By Ashley Hollweg, Ph.D.
As I reflect on the last four weeks, I can unequivocally say that I didn’t see this coming. Any of it. I equate it to being in a car crash…a head-on collision, being rear-ended and T-boned all in one fell swoop. Mind you, the only car crash that I’ve ever experienced was at the age of 17 when I was taking my cat, Glamous (a character from a Perry Mason episode, a series that my Mom and I loved), to the vet. Glamous wasn’t keen on being trapped in a cat carrier, and being the empathetic teenager that I was, I allowed her to roam the inside of my Chevrolet Jimmy for the short trip. The next thing I knew (no less than two minutes into the ride), she had leaped onto my shoulder, her fluffy tail obscuring my view, and I careened into a STOP sign. Save for the downed STOP sign, car, cat and owner came out unscathed.
The metaphorical car crash that I have experienced this past month feels much different. I feel the effects physically, psychologically and emotionally. The first collision was my father’s sudden stroke. How could this energetic, adventurous, fit-as-a-fiddle 75 years young hero of mine suffer a stroke? Will he ever regain the cognitive recall and words that have made him the eloquent, sharp and often long-winded Lewis Hollweg whom we all so love and admire? I couldn’t (and still can’t) wrap my mind around it. The second impact was the Covid-19 crisis. I watched in real time, almost in slow motion, how life as I knew it changed, and it was most evident during my work travels. Over the course of one week with a total of 5 flights (not uncommon in my schedule), I went from a packed airplane on a Monday to one of only 9 passengers the following Sunday.
The aftermath of these wrecks is far-reaching, surreal and overwhelming. The uncertainty around all of it only compounds the injuries. I feel sadness, anger, confusion, anxiety and fear. I openly acknowledge that I have a high need for control, and there is nothing about this crash that I can control. That I am absent a magic wand (that would make my Dad better instantaneously, relieve pressure on my Mom, save my dear friends’ & clients’ businesses/ livelihoods, and assure my team of amazingly talented employees that they will never feel the terrifying economic effects) leaves me feeling paralyzed at times…and utterly powerless. As a side note, were I equipped with said magic wand, I would also use it to turn me into a confident, adroit homeschooling Mary Poppins who seamlessly bounces from one child’s lesson to the other while simultaneously maximizing business productivity.
Whiplash is not the only side effect I feel from this series of collisions, but it certainly captures my shock and dismay. I know that I am not alone, and while that can be reassuring during this time of social distance, the same empathy I felt as a 17 year old with her cat exists in me now as a 46 year old mother, daughter and business owner…it pains me to know that others are suffering alongside me. The adage that “misery loves miserable company” does not apply in my world.
I generally consider myself to be a silver lining kind of gal, but this blog was penned in the spirit of reflection, openness and catharsis…a “coughing up the hair ball”, as my witty Dad would say. The next blog in this series (titled Jaws of Life) will be more uplifting as I surface from this multi-faceted collision with eyes widening to the positives that help to heal the injuries sustained. I might not be armed with a magic wand or have any pearls of wisdom to impart at this moment, but I am inherently optimistic, generally rebound with a thoughtful bias toward action and appreciate the opportunity for awakenings. To those of you reading this, may you find some comfort in simply knowing that you are not alone.
Ashley Hollweg, Ph.D.
Daughter, Mother, Friend, President/CEO and Survivor