In the course of an hour, Chip and Joanna Gaines transform a property into a dreamy home. With Magnolia Network at our disposal, we can now see them do it over and over.

I don’t know about you, but new suggestions for viewing aren’t landing on me right now. I’m craving the familiar. Not just Fixer Upper, but Rick Castle’s boyish charm, or Dr. Frazier Crane telling me he’s listening.

This is my therapy of late.

We’re all seeking some kind right now, aren’t we?

My friends and acquaintances, my clients, and plenty of folks on social media are expressing ways they’re struggling. Lots of us are high functioning, but much is bubbling beneath the surface. How could it not be?

We’re two years into a pandemic that proved scary and isolating and we’ll be feeling the ripple effects for a long time, if not as long as we live.

This month marks a year ago that both of my parents were diagnosed with COVID and my father didn’t survive it. Precarious weeks of no visits, endless wondering, ups and downs, stress like I’ve never experienced. Most days it still doesn’t feel real that my father is gone.

The world is in disarray. Obviously, there’s Putin’s chaos. But some days it feels just as bad in the pit of my gut that my own country is in such danger of teetering into a place where rule of law is trampled and governing hinges on culture wars born of fear, ignorance, and cruelty. All the crazy we endured during the Trump administration is still here because he is looming daily, reminding us of the damage he’s done and his plans to continue. There is no peace from this twice-impeached con man, and I am stressed every day by his lack of accountability.

And let’s not forget the Supreme Court Justice who is clearly fuzzy on the ethical need to recuse when one’s spouse is involved in a case. It’s beyond belief, really.

In addition, I have plenty of real life personal stuff going on like everyone else, stuff that in normal times would be challenging but now feels heavy and hard.

Case in point, the cavernous hole next to my four-story apartment building this week. About 8 o’clock one morning the clanging and banging began as trucks pulled up and unloaded heavy equipment. Then the jackhammering ensued.

I packed up some items to work elsewhere. On my way out, the workers told me the whole project would last about three days. They were there to lift an old heating tank out from under our building.

OK, I thought. Small inconvenience.

When I returned a few hours later, the workers were gone but a large crater was there surrounded by fences and orange cones. Next to it was a big pile of concrete chunks and dirt. As it turned out, the men didn’t return until the following afternoon.

I can’t tell you how unsettling that 24 hours was for me. The hole was directly beneath two of my first floor windows. It made me feel vulnerable and out of sorts. Hard to explain, except to say the feeling was persistent and distracting.

Images we’ve been seeing from a month of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine kept flashing through my mind. Entire buildings, blocks, towns that had been destroyed. People fleeing that. Or sticking it out.

If a carefully planned hole on my pristine block felt like this, what must it feel like to hear weeks of explosions and see your country decimated? To be upended, displaced, lost with no end or solution in sight?

I can’t fathom it.

Still, I have been a vocal proponent of not minimizing our problems or especially someone else’s by always thinking someone has it worse. Sure, sometimes that provides perspective, but in reality, have you ever had someone diminish you like that?

Friend One: I’m really struggling to work through this period of grief. It just keeps coming over me in waves.

Friend Two: Well, consider yourself lucky you’re not in Ukraine.


Just no. Don’t do it. Even if your friend is upset about stubbing her toe. She likely needs a moment of sharing her pain or annoyance, not a reality check. And guess what? Saying that isn’t going to make her toe sting any less and it’s not going to help refugees.

May I add, especially don’t do it now when so many of us are coming through a pandemic with scars and bruises that range from losing loved ones to emotionally draining divisions with people who are on different sides of the vaccine/mask issue.

Why is it OK, then, that I flashed to thoughts of Ukraine while experiencing my own anxiety? I’m not sure. I didn’t do it to give myself a reality check. I did some meditative breathing, something I learned in a recent meditation group. That’s what came up … war, destruction, rubble.

The day after they dug the hole, they came back in the afternoon to fill it in. The redistribution of dirt and concrete chunks caused my apartment to shake, but something about it was soothing me. The hole would shortly be gone.

Then a truck backed up to the spot. It was literally at my window as I sat at my desk. One wrong move by this driver and he’d be slamming that big-ass truck into my apartment. I held my breath. Whew.

When they departed that day, the only thing left of the crater was a few inches. Clearly the last steps would happen the following day. They put the fence and cones back around it and I slept much better that night.

When I woke up, I was delighted to hear them already rumbling up with the truck at 8 a.m. First came the rocks, then the cement.


I was moved to write the play-by-play on all this because I wanted to put it in context. What I have come to is this: the experience was a microcosm of the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been riding. This isn’t some kiddie ride with a few bumps and thrills. This is one of those rides you instantly know you won’t get back on when you disembark. Once was enough.

My best days? The ones where I’m coaching (exhilarating), writing (sublime), finding moments like St. Peter’s men’s basketball run in the NCAA Tournament (fun), filling my calendar again with coffees and brunches (sweet connection), reading and leading discussions on The 1619 Project (wrenching but rewarding), thinking about coloring Easter eggs with my niece after a two-year hiatus (treasured tradition), and continuing to live purposefully with as much kindness as I can.

I don’t know why it took obliterated concrete to draw this out of me, but perhaps it was because it was resolved in a few short days. Sometimes our triggers are a blessing.