Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Crumbling Into Something

Hello, Invisible Audience.

I am nestled into my cozy home, watching the spring arrive one unfurled leaf at a time. I am marveling at the moon that continues to run through its phases and the sun that keeps climbing into the sky before falling into the mountains, day after day. I am marveling at how nature does not seem to have received the memo to stop everything and stay home. I am simultaneously glad; puzzled; amazed that this is true.

It is roughly a month into quarantine. I am not sick – in fact, I feel better than I did when my business went away overnight. I am more grounded than when I had somewhere to go every day and children to teach.

I have an admission to make, Invisible Audience. When the world shut down, I felt relief. I could not keep up. I was like someone in the middle of the race who watches others prance by as her reserves slowly fade to nothing and she wonders if she will make it to the finish line after all. I was relieved, because the quarantine meant no one would know that I wasn’t going to make it; it meant the race was canceled for everyone all at once and I could slink off the course as part of the crowd without any shame.

Suddenly the most joyful parts of life I had put down because they didn’t lead straight to a paycheck have demanded room in my routine: time in nature; books and podcasts with authors I admire; healthy, slow-cooked meals. Suddenly I am confronted with the life I have created and how little room I made in that life for me.

I have been listening to a new book on tape, read by the author. It’s called Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. It is a wholly inspiring book, by a woman who has chosen to trust herself over the many other authorities who have insisted they know what is best for her. She is honest and courageous. She admits to the ways she has abandoned herself in the past, and counts the ways she numbed herself out. She has promised herself and her children that she will not abandon herself anymore; that she will be an example of what self-love can be instead of the martyrdom often attributed to motherhood and womanhood. 

She is both inspiring and intimidating, because I have something to admit, Invisible Audience: I have chosen and abandoned myself more ways than I can count. Unlike Glennon and many of the other women I admire whose books I read and interviews I listen to, I have found myself on a rollercoaster of courage followed by fear followed by blind faith followed by a need for someone else to take the reins because I did not physically have it in me to hold my own head above water. This has been my past, and it is still my present. This ever-peeling onion of mine makes my life look like one step forward and a dance back past the starting point. Or at least it feels that way today.

Here’s the truth: I have built myself a life. At this moment, when much of that life has been swept away, I am glad. I needed the break. When I think about taking it up again, my soul resists and my heart aches. The truth is I am not made for this existence, Invisible Audience. I am not made to toil and convince myself over and over again that what I have is good enough.

I recently ran across a picture on Facebook of me when I lived in Panama. It was taken by a professional photographer at a jazz festival. I am radiant. I am happy. I was also working through some serious shit, but there was joy in my face that I have not seen there since.

There’s an old saying: we are not meant to simply pay bills and die. Although I thought I was feeling the old ways crumble before the pandemic hit, in truth it was me that I was feeling: am crumbling away to nothing. Not in a nihilistic way – in fact, it is the most freeing way I know how to be. Suddenly the flesh has been scraped off the bones of my existence and I realize the underlying structure is crooked. No wonder it hurts. No wonder it is so hard to stay upright.

Fortunately for me, I know this feeling and this place well, Invisible Audience. I have been here many times before. There is no longer fear in this place. Instead, I hold hope: hope that the demolition of old systems makes way for new innovation. Hope that there is more joy in a new iteration. Hope that I have an opportunity to make changes so that once again I can see the joy etched into my face where now I see only exhaustion.

I have been hesitant to write, Invisible Audience. To even have the room to contemplate this change is a gift during such a shitty, scary time. And yet I can no longer deny who I am and what I need. I need something different from what I have. What does that mean? I’m not yet sure. But I can’t deny what I need anymore. Not for that woman who shone in Panama. Not for the woman who looks at life a month ago and doesn’t want the same life back again six months in the future.

Love and something new kisses,