I gotta get out of bed
learn how to use my hands
not just my head
I think myself into jail
now I know a refuge never grows
from a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose
gotta tend the earth if you want a rose
⁃ Indigo Girls
Well! I just spent almost an hour scrolling through photos on my phone, looking for just the right one with which to start this post. Did I find it? No. But I had a good time looking at photos. Have you thought about photos at all lately? My goodness, they really are amazing. There they were – captured tidbits of all kinds of adventures – just there, available for review. A decade of moments!
Okay, enough of that. Let’s get back to contemplating this starting over thing.
Previous posts conveyed my thoughts on how best to respond just as something big, or the realization of something big, has thrown a great big, rusty wrench into your life. Holy shit. What was that?!?! Where did that come from?
That first part is tough, as you watch structures crumble and the ground fall away from your feet. But I’ll tell you this: that was a piece of cake compared to the next phase. Next comes the long, slow slog through changed landscape.
When big stuff comes down, time stops. After a bit, you start to recover from the blow, or the realization, or the event itself, and you hear the tick-tick-tick of the clock resume. Now you have to feed yourself, do the laundry, go to work, get the oil changed in your car — all those things you were right in the middle of before time stopped. But everything, everything, everything is different.
This is the part I find so very hard.
There’s no glory in it. There’s not a lot of satisfaction. No one’s rushing over with casseroles because you’re too stunned to get out of bed. Days can be a mixture of grief, rage, resignation, terror and oh, so much more. It takes grim fucking determination to keep moving forward.
God, this sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Why am I freaking you all out with this stuff? Let’s see… because it’s the truth. Never been there? Good for you. You’ve led a blessed life. But are you a human? Yes? Then sooner or later you’re going to experience something like this. Be warned, but don’t be afraid. This ends well. If you don’t believe me, just take my word for it for now. We’ll get there.
Okay. Take a deep breath. First, get that grim fucking determination solidly in place…
Find your invincible summer.
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.Albert Camus
No one has ever said it better than Albert Camus. Everyone has that thing, that prime motivator – a reason for being that simply will not allow you to give up. Find it. Now! Identify it and bring it to the forefront of your world. Nothing else is strong enough to overcome the power of a huge wipeout.
I’ve often thought that when my sister was at her lowest point, it was the presence and needs of her daughter that allowed her (forced her, really) to keep going. I never had anything that concrete to motivate me. Instead I had to excavate down into my experiences of life and find the things that made me want to keep going. Not an easy task when all feels hopeless and terrible. But I did find it. I know my invincible summer. And it really is just that – invincible. It may take you some time to identify it. Don’t despair. It will eventually surface. Keep going until it does. Not yet? Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Use everyhing you’ve got to keep going. Oh, hey! There it is! Pick it up. Invincible summer, there you are. Nothing, NOTHING, is stronger. Throw it in your backpack along with some water, a snack, a warm layer and a first aid kit. Then keep trudging. Feel that determination? That’s your invincible summer.
Don’t think. Do.
No amount of processing, questioning, reading, conversation or philosophizing is going to do a damn bit of good right now. You will not think your way out of this box. At least, I never have, and I’m a damn fine thinker. Thinking only gets you so far. This is a lesson it took me a decade – my entire twenties, at least – to learn.
Nod here to Emily Saliers of the band Indigo Girls, for being the first to suggest to me you cannot reason your way out of every situation. I suspect the song “Hammer and a Nail”, released in 1990, became an anthem for many, many young persons trying to find their way. It took me a decade to figure out how to do rather than think, as she suggested. I’m a slow learner.
But here’s the why of it. Trying to think your way out of a situation doesn’t work because you don’t have enough new information. I’m a firm believer that we make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time. But when something big comes down, you don’t have any new information. You only have old information. New situation, old information. And you can’t make a sound decision based on old information. It’s bound to be wrong. (Thus my earlier TtKiM, try to avoid taking action right now.)
So, am I telling you to do no thinking and make no decisions? Well, yes. Yes I am. (Feel free to ignore everything I say though. Who the hell am I anyway, telling you what to do???) Do neither, if you can.
That’s a big if. Maybe I should revise that to when you can.
Instead, just do stuff. This is the time to just do stuff! Anything! Hike, garden, read, travel, build a shed, learn to waterski, clean out the garage. Did you start thinking? Stop that! Buy an interesting cookbook and make every recipe in it. Join a book club. Volunteer. (Surely one of the best things you can do. Gain perspective and do stuff. Two for the price of one!) Tamp down that impetus to sit and stew. Do stuff that builds up your well of new experiences. Let time pass. Every day will bring new, better information. You might not be aware of its slow gathering. But it IS piling up.
Slogging will get less painful and feel more like a necessary training regimen.
Because that’s what you’re doing. You’re training for the next phase. And the next phase is going to be a lot more pleasant. But first you have to do the work. Keep going. Get up every day and keep going, even if it feels like you’re pulling yourself through molasses. Do stuff. Especially stuff that needs doing. Clear your plate as best you can. New stuff is going to come into the picture and you’re going to want there to be room for it. Tuck that thought away in the back of your mind. No, don’t think about it! Just tuck it away and get back to doing. In fact, go clean out the garage right now.
Hey! This post is getting too long! And I should get dressed, maybe even feed the dog or brush my teeth or reassure my parents (who live with me) that I’m still alive. Coming back shortly with Let joy be your guide. Though I don’t think I’m going to say what you might think I’m going to say…