Ask anyone who knows me. I rarely stop thinking, rarely stop moving really, whirling dervish that I am. My brain is always percolatin’ away, darting here there and everywhere like a little hummingbird gathering info, generating ideas, just a wee bit ADD for sure. I think when I’m driving, I think when I sleep, I think in the shower and think when I sweep. There I’ll be, running on the treadmill at the gym, the picture of concentration to an onlooker, yet my mind is churning churning churning away on a song lyric. And just like that, you’ll see me hop off mid-run to go write the valuable little snippet on a gum wrapper in the locker room, or to leave myself a voicemail. Constantly working the 5,000 piece ever-changing jigsaw puzzle that is my world; I always have something to say, something to ask, something to do, something to think.
Sigh…I drive people crazy I concede. I know this because years ago, someone said to me that they had watched this Star Trek episode where all the Star Trek people were on a new planet and they thought there was no life. But they kept hearing this buzzing noise and couldn’t figure it out, in the end it turned out that was the life form, beings moving and talking so fast they couldn’t understand or see them. The moral of his story was that the life form reminded him of me, busy buzz buzz that I am. Yes, I am a big enough girl to accept that while accurate, it was not exactly a compliment. Oh well.
It follows that I have trouble being still, in fact it is downright painful and impossible for me to do nothing. “Not doing” is so not in my repertoire of behaviors. Where others find peace in quiet and stillness,I have made it my mantra that I have to be moving to be still, to sweat to be still. I am most calm and Zen just as I hurdle mile three of a run for sure. This little personality quirk makes things like having breast MRI’s pure torture, not because of the claustrophobia, but because being still that long for me is like not being able to scratch an itch…an itchy poison ivy itch. I once proctored exams for my kids and well, let’s just say that will never happen again, and yes,the meditative portion of yoga class absolutely drives me bananas. Finally after years of trying to jam this lil’ round peg in the square hole, I have embraced that I am a blur of perpetual motion.
So imagine my horror this spring as I felt this sudden slowing of my engines internally. It was barely perceptible at first, more like being tired, but it continued its spiral and all attempts to re-stoke my fire failed; despite some frantic fanning on my part, my little flame just barely flickered. It felt as if my life was a clock and the ticks were coming further and further apart. Trouble running, trouble focusing, trouble finishing things on time, trouble thinking, half-hearted living. I fretted. Was I depressed I wondered? Was I just tired, having finished a strenuous five months of kids stuff? Was it the offshoot of a nagging foot injury that had wreaked havoc with the regular influx of endorphins I require to sparkle? Was it another gift of the menopause fairy? Was it that I had just crossed the threshold into five years?
All I knew for sure that factored into it was that I had recently experienced profound disillusionment in several arenas of my life; and that experience had rocked me to my core. Several events had culminated to prove that the world I know was not the world I thought I knew. That is a hard pill for an optimist to swallow indeed when, as a good friend said, you are seeing things the way the are instead of the way you’d hoped they would be.
I sludged through April. The early weeks of May ditto. I kvetched to the girlfriends, calling it a funk I couldn’t shake. Grandmother Willow couldn’t quite figure it out either other than offering that as a single parent, I have an awful lot going on and was perhaps exhausted. Perhaps. But it didn’t feel tired, it felt like inertia had taken hold, and it just didn’t matter. My brain felt sluggish. It didn’t feel unhappy, just….uninspired.
I felt like a mule, with life pulling at my bit, stubbornly refusing to budge but for maybe a half-hearted step here and there when I had to. And with surprisingly little anxiety surrounding the sloth, more like a foreign, “Oh well, I will get to it tomorrow,” kinda feeling. Like a little train slowing down, the chuga-chuga’s came slower, and slower and sloooower until this week, I could hear the squeak of the brakes as I slid into a slow…… grinding………….. stop. (insert lurch)
Stubborn old mule woman.
And here I sit. Trying to blog. To blog in the fog. Swimming in maple syrup I am.
And I got…nothing. Nothing. I feel like my brain is wrapped in this muffley veil like gauze, thick, like how life sounds underwater. Try as I might to jiggle loose the lid on the old creative juices, it wouldn’t budge. The magic wand refused to ignite; I kept pulling the trigger on that darn thing, and though there were sparks, no flame flickered long enough to light the blog on (the) fire.
On Monday I cleared out my work calendar to write, yet my brain slept, refusing to be nudged awake by caffeine or long runs or junior mints or even a Goody Powder chased with a Co’cola. On Tuesday, I optimistically started an idea, and then of course the Casey Anthony jury selection started and well duh, trumped writing.
Wednesday started out great! I opened up four or five different ideas, each hopeful little window on my taskbar flashed, shouting “Me, me! Pick me!” like hyper kids in kindergarten with hands eagerly raised. Yet, when I called on them they forgot what they had to say. My stream of consciousness leapfrogged to and fro, sprinkling each with a snippet as I landed, but they all failed to capture me for longer than a sentence before I lept again.
By Thursday, Anxiety and Panic were insistently knocking at the door with a bullhorn saying, “Ma’m! Excuse me ma’m, open the door! We know you are in there, just drop the remote and come out with your hands up, ready to type, you have a blog to publish in two days!” “Hmm,” I said dreamily, “What is that noise I hear that sounds like buzzing?” And with that, I nonchalantly popped a few Swedish fish, dialed up the volume on the TV, and spent the afternoon being comforted by my friends at the QVC who assured me that sitting on the couch, shopping for a casserole dishes and Diamonique jewelry was what all the beautiful, productive people do with their days.
By Friday, after a harrowing case at work all day long I was asking, okay begging my son to consider doing a guest blog and he, in the middle of AP exams and SAT’s looked at me like I had lost my ever-loving mind and said, “Uh, thanks? No.” My daughter did however helpfully offer to write a fashion tip blog, but I wasn’t sure that information on how to apply glitter eyeliner correctly for a Ke$ha concert had much to do with breast cancer and all….
So by Saturday, I find myself stuck here, writing about being stuck on this rainy afternoon that matches my thoughts…being mired, being foggy, sleepy; a 78 record being played in 33 1/3 world. FYI, I don’t like it, not one little bit. ‘Tis quite dystonic. Quite frankly, I am panicked that this inertia is here to stay; could it be that this lil’ Powerpuff Girl’s endless Mojo has run out? Professor Utonium, bring me some Chemical X!
This week, we passed by the UCC church and there was this multi colored apostrophe looking thingy stuck on its sign. I was like, “Colton, I don’t get it why the apostrophe?” He said, “It’s a comma, mom.” “Oh. Okay. I still don’t get it; why the comma?” My son (who often knows waaay too much) said, “It’s a slogan mom, their slogan is, ‘God is still speaking.’” Oh.
It made me think about the old saying, “Never put a period where God has put a comma.” I considered that I have been really quite spooked by this stall, and realized that what was scaring me was its potential to be a period. As the weeks ticked by and the pulse slowed further rather than quickening, I just kept waiting and waiting for it to get better, doing all the things I used to do to get my blood pumping and… notta. It was like watching what I thought was a slow death and it was out of my control. It had never occurred to me it could be a comma.
Commas are infinitely less scary than periods, albeit awkward pauses in my warp speed life, but they are doable. Commas are a bit foreign to me, they haven’t often existed much in my world; I am a semicolon girl at best and tend to go through life knowing exactly where the period will be because I will put it there. Even cancer was more of an interjection, an exclamation point if you will. Although maybe….the time after five years presents a comma. So it’s big that not only am I realizing it’s a comma, I am surrendering to the comma and to the fact that my body is saying “Pause, Lauren, rest, take care and be still. Something big is being worked out inside of you. We don’t know what’s next.” Because I have always known the fluid end to my sentences, my eye on the period at the end, I have never had a need for a comma. Comma’s were time sucks. But life had stolen some of the finishing pieces of my sentences, and I had no choice but to insert a comma until it was worked out in my head.
Leapfrog with me.
In the days before I gave birth, I drew inward, got very introspective, very quiet (manna from heaven for their dad). I think it was my body quite naturally doing what it needed to do to ready itself for the big task that was ahead; taking a deep breath, a comma with the uncertainty of the story ahead.
Here lately this week in the South, people are chatting about the same thing every night, unsure of a sound in sky. “It sounds like a helicopter or a freight train,” they say, afraid that the nuclear plant is melting down or of more tornadoes. What is it? The 13 year cicadas are emerging, after a sleepy, dormant eternity deep in the ground. Announcing their vibrant re-emergence, thunderously and fruitfully multiplying after an extended comma; even the most ferocious bears hibernate. Pulses quicken again.
Once a friend and I were talking about a hard time in his life, “It makes me feel like I can breathe,” he said, “when you remind me this is just a season and will pass.” These bleaker seasons are crucial to growth, trees go dormant, forces of nature don’t always swirl, and we must remind ourselves of the simple promise of this cycle, the message that nature proves to us over and over. God will help us finish the sentence when it is time. And only God can put a period, but methinks the Holy Spirit works in commas, for sure. Sometimes, we must be still to be moving.
Grandmother Willow tells me of this time when her then 4-year-old grandson was on her lap as she turned on the computer. It was back in the days that computers took forever to boot up, and as it was doing so, he looked expectantly up at her and said, “Grandma! We are waiting for something to happen!”
One of the sweetest gestures I have known was given to me last December, when God was first trying to slow me with some unrelenting stomach ick. I was taking a nap on the couch and this sweet, sweet man gently put warm socks on my feet as I slept, and then quietly tiptoed away. Sometimes, being still allows tenderness to find you. Sometimes, being still allows you to receive. Sometimes, we must be quiet to hear what someone is saying to us.
So sleep sweet brain; I will put warm socks on your feet as you nap, and will then tiptoe away, allowing your warm slumber to meander and wend. I will sit quiet and still in the corner, syncing my heart to your pulse, matching my inhale to the rhythm of your new slow and even breath, and accept that this unhurried cadence is not frightening, not signaling death, but life to come.
I, am waiting for something to happen.