Once and Future Blog

More than 365 days have passed since I last posted to this site. There is no catching up. So let’s just begin from now.

I sit in my father’s comfy chair. The gentle clink of dominoes carries the prattle from two tables of moon players. They tease. They banter. They plead with the dots to change formation and number. Every so often a gale of laughter leads a lively melody.

I’m where I adore being: nearby my people with words on my fingertips and chatter rising like mists. My head holding above the water line.

Lately, I have felt very out of my depth. This phrase means “in water too deep to stand” and “beyond one’s knowledge or ability to cope.” [Oxford Dictionary online] I’d like to propose a slightly more complicated definition: a situational influx that overwhelms one’s present knowledge and engulf’s their ability to cope using the previously gained skills.

Four-and-one-half years ago, it occurred to me on an airplane over the Gulf of Mexico that out of my depth is precisely where I’m meant to be. It was an important moment in a whelming flood of needs and expectations attendant to moving across the country. The flash of truth pulled me out of self-pity and into a plan. Or at least a kernel of a plan. I needed new knowledge, new skills, new abilities.

Several times since that initial realization, the words have flowed through my mind and prompted a renewal.

As discussed on this blog in the past, I have dealt with mental illness and a sleeping disorder for years. At the very end of 2019, I finally got the right treatment for oversleeping. Twenty-twenty started strong with a joy-inducing plan. That the pandemic shortly consumed in whole.

I found myself working full-time for the first time in years. While my sleep was less than it had been, I still found naps during most lunches and between work and dinner. Throughout last year and pretty deeply into 2021, I worked with medical providers to adjust medication, I faithfully participated in therapy, and I discovered a consequence of mental illness that caught me completely unawares.

Naively, I had believed that when I “fixed” myself, I would rejoin a family and world that functioned well. Spoiler: Both my family and the world fell into disrepair while I was “gone”. I’ve spent the better part of 2021 trying to understand the trauma my kids experienced due to my mental illness and all the restless threads trailing behind us.

Every single time I am standing in the water, a new deluge hits and I find myself out of my depth so completely that I am lost. For a moment. Then I remember that out of my depth is precisely where I am meant to be. To level up. To stand in the water again. In other words of metaphor: it’s the cycle of growth.

And it’s so easy to envision the flood as devastating and the growth of a plant as renewal. They are, I think, largely the same. A flood is initially devastating but washes nutrient-rich silt onto land, enabling new life. A seed must shed the hard outer coat that protected it for months, years, even centuries; otherwise, it will not grow. Imagine the intensity of losing that outer shell, unfurling in the dark earth, and still finding the sun.

Seeds await a signal to shed their outer coats. The signal for me is being knocked off my feet by the swelling waters. That’s the moment I go deep, shed the hard protective shell of complacency, and summon all my resources to find the sun, to stand in the water, to be more rich than I was before.

This year has tired me. It’s been an almost constant cycle: swept off my feet, dragged deep, and standing again. I’m not naive enough to think the new year won’t bring more floods. Nor to think I will be ready when they do come.

I only hope to skip the panic more often as I remember that out of my depth is precisely where I am meant to be.

No COVID-19 Detected, or Reconciling Regret

This is the story of how I learned not to under-react and that there’s no such thing as overreacting to this pandemic. Or it’s the story of reconciled regrets. You decide.

I woke Sunday with a slight cough, sore throat, and aches. I mentioned it to my sister in an “I hate COVID times” sort of way. She said, be tested. We chatted a bit more before I realized she was serious. My sister is a doctor and one of the smartest women I know. She is the one who said, you cannot overreact with this.

So I scheduled a test for Monday afternoon, the first available. Then I sat masked on my bed and watched my masked husband transform our bedroom into an isolation chamber for me. He shut the door and I had a bed, a small fridge with ice and water, snacks, a bathroom, and a makeshift desk.

Under other circumstances I would have been gleeful for a couple days to myself. But on Sunday I felt crummy all over.

Monday I went for the test, which isn’t bad. Very quick. And then I returned to work at my makeshift desk in my bedroom.

I’ve gotten decent at compartmentalizing. There are certain thoughts I do not entertain. I do not dwell on worst case scenarios as I once did and I do not practice for the worst moments of a life that I may never have. Not any more. I simply disallow my brain from going into the dark.

I had one moment of morbid notion. It happened Sunday night. I was preparing for bed and it occurred to me that the thing I had to regret should I die was that I had spent so very much time chasing a dream. Without ever catching it.

No particular emotion accompanied that thought. But the thought itself has nested. Do I regret the last thirteen years since ShyJot became a thing? Do I regret the time before that when I wrote in the margins of life? No.

I regret not being better at being a creative. I regret not pursuing the payoff as if it never mattered. I regret not capturing the dream I harbored for a certain kind of creative life.

And I regret all the opportunities my family lost because I was dream-missing.

This afternoon I received the text message with a link to my results. I entered my information. Nervous at the thought of more days of isolation or worse, getting my loved ones sick, I wondered if it might be better not to know.

And I hit enter. No COVID-19 detected.

The result didn’t mean I was well; it meant I wasn’t in danger of falling more ill. It didn’t mean I could go anywhere and do anything; it meant I could rejoin my family beyond my bedroom door. It didn’t mean I overreacted; it meant I followed a path.

Tonight a sore head and throat keep me awake. I shake loose all this debris and look for patterns. Here’s what I see.

Sometimes you have to call “It”. You have to chase down a possibility that’s too risky not to, like with COVID-19. You have to chase down answers to problems like how to isolate one of a family of five. You have to claim as your own the responsibility of being it — the actor, the do-er, the instigator and continue-er, the change agent, the conduit, the one to make things happen.

The same is true of anything in life that matters. Parenting, spousing, relationshipping of any kind. Career and culture and cause. The fact remains that if I never called myself “It” and chased a creative live, then I never would have become who I am today. It’s not better not to know.

There is not a life without regret if you’re doing it right. I’m convinced of this. Because living is making choices and choices beget beauty and chaos and ruin and triumph and mediocrity and life and regret.

How do I reconcile regretting spending the last twenty some odd years chasing a creative life with my choice to continue the chase? I accept that regret is a byproduct of any choice and I prefer these regrets to others. I still call “It.”