Over Thanksgiving I contracted a terrible case of poison ivy all over my face. (Because the year is 2020 and “horrific boils and lesions” was the last thing on my Old Testament Level Occurrences Bingo card.)

Anyway, after a massive dose of steroids (which I now feel certain are going to kill me because they’ve wiped out my immune system… in a global pandemic), my face looks less like I’ve been punched. However, where the poison ivy once was, the skin is now slightly rough and dry and you can see a faint red tinge. I need that skin to shed, but I have to patiently wait for it to do it on its own so it doesn’t scar. (And apply ample moisturizer.)

I share this because it’s made me start thinking a lot about skin shedding. Wait. Don’t leave yet. I promise this entry is getting less gross. You know how they say that every seven or so years, all of our old cells have essentially been replaced by new ones? We’ve shed the old and become the new? That’s what I’m thinking about.

As I watch the news, I keep thinking that the last time we were in the months between a Presidential election and inauguration, I spent Thanksgiving with Michiel and my brother and his pregnant wife. Now, Michiel is gone and my nephew is almost four. I have photos from that Christmas with Michiel, Rosie, and Pawley in my cozy little bungalow. My little team. All gone.

And I don’t feel like I could possibly be the same person who was in those photos or gathered around that Thanksgiving table. Too much has been lost and too much has changed. So I keep thinking that my cells moved extra fast. I’ve already shed the old ones and am the new being. But it feels a little raw—like the red skin on my face—like I need to keep being patient and give it time to heal.

Ok, I’m going to take this already slightly overwrought metaphor one step further. Bear with me.

The moisturizer is one of the most important things for my face right now. I really can’t apply too much. I’m lathering on Kiehl’s like it’s water. It’s the same thing with my own mental self-care. In this crazy world right now, there’s no such thing as doing too much to take care of yourself—whatever that looks like for you. For me, this is a lot of walks with Winston, cooking good food and reading good books, and slowly starting to plan post-vaccine travel.

I know that this season is hard for a lot of us—and this year it’s especially hard not to notice empty seats at the table or missing traditions. If you’re like me, and it feels like your skin/soul is still a little raw right now, this is me telling you that you have permission do the things that make you feel good. Time will ultimately heal it. But while we wait, keep lathering on that moisturizer.

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