Out of My Depth

In April of 2017 I found myself flying over the Gulf of Mexico toward what would be our new home in Florida. I had not flown without friends or family since I was 18 years old. I watched the water slip by below and wondered how on earth I was going to manage the move. I had only ever lived in Oklahoma to that point. My anxiety told me my whole world was falling apart. Depression told me this was not a trial worth trying.

That alone doesn’t make sense to some. That intense desire to stay rooted in one spot as the world flies around me.

It occurred to me on that flight that I was out of my depth. I had previously considered that a phrase meaning, outside the parameters in which one can operate safely and proficiently. On the flight to Florida, the phrase took on a new meaning for me.

The surface of the water stretched forever but it was not calm. It looked troubled and troublesome. The water heaved and foamed. It sprayed and would not be contained.

But what, I wondered, was happening in the depths. I let my mind wander down, down through the water where I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t touch the surface or the floor. Where I was plainly out of my depth.

There, the water of my imagining was unbothered. Untouched by the stirrings at the surface, this water gave respite. It gave clarity. The deep water gave life in abundance.

I wrote on an airline napkin: Out of my depth is where my God wants me.

I still believe that today. When my boys go off to camp and I re-feather the nest, I remember those calm deep waters. As my husband remains unemployed, I grow wary of the dangers in those waters but know I will see them coming. When my writing becomes a messy rewrite and I am not sure if I’m drowning the story or it’s drowning me, I think of how I choose to be out of my depth. I keep choosing it. Despite the inherent dangers and the struggle, I choose the risks for the attendant rewards of respite and clarity and life in abundance. I choose it because I believe I’m not alone there.


After that house-hunting trip to Florida, I returned to Oklahoma still struggling with the move. I turned the familiar “I am the storm” around and became the still. It took me months more to negotiate myself into the deep. Once there, at that new depth, a hurricane and whirlwind move back to Oklahoma didn’t throw me into chaos.

If you are wondering how to move out of your depth, look for the place you’re led. It won’t be the shallows.

Discipline: Stop When it Makes Sense

A thing I learned about pursuing discipline: stop when it makes sense because it makes sense.

I am a recovering quitter. Much of my life, I chronically wanted to quit things. I got bored sometimes, but usually I just freaked out. I felt like an imposter or incapable or just simply not enough. My mode in those years: apply, get accepted, do stuff, work hard, be on the cusp of something great-adjacent, freak out, want to quit, throw a fit. I finished plenty, though the fit and freak out were nearly always there. Like plagues. Plagues I created.

More recently, I’ve worked on finishing. Even if it was a slog. Even if nobody else thought it was necessary or important or useful. I did this in secret, the finishing. And it was not a wonderful antidote to quitting.

This year, studying discipline, I learned that there is actually a happy medium, just like my mama always said there was. I tend toward extremes. All or nothing. Recently, I pulled back from social media for 2018, and I joked to my husband that it was an all-or-nothing thing. It wasn’t. Not this time. My accounts still exist; I’ve chosen to not visit them in 2018.

I could have quit social media, which has taught me a ton about craft and the world and put me in contact with some amazing folks, when it started to resemble a trash fire most of the time. I could have punished my former quitter by staying and getting burned more often than not, especially as touches my depression and anxiety. Instead, I decided to step back.

Maybe after a year away, I’ll terminate the accounts and know it’s the right thing for me. Maybe I’ll be ready to wade back in and give someone else room to rest a while if they want. I don’t know.

In October, I packed all my stuff. My entire office and studio. But I kept out a few measly art supplies and started Inktober. It was fun! And then the move arrived, I packed the supplies, and I didn’t finish. Because that’s what made sense.

When we moved to Florida in summer, we expected it was relatively permanent. We did not set our sights on moving back or on moving elsewhere. We unpacked, started schools, sought out the best restaurants, did all the things you do when you relocate. Our house in Oklahoma was on the market. The move was real and solid. We were all in. During the hurricane, we evacuated to Oklahoma because we still had a house and Husband could work from a location there. School was out about two weeks; it made sense. When we returned, we returned. To work and school and life. The week after returning, the option to work from Oklahoma arose, and Husband and I discussed it.

For all the suffering of mid-spring – mine and my family’s because of mine – I had truly made peace with the move and the decision. I told Husband so. I told him that, for my part, the decision had been right and I was all-in. I also told him, “just because coming was the right decision when we made it, that doesn’t mean we have to stay either.” The opportunity to return to Oklahoma surprised us and saying yes would reverse our course, but that didn’t make it unworthy of consideration. For his part, Husband shared his own wisdom, but that’s his story.

This is not a conversation I could have had a year ago. I don’t know how it would have gone, but I’m certain this would not have been the way.

Discipline is going on green and stopping on red. [Yellow, of course, is a matter of your personal risk profile.] Discernment is knowing within yourself when the light changes in your situation. I find the two to be inescapably linked, discernment and discipline. I wish I had either (or both!) perfectly, but I don’t and never will. So I content myself to watch the lights change and do what is right when it’s right to the best of my ability.