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You have to start somewhere
I lost it the other night. My carefully constructed sense of calm, made to weather these endlessly weird pandemic times. I’ve cobbled it together from scraps of psychology, self-help mantras, and well-meant phrases.
“The only way out is through,” and such. We’ve come so far, all of us, through this year, this global crisis. But we have so much further to go. And suddenly, on Thursday night, I couldn’t take it for one more second. So I lost it.
First, I got mad at my husband. It wasn’t fair, because I wanted to be mad. Or sad. Madsad. So I took something he said and fashioned an offense from it, and then I took the dog and went for a walk in the dark. Together we stalked up the streets of the Outer Sunset, holiday lights flashing past, the ocean roaring at our backs.
Walking usually helps. Calms and centers. But it did neither. I began to weep, my breath hitching awkwardly as strangled sobs clawed their way up my throat. My dog glanced at me, worriedly.
She’s an empath, this dog. A middle-aged boxer-mix lady named Vila (vee-lah) who feels everything deeply. So she kept looking over at me as we walked, her claws clicking a rhythm on the sidewalk. “Is there anything I can do for you?” her eyes seemed to say. I just cried harder.
I thought about calling one of my best friends, but the thought of walking and crying and talking all at the same time felt overwhelming. So I walked, and wept, and told Vila not to worry.
The tears helped, they jostled something loose, but it wasn’t until I was tucked in bed with my husband, B, later that night that the words came tumbling out in a rush of grief and loss.
“I miss my friends,” I said. “I can’t remember the last time I hugged one of them. I miss my family. I’m worried about my mom and dad. I feel like I’m failing at everything, like no matter how much I do, there is always more to be done. There is always someone else who needs something, and if there isn’t, then there’s me. And I need so much. I feel so fat, like I’ve eaten all my feelings and they’ve turned into stones. My body just feels heavy and I have to lug it around everywhere. I hate it. I think my hair looks stupid. I’m worried that I’m not showing Lu how to do division right. I’m so tired of smiling at myself during Zoom meetings. I’m just tired. I’m afraid that I’ll never finish my book and I’ll never find a publisher and no one will ever read it. I can’t wait to move to Portugal but I’m already so sad about all the people we will leave behind. And I’m scared I’ll never learn Portuguese, and I’m scared that Lu will hate her new school over there, and I’m scared we’ll all be terribly lonely, and I’m scared about everything, all the time. I feel like I’m carrying around all these balls, glass balls, in my arms and they’re all really precious and valuable and if I drop even one it will be a disaster. But my arms are tired and the balls are slippery and I don’t know how longer I can keep doing this. What if the vaccine doesn’t work? What if this pandemic just never ends? What if what if what if what if. Oh my god, I’m so tired.”
It helps to get the words out. Always. Because once they’re out, you can examine them and find the truth, and name your fears, and if you’re especially lucky, you’ll have someone who listens and nods and strokes your back and says, “It sounds like you’re carrying a lot. That must be really hard.”
And then you can cry a little more, and in the morning, you’ll feel better. You’ll pick up all those balls again, but you’ll be a little less tired. You can go on a little longer now.
Or at least that’s how it works for me. And when I gathered up my glass balls in the morning, I found a shiny new one, small and hopeful, labelled “Newsletter.”
I used to have a blog, years ago. I tended it faithfully and it brought me a lot of joy— the pleasure of setting words down on a page and telling a story, but also the wonder of connecting with people I didn’t know before. The sense of community that sprung up around all those words. In fact, one of the women in one of my writing groups is a friend I made, 20-some years ago, through my blog.
And I miss connecting. I miss the give-and-take of spontaneous conversations. I also miss writing for the pure love of it. All of the writing I do these days is for money-making or for my book. And although I do love writing for my book, it’s a constant responsibility hanging over my head. Every day I’m like, “I have to finish that chapter and start the next one.”
I’ll admit that my immediate motivation for starting this newsletter is selfish. I want to write, and I want someone to read it, and I want that someone to be you.
But there is also a solid measure of hope in starting this newsletter, too. Hope that it will mean something to someone, that it will matter. Maybe even make a difference.
So here we are.
I’m planning to write a newsletter once a month. Maybe twice. We’ll see how heavy those balls get.
The newsletter will cover a whole lot (hence “Word Salad”): my family’s impending move to Portugal; the process of writing a book; dealing with a parent’s mental decline; deconstructing faith; public speaking; parenting; dog stuff and bird stuff (yes, there’s a bird and her name is FeeBea—you’ll meet her soon) and life stuff.
Thanks for being here for the first one. I hope you stay for more.
Copyright © 2020 LaDonna Witmer