Do you ever feel a longing to write but without any words to wrangle into sentences? It feels like wanting to cook but opening the fridge to find it empty. It feels like when you can’t remember the name of something obvious. I’ve been sitting with this tip of the tongue feeling all day hoping it’ll fade.
I’ve had this happen more frequently since the pandemic hit. I’ll have a vision of what to say floating in my head yet it feels like a much bigger ask to translate it into concrete, sensible words. Thinking more about this, it’s actually a somewhat common reaction I have in events where it feels inappropriate to focus on the mundane. In my head doing so feels like a betrayal of the magnitude of whatever situation seems larger and more important to fully feel. Compared to what’s happening in the world, writing up something for work or for fun feels useless. How can you pay attention to work when so much is not okay? Snap out of it. Wake up. Look around you. Do something.
I’m not good at faking how I feel yet I’m also adept at compartmentalizing. These traits are both a blessing and curse. On rough days, it feels like I’m constantly packing and unpacking feelings — a form of emotional nomading if you will. It’s a shame I’m not more minimalistic when it comes to my emotional range ;). Like a scuba tank enabling someone to go where humans aren’t supposed to, I have about 3-4 hours of true productivity at a time thanks to compartmentalizing before needing to come up for oxygen.
I feel the miles between loved ones more than I ever have. I feel the precariousness of our collective situation. I feel the exhaustion from low level, constant worrying. I feel how dissatisfying a phone call is compared to a long hug in person. I feel the fear in not knowing how long this will last.
Words are still painful to find. With each letter I type, the sense that I should be doing something more to ease pain grows. How will these sentences help with anything that’s happening? How do we keep going when so much isn’t okay? How do we feel the loss yet continue on? I’ve faced these questions many times before. I hate sitting on the sidelines. I always want to prove the bystander effect wrong.
I’ve written about this memory before here but, for some reason, it keeps flashing into my mind as I write this. Years ago after my soccer teammate’s car accident where she lost a leg and barely kept her other one, my teammates and I were tasked with walking around a soccer complex during a big tournament to try to raise money for her. We could hardly get anyone’s attention. The tears and panic began to build within me. I wanted to scream. I wanted to show them pictures of her leg and share details from the accident. I wanted them to get it as they ignored us, put on their sunglasses, and looked away. What could be more important?! Nothing else mattered to my little brain.
Right now, I feel this younger version of myself tugging at my sleeve wanting to scream about our current reality. I don’t want to be another adult ignoring her so I regularly find myself engaging with that part of myself.
“How can I help? What can we do today that will build the future we want for tomorrow? How do we find a way to pace ourselves? What do you feel right now?”
We’re all still living. These days are not lost days. They are days with equal weight as any other in our lives. I see them passing and blurring. I want a firmer grip. Focusing on what I can learn from our current situation is giving me a way to engage with the present. It suddenly feels powerful and useful to feel all I can knowing it’ll serve me in the future we all build together. Feel with me, friends.
What do you miss most? What about you has remained the same despite this constant change? Which relationships are being strengthened? Which are atrophying as time goes on? What are you learning about yourself? What are you learning about others? What about life before this was unsustainable for you? How are you spending your time differently?
When I’m out of words, I turn to the words of others.
“There are times when it is hard to believe in the future, when we are temporarily just not brave enough. When this happens, concentrate on the present. Cultivate le petit bonheur (the little happiness) until courage returns. Look forward to the beauty of the next moment, the next hour, the promise of a good meal, sleep, a book, a movie, the likelihood that tonight the stars will shine and tomorrow the sun will shine. Sink roots into the present until the strength grows to think about tomorrow.” ― Ardis Whitman
& now I must go to seek the promise of sleep.