundation from which all of your goals and all of your dreams will come from.”

Brandy:                 Exactly. It’s an acknowledgment of where I’m actually at in this moment and feeling like I can just be on autopilot and do my list for 2021 and think about, “What are the things that I want to achieve?” But I need to take a pause for a minute and check-in where I’m at because it doesn’t make sense to make a list of all these things that I want to have happen if I’m not acknowledging who I am as I’m about to try and do those things. Maybe, some of those things have to change, and maybe, my list for me gets a little bit smaller to help tend to me so that I can even achieve any of those things. But I think sometimes we do get on this autopilot of, “Every year what am I going to achieve? What do I want from this year?” Maybe, we need to stop for a minute and go like, “How am I doing? How am I doing with this? We are in a new year, and I know everybody says, ‘Fuck 2020,’ but 2021 isn’t automatically just different.” {laughter}

Ronnie:                  {laughter} It’s not going to get better immediately at midnight.

Brandy:                 If we are building the plane as we are flying — we don’t just land in the airport of 2021 and it’s all back to normal.

Ronnie:                  We aren’t landing in Aruba in 2021. No. {laughter}

Brandy:                  {laughter} No.

Ronnie:                  It reminds me of when I was little and learning how to ride my bike. I would fall off my bike and fall of my bike again. Finally, I would fall off and give up, and my knees are scraped, my hands are bleeding, and I would be like, “What am I doing? I need to do something different. This isn’t working.”

Brandy:                  Right.

Ronnie:                  I would stop, and I would think back through. “Am I peddling too fast? Am I leaning this way?” Those minor adjustments figured it out. I feel like we all have been knocked on our asses by 2020.

Brandy:                  Yes.

Ronnie:                  We have an opportunity right now to stand up, dust ourselves off, and figure out what’s working. It’s not mandatory. I’m not saying everybody needs to do this. For some people, it’s super comforting, and the only thing keeping them going right now is to continue forward exactly as they have been. If that is one of your listeners, then God speed. Everybody, get through this however you need to get through this, one hundred percent.

Brandy:                  Yes.

Ronnie:                  I think for some of us that like to overthink things and reflect a lot and spend a lot of time in our heads, this is an opportunity or a moment where we are in the middle. We can both look back and look forward and almost course-correct midflight. What are the things that we want to change ever so slightly right now just to keep things going?

Brandy:                 Exactly. That’s where I’m at because I’m usually thinking big picture. All my lists are ways big picture thing, and all of a sudden this year, I’m like, “Oh, I just need a couple of small things. I want to build more bandwidth.” It’s more of this still survival mode thing. I just want to keep having enough rope to keep pulling me through. I think that can be hard for some people to feel okay about because it feels like, “Well, I’ve lost all hope,” but it’s like, “Well, this year we are different, and it requires something different of us, and that’s okay.”

Ronnie:                  We also live in a society that for a long time being busy and being engaged in everything was a status symbol. That has been completely pulled out from us. Now, we are all sitting in a place where there is no busy or it’s a different busyness. I don’t feel like I have things that just fill my time. Everything sort of has a purpose because of going back to that intentionality. Spontaneity is kind of on hold right now.

Brandy:                 Yes.

Ronnie:                  All of that together has put us in a place where our status or how we’ve viewed ourselves in the world has been almost shattered to some degree. Without that, people and myself included, are like, “Wait a minute. If I’m not this busy person that is doing this, this, and this, who am I?”

Brandy:                 Exactly.

Ronnie:                  Which I don’t know anybody that needed an existential crisis on top of the murder hornets of 2020, but I feel like we got that too.

Brandy:                 No, I think that that’s right. It’s a lot of this questioning, “Who am I when all these things fall to the side, or when I have to shift?”

Ronnie:                  Right.

Brandy:                  I think the identity crisis is like, “Yeah, we didn’t really need that.” I think along with some of the identity crisis came this idea of feeling stuck. It’s literal because we’re stuck in our homes, but then I think like what you were talking about earlier about control and realizing that there’s so little that you really can control in this whole thing, and I think that that’s been a hard lesson. I think it’s about our desire for control, but I also feel what I keep hearing people say over and over again, moms specifically, is “feeling stuck.” I know that I’ve felt it. It’s stuck in almost every way. It’s stuck physically. It’s stuck career-wise. This isn’t a time when most things are blossoming, companies have lots of money, or there are lots of opportunities out there.  

Ronnie:                  Right.

Brandy:                  It’s feeling stuck that way too. Feeling stuck with people. Feeling stuck with — I wouldn’t say “in relationships” because — well, I guess for some listeners who are in marriages that are separated or divorced, I know a lot of people have felt stuck that way. I’m somebody who loves clarity and then taking action, and when I get clarity about something, it’s like, “Oh, this is something in my life that needs to change. Here’s what I am going to go do about it.” But the action piece can’t really be done or felt like it this year.

Ronnie:                  Yeah.

Brandy:                  One of the things that was really hard for me, and I don’t know if anyone else went through this, but towards the beginning of the pandemic when it was like, “We’re all going to get this,” people were dying, and we sort of didn’t know some things yet, I was getting super nervous about like, “What if I lost my husband?” This pandemic really brought up this insecurity in me that I cannot provide for myself because my husband is the breadwinner. I started being like, “I need to get a job. Even during the pandemic, I’ll work from home. I need to be able to provide for myself because what if something happened to him? What would we do?” I’ve always been super independent, always. It really brought up a lot of hard feelings for me about being a work at home, stay at home mom and how vulnerable that makes me feel. I felt stuck because I got a resume together which by the way, is a tough thing to do. I mean, I have stuff I can put on there, of course, about writing and podcasting and things that I’ve done, but in terms of all the shit that we do — like, Ronnie, you and I talk about how we could run a cartel with all the skills that we have about hiding Christmas presents and magic and all that.

Ronnie:                  Right. Yep.

Brandy:                  The amount of organization that goes into all of those things, you can’t really put that on to a resume.

Ronnie:                  {laughter}

Brandy:                 Anyway, that plus feeling like I’m trying to sum myself up here, and so much of the work that I’ve done that has been the hardest work of my life, I can’t even show on here. Then, with the job market the way it is, I was feeling super stuck there. It’s like, “Okay. I can’t help myself.” It just felt like every door I tried to open was locked, and that’s an overwhelming feeling. I know I felt that this year.

Ronnie:                  Yeah, and I did too. I think you and I talked about this because my husband is also the breadwinner. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic thinking about, “What are we going to do if he gets sick?” Literally, what are we going to do? I have a good friend who is an estate attorney, and I called her in a panic. I was like, “I need you to tell me what happens. What do I do if this happens? What do I do if he gets in the hospital? What do I do if he dies? I need you to tell me the next steps because I have to know what they are.” She was like, “Is he okay?” I was like, “He’s was perfectly fine,” and she was like, “Are you okay?” {laughter} I was like, “Clearly not!”

Brandy:                  Yeah. {laughter}

Ronnie:                  This pandemic and the way we watch so many things around us collapse that seemed like they would never collapse brought it home so personally. Absolutely, I felt that urge too. Like, “I have to bring in money right now.”

Brandy:                 Yes.

Ronnie:                  “I need to figure it out. I need to be working my contacts so if something happens, I can be like, ‘Hey, I’m ready to jump back in.’”

Brandy:                 It really made us look at what that would look like. I’m thinking, “If something happened to him, I would need to get a job.” I think what was making it worse for me is that I was already trying to get a job. I think I was grasping at straws, but anyway, I was sending out resumes and looking for things that were a fit. By the way, my skill set is weird, so it doesn’t totally fit in an easy category. Like, “Oh, you went to nursing school, so you will be a nurse.”

Ronnie:                  Right.

Brandy:                  I think I felt even more stuck because I was actually trying to do the thing that I would have to do if something happened to him and nothing was happening. It was just stagnant. I was like, “Oh, my God! I can’t get a job, so I can’t make money. There’s no action. I can take no action here.” It felt like I was paralyzed.

Ronnie:                  All you could do was sit with that feeling and realize just how potentially exposed you were if something were to happen which is a really shitty place to have to be.

Brandy:                 Right, and this is on top of all the other anxiety.

Ronnie:                  Oh, sure.

Brandy:                  I didn’t expect that that would bring that up for me. Then, I went in an even deeper spiral, and I was like, “What the fuck am I doing with my life?” I’m forty — how old are we? Are we the same age?

Ronnie:                  Oh, no. I’m the OG of this duo. {laughter}

Brandy:                  Oh, that’s right. I’m 43, and I feel like I’m on the downhill side of being closer to retirement than I am to when I started. I’m like, “What have I done?” I had all these regrets about like, “Where am I at career-wise?” And like, “Oh really, Brandy? You’re in this age, and you couldn’t provide for yourself? Where did you go wrong?”

Ronnie:                  Oh yeah! That was a really fun, 4:00am, self-reckoning morning. {laughter}

Brandy:                  {laughter} Yes!

Ronnie:                  When I was like, “Wow, Ronnie. Remember when you made all those fun choices to take these crazy jobs that you really weren’t cut out for, but you thought would be a fun challenge? They add up to nothing.”

Brandy:                 Ugh, thank you! Yes! It’s like, “What do I have to show for this? What do I have to show for my life?”

Ronnie:                  Right. People ask, “Do you work?” It’s like, “Well, here are the laundry list of things I’ve done that really don’t relate to each other at all, but I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve had a wide variety of experiences.” That gets me nowhere.

Brandy:                  Right!

Ronnie:                  I’m overqualified for McDonald’s and not really qualified for much else. That’s where it gets me. It’s one of these things that I did not expect that. I expected to be trying to keep my family safe and trying to keep myself safe. Nobody expected a pandemic, but once I was like, “Okay, virus,” I didn’t expect to have this reckoning with myself and who I am and where I’m at.

Brandy:                  Yes!

Ronnie:                  That seemed unfair, frankly. You can either throw a virus at me that we can’t control and don’t understand, or I can have an existential crisis. Putting the two of them together is not fair. Please don’t also throw into that political unrest and racial uprising because my empathic self will explode.

Brandy:                 Oh, my God. On top of that, it’s, “Oh, and you are homeschooling your children now.” Like, “What?!”

Ronnie:                  I’m homeschooling my children with my mom and my mother-in-law, both elderly and several states away. I should also have to reckon with, “What have I done with my life, and where I am going?”

Brandy:                  Exactly.

Ronnie:                  Sometimes, I felt like the robots you see in movies that short circuit and smoke starts pouring out of them. That was me a lot.

Brandy:                 I feel like we weren’t talking about a lot of this stuff because it could be embarrassing. People are embarrassed to say that they are questioning these things which is, of course, why I want to talk about them so that other people are like, “Oh, my God. I was going through that same thing.” It’s a weird world right now because you have your people that you talk to, and you don’t necessarily see people. You have your people, but then it’s weird because you look out into the world and half of the people are living life as if we’re not in a pandemic. Then, the other half are. It’s this weird thing which like, “Which one is true?”

Ronnie:                  Right.

Brandy:                  It can be disconcerting, and it can feel like gaslighting. As a person who’s been at home having an existential crisis and watching other people still go to parties and live their life normally, it’s like, “Oh, my God. What am I doing? Have I just completely lost my mind?” Then, the reality is like, “No. These people are not looking at the reality.” I don’t know. It’s a wild feeling.

Ronnie:                  I think, too, talking a little bit about the people that you talk to and your relationships, I had some friendships, some long-term friendships, that really shifted during this time. The things that I thought I could count on as my circle got smaller, as school was closing, and my husband was working from home, the walls started to close in. I didn’t expect that to also impact some of the relationships around me. There were definitely times when it was like, “There’s nothing that’s stable. Nothing was stable and remained.” They’re not over. There are more days coming that nothing feels stable for me, I’m sure. Those are really, really hard days. Those are the days that my anxiety is perched on my chest. I can’t take a deep breath. I’m brittle as glass. I am raw. I’m seconds from tears all day. I end up laying on my couch watching baking shows because that is all I can consume. I’m just counting the minutes until that day ends.

Brandy:                 Yes.

Ronnie:                  Those days are hard, and even in those days, I have to parent. I have to help my child with school. I’m still a partner. I can sequester myself to some degree, but I also still have to show up. Those are hard, hard days. Those are the days when you want to lean on people, and I wasn’t expecting some of those relationships that I thought I would lean on to buckle.

Brandy:                 Yes. I think you’re so spot on about having things that were stable become unstable during this time of great instability. These are all the different layers to the hardship of the pandemic, but I think having friendships and support systems — I mean, really when you really boil it down, support systems that you thought were there during this time cannot bear the weight of this. You’re seeing people in stress response.

Ronnie:                  Right.

Brandy:                  I’ve realized, too, there are a couple of friendships I have that I didn’t realize our friendships really only existed when there was zero tension in the world and in the bigger picture. Like, “Oh, wow. We aren’t the kind of friends that are really ride or die. I think that’s really what it boils down to. You find out who your ride or die people really are. There’s the grief with that, too, of losing what you thought were support systems that become clear to you that they’re not. Again, it’s like this pandemic just has a way of breaking away every little thing. It’s like, “Okay, so the next thing she holds dear, we’re going to break that away,” until you’re just like, “I’ve got nothing left to stand on.”

Ronnie:                  I feel like 2020 was The Gauntlet. {laughter}

Brandy:                  Yes. {laughter}

Ronnie:                  We’re all running The Gauntlet right now where we’re just like leaping flaming chasms, shit’s falling away under our feet, and I think there’s going to be something going into 2021 — this is going to sound crazy, but these smaller lists that you and I are talking about where we are recognizing the foundation, or the things that we can absolutely control, I suspect — and I’m certainly not trying to sugarcoat anything because 2020 was a shit show, but I suspect that on the other side of this, somehow, I’m going to have an appreciation for things that I never even noticed before.

Brandy:                 Yes.

Ronnie:                  Also, relationships, and people finding ways to show up for each other even in the middle of all this.

Brandy:                 I agree, and it’s funny that you say that because I’ve been thinking a lot about that and when things start to go back to normal. I feel like we will be so much happier than we’ve ever been by the smallest things.

Ronnie:                  Yeah. I feel like, for me, I didn’t realize how much I was taking for granted. Let’s be real. This pandemic, among the many things it’s done to many of us, really caught me at the knees and humbled me. I probably needed a good takedown from this. It was handed to me. The appreciation now of genuine people doing kind things and being good to each other and those kinds of things, I had just forgotten the beauty that was there. A friend called a few weeks ago and said, “I want to come over and see you.” I set up chairs in my front yard. This is the intentionality: She was coming around 4:00, and at like noon, because thankfully it wasn’t going to rain, I put the chairs out so there’d be plenty of time for them to air before she sat down.

Brandy:                  Right. {laughter}

Ronnie:                  Even though we are outside, we are ten feet apart, at least. We are both wearing masks. I’m seated, and she pulls in the driveway. She sits down, and I started to cry.

Brandy:                  Oh, I bet.

Ronnie:                  Because of the idea that I knew all the precautions she had to take to come to sit in my front yard, and she also knew all the precautions and all the actions I had taken to make this forty-five minute shooting the shit in my front yard happen. I’m getting teared up. I’m not going to say it’s stupid, but it’s stupid. It’s the idea that in the past when people would stop by, it was just nice and whatever. But now, it’s almost like I’ve been getting a view into what it takes for someone to do that. Does that make sense?

Brandy:                 Oh, totally. This person values you so much that they’re willing to do these extra things. I think that is one of the clarifiers during this whole time, and I know, for me, some of my friendships it was very clear very quick who was like, “Oh, you’re not worth wearing a mask for.” Basically, I wouldn’t even change anything if you required it. If hanging out with you made me have to change anything, I’m not going to do it. It’s like, “Oh, wow. Well, thank you,” in a sense, because it’s like, “That’s really clear how important I am to you.”

Ronnie:                  Right.

Brandy:                  Like what you are saying with this friend, and this friend would go through all of this. It’s almost like an evening of the friend saying, ‘I will do all of these things so that I can see you,” and then you’re like, “I will do those same things.” It’s almost like a math equation. {laughter}

Ronnie:                  Yes. Everything turned out fine, but I had a pretty significant health scare in the midst of the pandemic as well.

Brandy:                  Oh, gosh. Yes.

Ronnie:                  I had a friend who I was seeking counsel from for some things who offered to come. Of course, they won’t let you in the hospital here at all if you aren’t the patient or being tested or anything. She was willing to come and sit in the parking garage while I was inside just so I knew someone was there. It’s those kind of things that I think I would have been like, “Well, that’s sweet,” but now, the idea of people willing to take those steps in the middle of all this, I don’t know that I will ever take those kinds of kindnesses for granted ever again.

Brandy:                 Yeah, that’s so big. It’s almost like a shift in — ugh, I don’t want to sound like there’s toxic positivity here, but it’s almost like the shift from the relationships that fell through or the clarity that we got that we’re not as important to somebody — I’ll try and say that without a judgment. It’s like, “Well, that just is. I got that information.” But it’s like being able to focus more on the people who were willing to do what it takes to continue a friendship. That is really the gift. It’s the clarity of who those people are.

Ronnie:                  For me, too, it was reckoning with myself on, “Who am I willing to do that for?”

Brandy:                 Yes!

Ronnie:                  I’m definitely not trying to make it sound like I’m some sort of great slice of bread or anything, but looking back, part of the reason I think these things were so touching to me was I had a reckoning that I had not always been a great friend and maybe been a bit of an asshole some of the times, or a lot of the times, to some people. Realizing that I was worthy of someone putting that effort in, even if I was phoning it in at times, was really humbling. It was also, like I said, a mirror to me of like, “You’re kind of an asshole in this friendship. Do you realize that?” The, it was like, “Shit, I am. How do I fix that? Do I want to fix that? What does that look like?”

Brandy:                 Wow, that’s interesting. Yes, totally. That’s why I say, with the friendships that I’ve had the clarity on, there’s almost no judgment there because it’s like, “I’m sure that there are people on the other end who’ve felt that way about me as well.” It’s kind of like a reshuffling.

Ronnie:                  Right. I always thought I was someone who had an awareness because I tend to feel other people’s feelings so keenly. I always thought I understood where someone else was coming from. I don’t know shit. If anything, that has been very clearly spelled out to me that I have so much that I thought I knew that I didn’t, and it was probably good that I learned that.

Brandy:                 I am with you. I feel like my self-assuredness definitely got cut off at the knees just about anything. I mean, even now. For the longest time, I watched people have such a strong take on pandemic and the virus, and I’m like, “I don’t know. I don’t know how people can be so sure that it’s nothing, but then they can also be sure that it’s going to kill all of us.” I found myself so in the middle trying to figure out and being like, “Wow. I don’t even know anymore.” This was such an unexpected thing that everything I thought I knew turns out, maybe, I don’t. So, I’m with you on feeling like I got the self-assuredness slapped out of me.

Ronnie:                  Yeah.

Brandy:                  I think that I’m trying to come from some of that and figure out, “What do I pick back up, and what do I let go of?” I’m trying to find my posture again, and I haven’t found it yet, honestly. I still feel like I went through and I’m going through a time where I’m like, “Is the work that I’m doing even matter? What the fuck am I doing with my life? Is this really the most important thing?” I just keep trying to be guided by what is getting me through and things that I’m interested in, but there’s a whole bunch going on under the surface of like, “What am I here for, and what is of value?” Those are all big questions to have when many stable things under you feel like they’re crumbling.

Ronnie:                  I feel like I thought I had a really good grasp on who I was and where I was headed, and then 2020 was like, “Ha-ha! No! You have no idea.”

Brandy:                  Right.

Ronnie:                  I feel like 2020 pantsed me, essentially. It showed my ass to the world, and now I have to deal with the fact that everyone has seen my ass. {laughter}

Brandy:                  {laughter} Yes.

Ronnie:                  Literally, I was pantsed by 2020. It’s all out there. We were all pantsed.

Brandy:                 I am literally writing down that the name of this episode is going to be called “Getting Pantsed by 2020.”

Ronnie:                  {laughter} That’s what it feels like!

Brandy:                  {laughter}

Ronnie:                  I don’t know if you’ve ever been pantsed, but afterwards, you feel pretty vulnerable.

Brandy:                  Oh, God. It’s awful.

Ronnie:                  It’s the worst because it’s unexpected. You try to laugh it off because you’re like, “Ha-ha, funny joke,” but your pants are at your knees. You’re trying to fix it as fast as you can, and everybody saw it. It’s mortifying. Then, you’re supposed to go to math after that. Like, “What the fuck? No!”

Brandy:                 Could kids get away with pantsing each other in this generation?

Ronnie:                  Oh, God. No! Are you kidding?

Brandy:                 I mean, that was like a normal, daily thing when I was in middle school.

Ronnie:                  We watched a movie with our son, and I can’t remember which one it was. It might have been one of the Farris Beuller kind of movies, and somebody got pantsed. I shit you not, he was like, “{gasp} You can’t do that!”

Brandy:                 Yeah, he’s right.

Ronnie:                  I was like, “It was a different time.” Like, what do you say?

Brandy:                  {laughter} I know.

Ronnie:                  That’s what it feels like. We all came into 2020 with swagger, and then it just fucking pantsed us. Here we are trying to pick it up and go to math now with all the people that just saw us.

Brandy:                  {laughter} Seriously.

Ronnie:                  I am intentionally choosing math because that’s not a forgiving subject.

Brandy:                 No, it’s not. {laughter} You can’t go talk about the Pythagorean theorem after you’ve had your underwear exposed.

Ronnie:                  Yeah, you can’t. I think at the end, when I look at 2021, I’m just going to try and keep my pants on.

Brandy:                 See? This is the houseplant, the small plan. I do think, also, in closing, the thing that I keep finding as something that is giving me band or width {laughter} or width of band — why do I not know? It’s band, right? Wouldn’t band be the thing I’m looking for? I mean, I know bandwidth. {laughter}

Ronnie:                  You’re are actually looking for width of the band. You want a wider band.

Brandy:                 Okay. I want a wider band. As I’m looking for that, the thing that is giving that to me are little pieces of hope. They can be tiny, but I’m really realizing that even wanting to do a list like this or some sort of something for 2021 is the thought that there is something to keep showing up for. I mean, I know this sounds dark. I believe this year there will be things to show up for and that there are things that I want.

Ronnie:                  Yes.

Brandy:                  Those acts of hope, even though they are so small, are so big. I know I’ve told you this story, but I’m going to tell it here, that gave me such unexpected hope. My son has a girlfriend.

Ronnie:                  Aww.

Brandy:                  I know. It’s adorable. They just text. They don’t see each other, but they knew each other from school. For Christmas, he got her something, and she got him something. They wanted to drop off the thing, so I drove my son to her house. He had on his mask, and she had on hers. They did their six feet apart thing. He’s walking up there to her front door. We’ve never been there. They haven’t seen each other this whole time, and I’m like, “Oh, my God. This is a really big moment. This is his first girlfriend, first gift, and the first time he’s seeing her since they’ve become girlfriend/boyfriend.” I see him, and he puts his bag down. She puts hers down, and he’s trying to be cool or whatever. He comes back to the car, and he has this smile on his face. I was trying to hold it together. I was near tears because I felt both things. These are the moments that are still out there for us, and we’re frozen. We’re just frozen. I mean, there are some people out there, and maybe even some of my listeners, who are still like, “Well, we’re still fucking getting those moments. We don’t care about this pandemic or whatever.”

Ronnie:                  {laughter}

Brandy:                  I know there are people out there who are still getting these moments, but for me, it was somebody who is a little bit more reserved about it. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. This is that life that is out there for us.” It just gave me such hope. I feel like we forget when we bring it really small, how much big is also out there. I know we need to bring it small for certain times and things, but that moment gave me so much hope. Also, grief because I thought of so many moments like this that, I know for him, are something that is just frozen. It’s like it’s just being postponed.

Ronnie:                  Right.

Brandy:                  We got to have it, but for some people there are moments that are lost like people who are in their senior year of high school. There are some things that people have lost that cannot be replaced and that cannot be postponed. The frozenness is like, “They’ll never get it back.” In one moment, I felt so much excitement for him, so much hope, and then also grief which I feel like 2020 is all of those things.

Ronnie:                  Right. Those moments of hope become almost subversive. They are the stubborn little markers that lead us through this.

Brandy:                  Yes!

Ronnie:                  It’s that moment of like, “Everything around me is on fire, and fuck it. I am going to have this tiny shred of hope right now.”

Brandy:                  It’s right. It’s the breadcrumbs to the destination.

Ronnie:                  It is.

Brandy:                  You’re like, “Oh, my gosh. There’s one more. Okay, we keep going.” You don’t know where it and you don’t know how long, but it’s the thing that keeps you fed. Those little moments are everything. I think, too, that is one of my moving forward and small view things is finding those moments of hope. Maybe, that’s what I think about as I’m making the list is like, “What are things that I can do that give me the hope pay off? Where have I found hope this year? Where are those moments, and how do I get more of them or similar ones?” I think that’s going to be something that is on my mind.

Ronnie:                  I think for me going forward, one of the things that has carried me through that I will continue to cling to as if it is the life preserver that is holding me on these tossing seas is just the honesty and vulnerability of the people around me to say things like this. People saying things like, “This is really hard, and I feel lost. I thought I had this all figured out, and then this hit, and I don’t. I don’t think I really had it figured out before, but I was probably lying to myself. The pandemic showed me that.” The reckoning with the reality, I’m here for that all day long.

Brandy:                  Yeah, same.

Ronnie:                  Going forward, I’m looking for the people that are like, “This place is a shit show, and did you see how pretty my flowers are?”

Brandy:                  {laughter} Right. Yes.

Ronnie:                  I want people that are holding both of those things. You and I have talked a little bit about how I never understood, before this, how people going through war could do things like get married and have children and have these moments of joy until we were in the middle of this. I realized that the most stubbornly, independent thing you can do is to find those moments of joy.

Brandy:                 Exactly. That’s that hope. That’s amidst everything feeling that everything is falling apart, I’m still going to plant a garden because I believe we are going to be here to see it grow.

Ronnie:                  Yes, and I will leave you with this tiny little thing that I did not expect to be grateful for in the middle of all this. Because my family has been together for nine hundred thousand million days in a row, we now have the most esoteric, ridiculous list of inside jokes that no one will ever in a million years understand. When our son gets married, committed, or whatever and I get to make a toast, I am going to say a string of nonsensical words that no one is going to understand except for me, him, and my husband. We are going to piss our pants laughing.

Brandy:                 Oh, my God. Yeah, it’s like you guys are in the dorms together.

Ronnie:                  Right. I think a lot of families are having that experience where you’re going to come out of this with these random inside jokes because you have no one else.

Brandy:                 {laughter} Right.

Ronnie:                  Twenty years from now, you are going to look at your kid, and you’re going to say, “Have you tried to restart your door?” They’re going to lose their minds, and you can’t explain that to anyone. Those are also the gifts that I think we will take from this.

Brandy:                 {laughter} Yes. It will be interesting once we’re out of this. I’m always jumping ahead, but I’m so interested, once this isn’t quite the same threat, when we really get that moment to breathe and to look around and to have some joy and happiness and like, “Oh, my gosh. We made it through,” it’s like, “How we make meaning out of this?” I’m the person who in the middle of my cesarean was like, “How am I going to come out of this? What am I learning?” But I’m also like, “And my abdomen is open, but I’m also trying to make meaning while it is happening.” Again, I feel like it’s an awful thing to do but I am predisposed to doing.

Ronnie:                  Right. I would love it if this time next year or the end of 2021, you and I listened to this podcast again and talked about what we heard about our precious selves now.

Brandy:                  No, this means we’re going to get pantsed again all year. {laughter}

Ronnie:                  Maybe! Maybe, or maybe we’re going to be like, “Dude, listen to how dark we were.” You know what I mean? I think it’d be really interesting to reflect back on this and be like, “That was us in the middle, and here we are now.”

Brandy:                 True. It would be great to see how far we’ve grown or just to document the dark parts of it. {laughter}

Ronnie:                  Yeah.

Brandy:                  I’m so happy that we finally got to do a full proper episode together. You are one of my lifelines, and I feel like our friendship has been such an unexpected gift of not just the pandemic but also adult life. It’s not an easy thing to make friends in adulthood that you feel like you’ve known your whole life. You’re one of those for me, so thank you, Ronnie.

Ronnie:                  Well, I feel 100% the same, and I will also say that I think the fact that you and I have managed to build this friendship with you in California and me in North Carolina and you and I only being in the same place once for five days, that speaks to the fact that when you are intentional and you are like, “I’m going to put effort into this,” that good shit comes out.

Brandy:                 Or how desperate each of us were.

Ronnie:                  Or a pandemic happened, and I was like, “Brandy will talk to me, and I need to talk to somebody.” {laughter}

Brandy:                  Yes. {laughter} Either way. However.

Ronnie:                  Right, whatever works. You have been, for me, just a really safe place to feel this crazy avalanche of feelings brought on by the pandemic, and I’m so grateful to that. I’m so grateful in the way that you bring your podcast guests to your listeners not just as moms but as people. I think that’s really important, and I think it’s really valuable. I’m very grateful that you do that.

Brandy:                 Aww. Thank you so much for that.

Ronnie:                  Brandy and I love each other, listeners! It’s true!

Brandy:                 {laughter} Well, I have to say one of my things on my list from 2020 that I felt like maybe I did was, I said, “High profile guests and continued meaningful and relatable content.” So, high profile — I don’t know. I had some people from The Bachelor and Survivor on.

Ronnie:                  You had some high profile, yes.

Brandy:                 I did. I had a Netflix star on, but more important than that, really, the continued meaningful and relatable content. That is just the most important to me. As long as that is possible, I’m going to keep doing it. So, thank you, everybody, for being along for the ride, and thank you Ronnie.

Ronnie:                  Well, thank you.

Brandy:                 I wanted to give you all an update on that list of things Ronnie lost during the pandemic in 2020 that she mentioned in Part 1. She was planning on burning that list around the New Year, but here’s what she messaged me just a few days ago. She said, “Turns out that I no longer view it as a list. It’s a time capsule. It’s a look at who I was when this all started. It’s a reminder of all the little joys I took for granted that I never want to take for granted again. When I wrote it, it was about letting go. Now, it feels like the way forward. The things I want. Maybe, my list for 2021. Instead of what I lost, it’s what I want to find. So, I didn’t burn it.” I kind of called that, I have to say. I figured that moment would happen, and I’m pretty sure it’s because we share a birthday, so we’re connected through the friggin’ planets or something. But yeah, that feels pretty profound. The idea that what we lost last year could be our way forward this year. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.