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Whoops — did not mean to take such a long break from blogging. I have been insanely busy getting our 2020 Wander Women Retreats live, and also, to be honest, a bit stymied by this next post in my chronological queue. This post opens the floodgates, I promise! I just prepped posts for New York City, the Dominican Republic, and Montreal.

Anyway, where we’re at: I finished recapping the end of 2018, of which this is a huge roundup.

3-devide-lines

Well, this is definitely a first: a three month roundup with just two locations in it. Without question, my three month stretch of not leaving Albany while caring for my mom in the wake of her brain cancer diagnosis was the longest I’ve stayed in one place in over a decade (even when I was living in Brooklyn from 2007-2011, I can’t imagine I would go a whole ninety days without leaving the city to pop upstate or elsewhere.) But up until the final stretch of this period, we were truly operating in crisis mode, and travel was not even an option.

And so this post recounts more of an emotional journey than a physical one. Again, this period of my life remains difficult to share, but somehow it feels essential in order to find that catharsis I’m craving and start to heal.

Albany, New York

Where I Went

• Eighty-two nights in Albany, New York

• Four nights in Merida, Mexico

Highlights

• Making memories with my mom. I have to admit that one of the very well-intentioned things that frustrated me was when people said to me something along the lines of, “I’m so glad you’re getting this quality time with your mom,” because the quality of her life felt so cruelly limited, so quickly, by her cancer. By the time I’d returned from my retreats, she was completely paralyzed in both legs and one arm, largely unable to communicate, and functioning at a small fraction of the mental capacity her brilliant mind once held. What’s quality about that!?, I wanted to scream back at (totally nice, attempting to be supportive) people. But of course now I do look back and cherish some of those memories, even if they were just an hour out of an exhausting day filled otherwise with thankless chores, little heartbreaks, and deeply unsettling moments. I hope so deeply that with time those dark bits fade away, and I am left with the sweet memories of our spa days in the living room, our weekly outings to see a movie at The Spectrum, and our quiet walks around the neighborhood.

• Learning to cook. I probably learned more about cooking in the second half of 2018 than all previous years of my life combined. In a situation where I had absolutely no control, I found it calming to be able to do this one simple thing; provide a nutritious and healthy meal for my mom and gather around the table for something that at least rounded the corner of familiarity — a family meal. We did the ketogenic or paleo GreenChef delivery service (it’s like a healthier Blue Apron) and I learned so much about cooking from it (this is not sponsored, but you try it out free using this link.) We were incredibly blessed to have a community that was constantly dropping off food for us, and I hesitate to say anything that would indicate anything but gratitude for that kindness, but the truth is when tragedy strikes, people mostly bring “comfort food.” I loved having a few meals a week that I had some control over and that were pure fuel for our tired bodies. And yeah — it was about time to learn how to roast a brussel sprout.

• The card wall. My mom was a prolific corresponder and was famous for the elaborate or sometimes handmade cards she sent for every occasion. And when she fell ill, the world returned that love she’d always sent out — cards arrived by the dozen what felt like daily, and eventually we crafted a beautiful bunting display so that they completely surrounded the living room walls where we spent our days. It always made me feel so warm, being surrounded by all that love. The mail brought a smile not just for my mom but for me too. I felt very cooped up and the care packages, letters, and messages that arrived were like signs from the real world saying hey, we love you. I’m so grateful for them.

• Friends from close. While many of my close friends have moved away from Albany, I’m really grateful for the moments I got to spend with those still near and dear over these three months.

• Friends from afar. And how lucky was I to welcome friends from further afield who were kind enough to come give me some company and sunshine through this difficult stretch. Amanda’s trip up from New York included one of my favorite activities of the fall, hiking in Thatcher State Park with Prada; and Zoe’s trip from Washington DC was the perfect balance of a spa day and a live music night — I loved checking out all these local new places.

• My fantasy life on the road. I have to admit, a rich fantasy life helped me get through some of the toughest stretches of this period of my life. One? The idea that I’d buy an RV and drive across America visiting family and friends someday. I went to a local RV show and a few local dealers and really started to think through the logistics of it all. I still love this idea and hope it may come to fruition someday, though at the moment I’m mostly grateful to it for being a little mental escape from a tough time.

• Hitting the Groupon hard. As I’ve shared before, I think another one of my major coping mechanisms through this time was a weird obsession with beauty treatments — my face and body being one of so few things I felt like I had any control over. I’d catch myself in the mirror and be so disturbed by the unrecognizable person looking back. I tried monthly facials, but wasn’t wowed by the results enough to keep up with it regularly. Much more exciting? Microblading, laser hair removal, and straightening my teeth. Not going to say the microblading recovery was easy — that could be a lowlight! — but I couldn’t have asked for a better time to do it, while spending my days in sweatpants at home. I’m so glad I finally got started on all three.

• Discovering Albany. You know how when you grow up in a place, you kind of keep coming back to the place that you grew up in, and not necessarily looking around with fresh eyes and seeing how it’s changed? That was me and Albany. I always loved coming back here, but I remembered the malls and chain restaurants of my youth — I didn’t realize that while I was off living in Brooklyn or gallivanting the world, an amazing restaurant scene had emerged, and cool events had developed, and interesting activities that were relevant to my new interests were available. Figuring all that out? It was exciting. A few of my favorite local discoveries of this period were The Lantern Parade, an event in Washington Square Park that reminded me of Illumination Night on Martha’s Vineyard and that we brought my mom to, a tour of Albany Distilling Co, a super hip local craft beverage maker, and Umana and Dove and Deer, now two of my favorite Albany eateries.

• TV therapy. At Thanksgiving, we always go around the table and say one serious thing we are grateful for, a practice that often leads to tears — so we follow it up with a silly, one-word lightening round. My word this year was TV, and truly I am so grateful to be living in the era of prestige television. During this time there was very little my mom was capable of doing (heartbreakingly even reading, her once favorite activity, or being read to, was not an option with her mental capabilities) and so we watched a lot of TV together. I’m really grateful to those shows that got through and made her laugh, or kept her entertained, or was simply a final something we could still enjoy side by side, and do together. (It’s kind of funny in a way too, that I wrote this as a highlight, because I also remember so distinctly being driven mad at times by life with the TV constantly on, being bitter with it being our only option, and so deeply missing long stretches of quiet and silence or the sound of conversation instead. I guess my brain is constantly trying to do this shuffle of reframing, trying to find gratitude from that difficult time.)

• Halloween. Taking Prada to Howl’oween, dressing up for trick-or-treaters, taking my mom to see Hocus Pocus at The Palace — we really tried to make all the holidays special the way she always did for us. Honestly, my heart hurts writing this because my brain is reminding me of all the lowlights, too — but again, I’m trying to focus on the positives.

• Learning to fly. Without question, the highlight of this time for me as an individual was joining the six week aerial cirque series group at Good Karma. My regular aerial practice and the loving family I had at Good Karma is one thing from Albany that I truly deeply miss now that I am traveling again; a reminder that there are such beautiful things about a non-nomadic life I may someday consider, too. It felt good on so many levels: to appreciate this wild new skill my body could do, to have something to look forward to all week, to be a part of something and work towards our final performance together.

• Getting organized. Whenever I had half an hour without something insanely urgent to do during this time, I started getting my mom’s house organized — picking an overstuffed closet or drawer at a time and sending enormous piles to recycling and to donation, and organizing what was left over. My mom was always a, um, saver, to put it politely (I inherited this from her, big time!). While we can’t know how long she was suffering from the effects of the enormous tumors we’d come to learn had taken over her brain, we do suspect it was for quite some time — which meant some things were in quite a bit of disarray. It was strange, unpacking the Christmas decorations for example, and realizing that there were clues, even in that, to my mom’s mind slipping away from her. Anyway, this sounds like it would be a lowlight, but it made me feel productive, which very little at this time did — and it’s something I’m glad I got started on early, since it’s such an enormous task still looming in my mind.

• Holidays at home. While I found Thanksgiving extremely depressing, somehow the festivities of Christmas were a welcome distraction I really whole heartedly embraced. Wreath making, seeing a funky play rendition of It’s A Wonderful Life, taking Prada to meet Santa at Lights in the Park and at the mall, were a few of my favorites out of the house. At home, it was a welcome change to our routine to do simple things like decorate the Christmas tree, taking time to show my mom every ornament and reminisce as I put them on the tree. I found myself awash in gratitude for the magical holidays my mom always created for us, seeing first hand how much time energy and love they take to produce.

Fall in Albany

• Avastin at work. It was around mid-December, I believe, that suddenly the Avastin, the last-ditch treatment my mom’s doctors suggested as a way to improve her communication and quality of life, started to take effect. Suddenly she was a bit reactive, and able to speak spontaneously again sometimes. It was such a joy to hear her voice, even in this strange new form, again.

• Making it to Mexico. I definitely didn’t expect to add a new country to my roster in this time in Albany (in fact, I’d go on to add several.) Actually, for such a spontaneous trip, it was actually one I planned months ago. Long before my life got turned upside down, I had planned to spend January in Mexico, kicking off the year with my girlfriend Zo’s 30th birthday in Merida followed by four days in Isla Holbox, planning to also visit my friend Rachel and then backpacking all the way through the Yucatan to a SUP yoga teacher training in Tulum. When my mom got sick, and I backed out of the trip. For a long time my mom’s disease was progressing so rapidly, travel was the last thing on my mind. We were in crisis mode and the idea of leaving Albany was just inconceivable. With my mom’s fiancé and I essentially being the only two people in the world capable of getting my mom in and out of her wheelchair, I couldn’t even leave the house.

But after three months of non-stop caretaking and the slow march of winter taking its toll, I was finally reaching the end of that rope that everyone had warned me about. I needed to start fresh with something more sustainable for the long term, before I burned out for good. And so, on Christmas night, realizing that due to the New Year, my mom’s fiancée Miller would be home for three days straight and that my mom’s health was relatively stable, I booked a trip for three days later to Mexico.

It was a much-abbreviated version of the trip I’d planned to go one – spending New Year’s Eve in Merida with my Brooklyn college crew, then some time with Rachel, then heading home. I didn’t really tell anyone I was going, because I think until the last second I thought something would come up and I’d cancel. I hired a dog walker, arranged for friends of my mom to come over when Miller had things scheduled, and filled the fridge with food. I was filled with anxiety, but both Miller and my dad, from afar, pretty much pushed me out the door, for which I am grateful. Getting there, literally and metaphorically, was a nightmare. But when I woke up and walked onto the streets in Merida, putting my face to the sun and feeling a brief moment of something resembling freedom for the first time in what felt like forever, I felt myself refueling.

• Splashing around in cenotes. I didn’t fall madly in love with Merida, but my favorite bit was the two cenotes I visited. I can see why they are so popular to chase all over Mexico — they are stunning!

• My girls all around me. One of the strangest dichotomies about caretaking is that you are never alone and also it is deeply, soul-crushingly lonely. (I remember distinctly that I fantastized equally about a weekend with my friends, and checking into nondescript hotel where no one knew where I was and eating vending machine snacks for a few days.) It felt so surreal to do things as normal as have girl talk and walk around a city with my friends with no particular destination in mind. When I could push aside the guilt, I treasured it.

• A meaningful goodbye. Of course, I had no way of knowing those long conversations with Rachel on the beach in Progreso would be the last ones we’d have, face to face. We spoke nearly every day via text and voice note. She had been a nurse, and so she was easy to talk to about aspects of my new life that I felt would make others flinch. She was such a comfort to me. But somehow the conversations you have within arms length of a person just feel special. Nights on the couch watching Netflix and doing face masks, days on the sand pouring our hearts out — Rachel, I’ll miss you probably forever.

Lowlights and Lessons

Never have the highlights and lowlights sections of a roundup I’ve written been so intermingled. Almost every single thing I went to write, I wasn’t sure where to categorize. Was Prada a source of joy to me? Or was a crippled by the dog mom guilt of being too distracted to give her the attention she truly deserved? Was Good Karma a place where I found myself in a time I was lost? Or did every performance break my heart a little at the realization that my mom would never come see my work or beam in pride at anything I’d do ever again? I guess that’s why this post has been lingering in my drafts for weeks. It’s almost impossible to write. But anyway, onward.

• Guilt guilt guilt. When I look back in my notes to myself from this time, that word comes up constantly. Guilt every time I did something for myself, which was completely impossible to do without putting a burden on someone else. Guilt every time I did something fun, or worked out, or did something that I know my mom, trapped at home, would once so cherished to have done. Guilt over falling off writing regular emails to my mom’s family and friends updating them on her condition. Guilt over feeling trapped and missing my old life. Guilt over being healthy and able bodied and getting to live, while my mom died.

• The agency search. Oh my god. Never, ever could I have dreamed how difficult it would be to find home health care. My mom was an incredible saver and planner, and we were so deeply blessed that she had taken out long term care insurance that would provide for her financially in this time. But money doesn’t do much good if there’s no one to give it to.

The first person we hired to help out was, actually, a housecleaner we’d hired who was incredibly resourceful, compassionate, and competent — who had mentioned to me that she had cared for her own mother, when she was ill. Before I’d left for my Thailand retreat, desperate to find help, I’d called her and asked if she would consider doing the same for us. She agreed, and was a great fit for a while, but as my mom’s condition declined, she grew overwhelmed, and we completely supported her decision to find other work in the early fall.

For a while, we managed by ourselves. I struggled between knowing logically that my mom’s care was growing far too consuming for us alone and emotionally wanting to have some time back for my own work, but also wanting our privacy and not wanting to have a stranger in the house constantly, in such a private time — it’s actually a tougher call than it might seem.

Yet I was drowning in trying to juggle my mom’s care, the housework, my own quickly sinking career, and the million other responsibilities I’d taken on. We finally accepted reality again and started looking for a state licensed agency, so we could use the full payout of my mom’s insurance policy. It was complicated. My mom was unable to even stand on her own, and the best agencies wouldn’t take her case unless we used a mechanical lift to move her. We didn’t want her living on machines and were dedicated to keeping her life as calm and normal as possible, so we passed. Yet it means only the third tier agencies would work with us. Well, surprise — those were a disaster.

I can’t even begin to recount all the drama that ensued but I can assure you it was a tangle of wasted time, agony, and incompetence. I remember asking at one point to one of the agencies, can we pay more? To have a reliable person? For a higher quality of care? And they just kind of laughed. Sadly, it is one of the worst paid jobs in America — to take care of society’s most vulnerable people. And it’s backbreaking, heartbreaking work. No wonder there is such a shortage of people willing to do it, under these conditions.

We’d beg for recommendations and be so discouraged at the replies — a social worker telling us that she truly couldn’t think of one person that she’d personally want to hire for her own mother, my mom’s oncologist looking at me sadly and saying “honey I’m sorry, there’s no one like family.” We went through three aides (one of whom I came home to find pulling my mom up out of her wheelchair by her arm — hello, dislocated shoulder, another who just never called or showed up, etc.) before, exhausted and frustrated by the process, I just said “enough” in early December and had to take a break from the search for a while.

It was a stark reminder — you can have all the money and resources in the world but sometimes love is the only one that matters. I can tell you that what got us through that agonizing experience was deep love and drawing from a well of strength we didn’t know we had.

• Making the hardest calls. I don’t think there is a greater heartbreak than trying to make medical and quality of life decisions on behalf of someone who can’t fully communicate for themselves — and clashing with your loved ones over it. Those of us closest to my mom naturally had different ideas at times about her care and her treatment. Of course, in a situation defined by uncertainty, I never really had that comfort of knowing I was pushing for what was “right” — I was constantly haunted by questions and second-guesses, and distraught by the clashes between the people I craved comfort from.

Thanksgiving in Albany

• The heartbreak of the holidays. Of course there’s something sad about the holidays, no matter how hard you try to cherish them, when you know in your heart it’s your last one with your loved one. Thanksgiving in particular was brutal, that year. Christmas had its moments too. Even Halloween had pangs. And my birthday, oh wow. That was a tough one. That’s just not how I ever imagined I’d spend 29.

• My frustrating attempts at a life. I lost a lot of my identity, all at once: expat, traveler, blogger. And so I think I floundered trying to find something I could fill those holes with, closer to home. I already shared my attempts at trying to find creative outlets were kind of a flop — I look back now at my craft nights, my ceramics class and I just think ah, that was a cry for help.

• Being the gatekeeper. I tell ya what, my mom was a popular lady, and for good reason. She was surrounded by friends. But as her needs became harder to gauge, it was a lot of work and stress coordinating visitors and being the gatekeeper, so to speak, for such an incredibly loved woman who was feeling increasingly anti-social and apathetic. Again, it was so hard to make that call — she said she didn’t want to see anyone, but when she did, she seemed perked up. Did we honor her wishes and isolate her? Or acquiesce to the friends so desperate to spend time with her? I will say I am so grateful we got to open the gate multiple times to my grandma coming out from Illinois. It is hard for her to travel and it was very meaningful that both my mom’s brothers were able to bring her out here to spend time with my mom.

• Moving as an adult. Guys, I have some serious new respect for those who move solo as adults to new cities. Of course, I’ve moved my single self across the world multiple times, which unquestionably comes with its own challenges. But expat communities can be fairly easy to absorb into. Trying to fit back into life in Upstate New York, essentially single while Ian was finishing a work contract half a world away back in Thailand, was tough. Every friend I have left here is married and understandably busy with a new life. Some of my closest friends in the world were a short train ride away in New York City, but asking a New Yorker to come to Albany for the weekend can be like asking them to go to the moon (which makes me triply grateful to those that made the journey here.) My attempts at making new connections often left me feeling distinctly like an outlier. It was a lonely time.

• Care taker burnout. Wow guys. It hit me so, so hard at the end of the year. I can’t believe how smug I’d been, thinking I would be the exception to the rule. Honestly, I think I thrived at first on the superhero vibe of waking up over and over and over again and doing it all, sleepwalking through the impossible. And of course, I wanted to spend this precious time with my mom, and didn’t trust anyone else to do it the way I would.

But I made myself way too accessible and did not put any boundaries around my caretaking with those I shared the role with, and I nearly broke my spirit in the process. On one hand I look back and think what was I thinking, giving up my life and work with no limits? On the other hand I look back and I don’t see that I had any choice.

Caretaking is so many jobs, rolled into one. It’s the hands-on care, which is tasking both physically and emotionally, in ways I never could have truly imagined before I was the one doing it. It’s the logistics coordination and patient advocating, which requires such a deep well of perseverance and organization. Insurance. Doctors. The pharmacy. This health agency or that one. The Social Security office. My god, the phone never, ever stopped ringing. And it’s the housework, which I realized was the aspect I grew the most bitter and discontent over, sometimes weeping while I emptied the dishwasher or folded the laundry late at night, wondering how I’d found myself here after ten passionate years of building my career; a housewife who’s husband was a cancer diagnosis. And it’s a million, million other jobs that you find yourself facing every day, with no break.

It’s hard to share these brutally honest reflections because again, I find myself circling back to guilt. Why couldn’t I be satisfied in that role? I know that in many ways I was excellent at it and it was, truly, an honor to take care of my mom, who I loved more deeply than anyone on this earth. But I had to put myself aside to do that, which is not a small sacrifice. And it broke my heart and my spirit to go from being a beloved daughter who made her laugh and made her smile to a person constantly giving her medication she didn’t want to take, making her to do physical therapy that made her cry out in pain and causing her discomfort by transferring her in and out of her wheelchair. I missed just being a daughter.

• People telling me to “make time for you.” Again, so well intentioned, but this was another on the long list of things people said to be that really poured salt in my wounds during this time. Don’t you think I would, if I could have? It’s great to tell someone to put their own oxygen mask on first, yada yada, but when they are caring for someone who physically can’t get out of bed in the morning without them, it’s kind of dismissive to say it that way. I couldn’t just wake up and chose if I felt like doing the morning routine or not — either I had to do it or that burden fell directly to someone else who was likely just as burnt out as me. There was no guilt-free “me time.” It didn’t exist.

• Training trials. I so desperately tried to attend a weekend training for aerial yoga at Good Karma, and still regret that I wasn’t able to make it work as I could have been practice teaching the entire time I was home in Albany. But we just didn’t have the coverage at the time and though I bent over backwards trying to make it work, there’s no way I could have been out of the house for so many hours. It broke my heart — I literally felt locked in the house.

• Not going to therapy. Looking back, one of my greatest regrets (that I actually had control over) was that I didn’t start talking to a therapist or going to a support group more regularly during this time. I should have prioritized it.

• My true nightmare travel day. I can’t even believe the cascade of errors that turned my eight hour travel day into an eighteen hour one, and made me miss a full night of the four of my so desperately needed trip. I wrote at the time, “In the past, I’d always prided myself at being the world’s chillest traveler regarding delays and flight drama. Whatever, I’ll get there eventually, I’d smugly think, while everyone around me lost their minds. Now I see that calm was derived from the enormous privilege I had to be taking long, leisurely and regular trips. That me was long gone, and suddenly, my travel time seemed more precious than ever. Here I was feeling the desperation of my short hours of a desperately needed break slipping through my fingers, needing a vacation from my life in a way I didn’t know possible, and I was just so drained, on a level I didn’t know possible, by the terrible travel experience I’d had that day.” But, well, I made it — with a new sense of empathy for travelers freaking out over delays.

• A new kind of tired. I was startled to realize that as wonderful as it was seeing my friends and as much as aspects of the trip would never have even made me blink twice in the past (trying to organize logistics with a huge group I wasn’t in charge of, insane travel delays, staying in a dorm since I booked so late everything in the city was sold out) were actually pretty stressful given how frazzled I was to start with. For one of the first times in my life I thought to myself, damn, I need not a trip but a vacation. I started to understand the appeal of all-inclusive resorts on a level I never have before. And then on the other hand I also wish I’d seen the salt flats and the flamingos and more cenotes and maybe some ruins but you know what? I didn’t have the time or the energy and I hadn’t done a lick of research. Again, it circles back to guilt. Was I using my time wisely?!

But in the end, the trip gave me an incredible gift: a bit of distance to clear my head, and a big ‘ol reset button to hit for the year ahead. The rest was a bonus.

• Reflections from the road. I wrote the following on Instagram about travel, after my mom’s diagnosis, but it resonates so deeply I want to share it again: You know when you have a cold and you’re eating great food but you can’t taste it? That’s kind of how it’s felt. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I’ve never had a stronger appreciation for the privilege it takes to hop on a plane or a train and go. But something is different now.

Travel is different now. Brief. Precious. Spontaneous.

It’s hard to be gone for very long or to plan very far ahead. So instead, this: a four day trip, booked three days in advance.

I have to confess something. I was talking to one of my closest friends recently and I admitted that I haven’t fallen madly in love with anywhere I’ve gone since my mom’s diagnosis. You know when you have a cold and you’re eating great food but you can’t taste it? That’s kind of how it’s felt.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I’ve never had a stronger appreciation for the privilege it takes to hop on a plane or a train and go. But something is different now.

I think back to my trip to the Middle East, my last big adventure before I came back to the US and my life turned inside out. These days, I often find myself daydreaming about returning there, almost to the point of fixation. Yet it was during this conversation that it hit me — that was the last place I felt that sense of freedom and adventure and euphoria, that weight of zero worlds on my shoulder. I had an innocence about me, which is a funny way to think about it, because at the time I would have told you I was quite jaded and worldly.

Travel is different now because life is different now. The breaks I’ve taken have been deeply needed. Seeing friends, spending time alone, getting sun on my face, remembering little fragments of who I am — I cherished it. But I’ve also had to work through some guilt, some anxiety, and some intense emotions.

When I’m at home I’m juggling so much, there’s little time to pause and reflect on how I’m feeling. On the road, far enough from home to look back on the big picture, I’ve had some of my most overwhelming moments of mourning.

Travel is different now, because I come home to a different world. I tell myself, I don’t know when or how, but someday, travel will feel dazzling again. And I try to believe it.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world. — Mary Oliver

Christmas in Albany

Best and Worst Beds of the Month

Best: The guest room at Rachel’s house in Merida. It felt so good to be under the same roof as a friend who’d supported me from afar through so much.

Worst: My hostel in Merida. I mean, it was fine, but I was so, so mentally burnt out — I really needed to recharge, and wow, could I have done with the luxury of a private room, had one been available. Looking back I should have just splurged and stayed at a hotel room that I never would have been in but… I am my mother’s daughter!

Best and Worst Meals of the Month

Best: I have a very distinct memory of feeling incredibly grateful when Zoe visited and we sat down for dinner at Caskade. It felt like it had been a million years since I had the once-familiar experience of going to a new restaurant with an old friend, and I felt full of gratitude for the experience.

Worst: I didn’t have a bad meal per se, but I didn’t really get the chance to explore Merida’s restaurant (or bar) scenes much, which is a shame in a city famous for food! Fear not — there’s plenty of Mexican food in my future.

Blog Update

Sigh — what a mess. Needless to say, this was a tough time, work-wise. I couldn’t make any future commitments with blog campaigns, and I felt devastated by hitting pause on my retreats business right when I felt like I was gaining momentum with it. I wrote on my blog when I could, but that’s about all I could do, and even that was a deep struggle. It was terrible timing as I was between assistants at the time and couldn’t even get it together to hire a new one for a while. I felt like everything was unraveling. 

When my mom napped in the afternoon was usually the first quiet moment I had since waking up. But that was quickly consumed with housework and phone calls.

As the year came to a close I desperately tried to wrap up long-missed deadlines and projects. I’d fall asleep at night gripped with anxiety. It was a brutal time. I missed my work, but I didn’t know how to get back to it.

Merida, Mexico

Health and Fitness Update

As I’ve written many times, yoga and fitness kept me sane in this crazy time, and I feel so grateful for having identified this outlet of movement as medicine. In the most chaotic weeks, when it was hard to leave the house at all, I started streaming Buti yoga videos at home when my mom napped, which I absolutely loved.

I don’t have too many friends left in Albany and so my love of yoga led me to lots of opportunities to go out and be around people, too — crazy classes like yoga at the Albany Salt Den, a donation class at the Humane Society, and the free Sunday workouts at Lululemon (which led me to my current love affair with Anatomie) all were something to look forward to that didn’t involve someone to do it with. In fact, most of my new friendships in Albany were forged this way.

I did have to be careful, as small injuries suddenly had huge stakes. Even small injuries from my new aerial arts obsession or big soreness from weightlifting would make my mom’s wheelchair transfers unbearable, and I always had in the back of my head what would happen if I really hurt myself.

One of my big regrets from this time is not refilling the indoor pool my mom had drained a while back. I think I never really realized how long I’d be living in Albany for — had I, I would have prioritized it, and I think it would have made a huge difference in my mental health to be able to swim a few laps every day. I’ve always found water to be so healing.

What Was Next

More adjusting to life in Albany, but starting to slowly introduce travel back into my life with short trips to a yoga training in New York, a retreat research trip to the Dominican Republic, a dive conference in Massachusetts, and weekends in Montreal and Saratoga to see Ian.

Stay tuned for sunny Dominican Republic posts coming at ya this week <3 Thanks for reading, friends.

Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.

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24 Comments...
  • Kristin
    December 18 2019

    So many hugs to you, my friend. Proud of what you’re creating with your retreats and that you’ve managed to do so in the midst of such a heartbreaking year.

    • Alex
      December 19 2019

      Looking forward to an epic 2020 for Wander Women Retreats, if all goes according to plan!

  • Liz
    December 18 2019

    Your unflinching honesty brings me to tears. I’ve said it before, but thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. Love you.

    • Alex
      December 19 2019

      I love you too, Lizzie <3

  • Jo-Anne From Downunder
    December 18 2019

    Another great post

    • Alex
      December 19 2019

      Thanks Jo-Anne, I appreciate you always reading!

  • Ellie
    December 19 2019

    Oh Alex, I remain in awe of your ability to write so thoughtfully and honestly about such a heartbreaking time. I hope you are starting to find some peace.

    • Alex
      December 19 2019

      Thank you Ellie. It’s a journey — I hope 2020 will bring a fresh start.

  • Janice Stringer
    December 19 2019

    Hi Alex,
    So much of what you’ve shared I’ve experienced. Many times reading your round up brought a lump to my throat. Loving can make living hard during challenging times.
    Glad to hear you…
    Good to see you
    and wishing you care as the year draws to a close.

    • Alex
      December 19 2019

      Thank you Janice — I so appreciated your kind email. It means a lot to be missed.

      • Janice Stringer
        December 19 2019

        Hey Alex,
        when you get used to hearing a particular voice in your life and the stories you tell. There is a small sense of loss when that person is not heard for a while.

        • Alex
          December 26 2019

          I totally get that, Janice <3 And I'm glad to be back! (New post coming out again today!)

  • becky hutner
    December 19 2019

    Alex, this is heart wrenching. Thank you so much for continuing to share x

    • Alex
      December 26 2019

      Thanks for continuing to read, even through these less-than-wanderlusty times <3

  • Jane
    December 20 2019

    Several posts of your have made me cry now! I’m glad though that you are sharing these – so many people are going through similar things, or will do so at some point – it’s such a lonely place and can be comforting to know that you’re not actually alone. So please don’t ever feel that you’re oversharing. It’s also just such a good reminder that you just never know what life has in store and to relish each moment with your loved ones – very timely at this time of year.

    • Alex
      December 26 2019

      Thank you Jane — it certainly is a poignant time of year to be writing these posts. I appreciate all your kind words.

  • Danie
    December 21 2019

    Alex – My heart feels for your heart.

    I can only imagine your sharing will be invaluable for so many people going through the same experience.

    • Alex
      December 26 2019

      Thanks Danie, that is my hope — to make someone in a terribly lonely position feel a little less alone.

  • Tania
    December 28 2019

    Hi Alex, I’ve been following you for years now, and i’ve always been really moved by your ability to put into word, with sincerity, grace and hindsight, those hard things life puts our little human hearts throught sometimes. And this post is so, so powerful, meaningful, beautiful, it touches my soul very deeply. Thank you so much for the strengh it must have taken you to write it, and share it with us. How lucky, us, your readers, are.

    • Alex
      January 23 2020

      Wow, Tania — I’m so grateful for this comment. It can be scary putting your heart out into the world but kind words like this put me at peace. Thank you.

  • Kate
    December 28 2019

    Hi Alex-
    As others have said, thank you for your honesty and being vulnerable. Selfishly, it’s just so helpful for people to know they are not alone. I can only hope that writing these posts brings you some peace and helps you in your healing journey. It must be quite a mix of feelings to realize how much the last year had changed you. I am happy to be along for the ride to see where life takes you next as you move forward. Much love!

    • Alex
      January 23 2020

      Thank you so much Kate. Writing has always been cathartic and these days it makes me feel closer to my mom, a prolific writer. I too am curious to see where life takes me next.

  • Cami
    January 6 2020

    Oh Alex. You’ve managed to put into words feelings I’ve yet to make sense of in my own life. I’ve got nothing but admiration for you, both as a care giver and a writer.

    • Alex
      January 28 2020

      Wow, Cami — thank you so much. Writing (and reading) can be so cathartic.

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