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A Slippery Fish

Time is a slippery fish. Perhaps the most slippery of them all. Just when you think you’ve got a good hold, time gets away again.

But memory is a map made entirely of landmarks. As you move through year after year, your mind and body turn the corners of those landmark days, often without your conscious notice.

My niece begins her trek to college today. I will give her air hugs from my porch this evening so as not to transmit the in-house COVID case to her. So sweet. A little bitter. A new landmark growing up entwined with an older one.

Today is also the day my nephew died a dozen years ago. The last time he spoke to me was the evening his family ate pizza at my house before he set off for basic combat training. That night was so sweet and a little bitter. Today twelve years ago was swallowed in bitterness.

My niece was almost six then.

Time is a slippery fish.

I cannot tell you the fullness of this family’s story. We are all threads of variegation woven into a tapestry without fully appreciating our unique necessity to the design. I can tell you that no thread ever ends. Every thread is carried forward by connection to the others.

For one brief day, two threads hold the space. They are beautiful. All the more because they share a landmark in our family’s tapestry and our individual memories.

The advantage of age is that you’ve moved through more of the tapestry. You become more aware of the rhythms of the weaving. Years begin to glide by as one landmark after another has its turn.

Time is a slippery fish.

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Anxiety and Depression

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.

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