Well, that was a long break. I’m not sure why I’ve been away so long. As I think about it, there are so many contributing factors that it’s impossible to narrow it down, at least to me. I guess the easiest answer is that life got in the way, but that just seems too obvious and simple. It really doesn’t capture all of the reasons. More accurate, maybe, to say that life got too complicated.
I’ve never dealt well with complexity, being a terrible over-thinker. I am perfectly capable of analyzing minute (or major) worries indefinitely. It is easy to find myself in a state of analysis paralysis. Some of this comes naturally from my personality. It’s not a new phenomenon to me; I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. It’s made worse, though, by the ebb and flow of depression and anxiety. Or maybe the depression and anxiety are caused by the over-thinking? The chicken or the egg? Your guess is as good as mine. In any case, my brain rarely denies an opportunity to worry. It’s just not up to that challenge.
I’ve had plenty to worry about in 2016, too. This election has baffled and pummeled me. I don’t recall ever feeling even a fraction of the angst that I feel this year. There is no break from it in our increasingly 24 hour news consumption. I have no confidence that the election, in just a few days, will actually change that, regardless of the outcome. To my mind these are jarring times for this country. The hate that has emerged in this cycle will not go back under any rock willingly. It’s the new normal, and that’s a nightmare feeder in itself.
In addition to the election, there have been other bumps in my road. I turned 50 last summer, which sort of blows my mind. I’m not overly focused on age, and I don’t believe that arbitrary milestone carries any special significance or automatic consequences. It just kind of made me pause, caught up in taking stock of who and where I am in my journey. The day before my birthday we lost Guinness at my family’s cabin in the wilds of northern Pennsylvania, 3 hours from home, and miraculously, improbably, we got him back after being in the forest for 6 weeks. I got a new position at work last summer, too, or more precisely, a new primary position, keeping many of previous responsibilities as well. I love my new building, meaning the remarkable staff and amazing students, but the basic challenges of being in public education keep intensifying. Financial, political, and societal pressures are amplified and disorienting at the school level. There is rarely any certainty about how to face a challenge or move forward because the challenges change and morph and grow at an astounding rate. It’s difficult to set a course for a moving target.
It’s not been all doom and gloom, of course, and I want to be certain that the message here isn’t “Woe is me.” There have been happy times and good news and lovely surprises along the way as well. Life is far too complex to be one-sided. Still, the gut punches threw me. Perhaps that’s a sign of age. I find that things bothered me more and are harder to shake. I have no idea if this is just my own skewed memory, but it seems to me that I was better able to rebound from stressors when I was younger. Maybe I was naive, or maybe I didn’t know better. Or, maybe, I’m looking back with rose-colored glasses. Who knows.
In any case, here I am. I’ve been feeling the urge to write for some time but have not had the energy or will to type the first word. I have an anonymous quote hanging in my office that says “I can’t do this, but I’m doing it anyway.” That’s kind of how I feel at the moment. I’m just going to put some words on “paper,” though, and hope that the process helps to clear some of the murkiness swirling around.
So, what to write about? That’s the hard part, it seems. See, what I usually write about – the chickens, the dogs, my latest little mishap or adventure – seems trivial right now. I know that’s not entirely true, but it feels true in light of the current state of affairs in the world. How can I find the humor and joy in the simple things when the world is going mad? It’s hard to focus on the positive when the negative is so loud around us. I try, of course, and succeed sometimes, but it’s often short-lived. Even though I haven’t written here for months, I suspect that the few readers who might read this expect something light and funny, or at least not too dark, and I’d prefer that, too, but it’s not what wants to come out at the moment. I’m not going to give in to the urge to purge myself here, though, because that’s not what I want to write, either. So, instead, I will just write about not being able to write, which doesn’t really seem like writing at all. But I’m counting it as writing anyway, so there, angry world. You don’t win.
My friend Kristen, in Maine, has taught me a lot about dealing with adversity. She’s a pure hippy optimist at heart, but she’s also human, and she’s had her share of difficult times. Kristen wears her gigantic heart on her sleeve, and she owns everything that comes her way, even the rough stuff. That’s not to say that she doesn’t feel during the rough times; she embraces the bad and feels it intensely, but never seems to lose her light as she moves through the crap. That’s what I wish for all of us.
There is no doubt that we are in scary times. Our challenge – or my challenge, at least – is to not lose our light. The planet is going to keep spinning even as humans appear intent on doing everything in their power to stop it. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m fairly sure it is going to get worse before it gets better – if it gets better. There is plenty to worry about, and worry I will.
I took a vacation day today, just a day to decompress, and maybe think about how to celebrate Jeremy’s birthday this weekend. I turned my alarm off but was up before it would have gone off anyway. Jeremy has left for work, and the house is quiet except for the light breathing of the 3 sleeping dogs. I just poured myself another cup of coffee and, when I turned the light off in the kitchen, I saw that the sky was brightening, the sun on its inevitable path over the horizon, proof that the planet is, indeed, still turning. In a few minutes I will hear the roosters begin to crow, oblivious to everything except the turning of the Earth. Today, I think I will seek out peace. I’m not sure where or how I will find it, and I’m not sure how I will keep the wolves of fear from howling at the door. But I’ll try, and grab any moment I can. I’ll search for my light, and when I find it I’m going to hug it to me like Kristen hugs me to her every time I see her again, often after years. I’m going to squeeze the light and hold it close. And then I’m going to try to figure out how to keep it with me. And when I find it, maybe I will crow.