Permanent overlap in my emotional memory

Jarred Elrod and Dona Elrod

On June 02, 2020 my mom, Dona Faye Elrod passed away in Borger, TX after a 5 year battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed stage 4 in early March of 2015—an unrelenting succession of grueling treatments began shortly after. During this entire time, her attitude remained positive and her emotional and physical availability for us never wavered—even during the final days of her life. If you got to meet her, I’m so glad to know you had the opportunity to feel the positive energy that literally radiated from her soul. I’m confident this energy continues to radiate somewhere out there in another form, no doubt improving the lives of people, animals, and plants alike. I am profoundly grateful to have been with her, my spouse, and immediate family during the final days of her life.

She was at home—in hospice care for the final 5 days. As a family, we experienced unbelievably intense waves of emotion multiple times a day—with her and amongst ourselves—sadness, gratitude, loss, anger, laughter, connection (to name only a few). I didn’t know emotions could be felt so deeply. My mom is the most brave and sincere person I have ever known—her soul lives on in my heart as pure positivity and I am committed to sharing her good vibes with everyone around me—I’m 100% sure she would approve. Her last advice to me came during a phone conversation when I was stressing about something I should have been excited about (the cost of a new motorcycle given to me as a gift by my spouse). She told me with nonchalant confidence in her voice to “relax and let yourself enjoy good things that come along in life.”  I am forever grateful for that final lesson. 

On May 25, 2020 George Floyd, a black man was murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer in broad daylight. In the midst of a global pandemic, days of deep nationwide unrest + protest ensued. This was the backdrop during the majority of my mom’s 5 days of hospice care. Even though these events aren’t objectively related, it’s impossible for me to separate them now because of their permanent overlap in my emotional memory. The most difficult truth I had to face with my mom’s illness was coming to terms with my complete inability to do anything to stop the cancer causing her body to shut down—this was a soul-shattering frustration everyone in my family experienced repeatedly over the course of 5 years. I was in total shock when I saw the footage of George Floyd’s murder—it brought up similar sickening feelings of hopelessness and anger I was concurrently feeling about not being able to help my mom. Witnessing the blatant intentionality of the perpetrator (coupled with the inaction of their accomplices) was horrifying. 

Things like this should never happen, but sadly these events are, and have been common occurrences in the United States. The very recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks (to name only a few) shamefully add to a robust legacy of violent acts driven by racism in this country. I’m grieving the loss of my mom, and at the same time I feel an overwhelming avalanche of grief for the multitude of families who have been impacted by senseless acts of violence as a result of discrimination in this country. I am a white male sitting in a position of privilege. Because of my position, I will never be able to fully understand what it feels like to be discriminated against based on the color of my skin.

I am working to develop a deeper understanding of where we are now, how we got here, and how we can individually and collectively improve our society through mitigating discrimination and elevating equality in the United States—I am a dedicated ally in this endeavor. I believe lasting societal change happens over time through love, empathy, education, inclusiveness, respect, deep listening + self-reflection, and non-violent civil disobedience when necessary—these are all things that must be continuously practiced over time and can never be perfected. We must model these practices for ourselves, past, and future generations. It is necessary for us to co-navigate the incredibly difficult processes of breaking down and collaboratively re-building institutions in this country that were built on foundations of discrimination—based not only on race, but also gender, and sexuality. I’m voting in all local, state, and national elections in hopes of ushering in leadership that collectively envisions a more equitable and sustainable future for this country—I hope you are too. That said, the vast majority of the sustained effort must come from us.

I felt it was necessary right now to share this collection of heavy thoughts with you. My mom was a person who universally valued life in every way—she taught me it was ok to feel and share feelings sincerely—which is what I have done as accurately and honestly as possible here. There’s no way to express how much I will miss her. Thank you for reading this.  

The main reason I want to do this is because I don’t want to do this

I’ve been thinking about making a journal for more than two years, but thinking and doing are two very different things. I’ve had several false starts—each time something seemingly more urgent popping up—I think to myself—I’ll start this later, but in this moment I need to focus on ———.

This notion of trading activities that keep the internal compass pointed in the right direction for things like email, slack, instagram, etc. is really a crappy trade, but sadly it’s an easy one to make. And to make things worse, we pressure each other to do it all the time because of our jobs. The notion of “doing something later” could easily be a stand in phrase for “laziness” or “avoidance” even when filling the space with what could be considered “work.” The ugly truth is… things that keep the internal compass pointed in the right direction are generally super-difficult and time consuming endeavors that are fun to think and straight up hard to do—there is no instant gratification. So, we settle for little dopamine spikes on instagram and netflix instead of digging into the difficult, long-term stuff. I wish it wasn’t so hard to change bad habits or practices that do us more harm than good—or to create good habits! Unfortunately, our networked world is crushing our ability to wait comfortably—to linger on one thing, to slow down—it seems now we need special training for those things. I’ve always been a sucker for irony, but this idea of doing something because you don’t want to do it in this context (a journal for me, where I sit and write) makes sense for so many reasons—especially in the midst of a global pandemic. We get in so deep with daily distractions sometimes it feels almost impossible to figure out the things we actually want to do in our lives, who we want to spend our time with, etc… Ironically, if we do get time to figure out what we really want to do, we are often deterred by the challenge of standing and the base of that mountain, searching for a peak so high it’s hidden in the clouds. 

Entries scribbled near-illegibly in my sketchbook recently—cries for myself to help … myself:

I still look good

I still feel good

I still feel passion

I’m not fucking done

I can work through this

It’s ok for something to take a long time

Allow yourself to take the time—it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity

Slow everything down

Linger—investigate

Stop rushing through everything you do

Gratification is not meant to be instant

Stop expecting everything to be better immediately—it’s not—it’s a process

Stop fearing judgment from others—especially anyone that’s not a close friend or immediate family

why journal?