It started off with trying not to drown. I really wanted to learn how to swim but my buoyancy is equal to a sack of gravel, at least it feels that way. A year ago I took three swim lessons at the local YMCA. After three lessons I succeeded in getting myself from one end of a regulation pool to another without sinking. Success. As the year has progressed I have faithfully continue to practice going as many as 20 laps, which feels like a lot to me. I have grown in strength and endurance and patience with myself without throwing in the proverbial towel.

This fall I took 8 swim lessons from another teacher. I learned so much about stroke, hand depth and placement, head position, hip rotation, aerodynamics in the water and lengthening my stride in the water. I had no idea how much I didn’t know about swimming until my teacher told me. So, I am now buoyant and a fair bit more graceful and efficient in the water.

We never know how little we know about a topic until we delve in. Engaging the large ideas first, opening ourselves up to medium size curiosities next and finally digging deep into the nuances of the subject. Learning is a process. We may not be naturally buoyant in certain area of life but that is a learned behavior. The old adage is ‘sink or swim’ and in so many situations life offers us the challenge is just that – sink or swim.

I choose to swim. Each day offers me an opportunities to sink. Mental illness, depression, anxiety, overwhelm all threaten to pull me down. My float-ability is challenged by feelings of inadequacy, uselessness and irrelevancy. But I choose to swim. To keep moving intentionally toward a goal of becoming stronger. I choose to keep learning new skills that propel me towards becoming the woman I am meant to be. I choose to swim.

Writing in the dust

From dust to dust. Thats what religious people say. We had our origin in the dust of the earth and will return to dust as our bodies decay. I once heard about a kid, upon observing the amount of dust under the bed, said to his mother “I don’t know which, but there is either someone coming or going under there.” Well I don’t know if the same principles apply to the creative process but it always seems like something is coming up and something else is winding down. The cycles of creativity are a whirlwind, stirring up old things in new ways, and new things built on old skills.

Thus is this blog. It’s time to dust it off and experience once more the daily thrill of creating and the disappointment of low readership. The high of having your voice to heard to the low of realizing you’re the only one who heard it. It’s a lonely trek, but a beautiful one – the beauty often realized in the landscape that is created over time, not just in a single image, memory or story.

I took a trip going nowhere this weekend. I was to fly with my husband as he had his first leg as a captain for his airline. His trip was cancelled. Sometimes I wonder if blogging is like a trip that goes nowhere. However, I have decided, that unlike a trip with a specific destination, a blog is meant to meander and wander, making sharp turns and unexpected dips. It is meant to have slow starts and abrupt stops. It is unpredictable. And so I embark on the journey for another season of discovery. Thanks for walking with me.

PTSD Sucks

“Can we talk?” The words fill my heart with dread. My heart pounds and the panic button in my regulatory system gets pressed repeatedly,  I’ve said something or done something wrong. They’re angry with me. They hate me. I know it. I can feel it.

My past abuse amplifies the fear – after conflict there is inevitable anger, rage or a beating. I steel myself for whatever might come. I can handle it I tell myself. I’ve survived before and I will again.

The speaker just wanted to have a gracious conversation with me about something I said that came off inappropriately.  He was kind, loving, curious and corrective.  All good things. I was in the wrong. I apologized.

However, after we got off the phone I began to panic. Did I apologize correctly? Did he hate me? Was he angry? Was this the end of a friendship? I feared emotional harm and ultimately rejection.  The feelings or potential of rejection are ominous and palpable and paralyzingl 

This is Complex PTSD in action – reacting to a present situation as if an old threat exists.   It is waiting for the other shoe to drop and the guillotine to fall.  This is what it feels like to be stuck in the vortex of the disease that always tells you that you are not safe or loved.

My anxiety was so high it required medication to calm it down and for me to begin to think rationally. PTSD sucks.

The lethargy of loneliness

I have developed a camaraderie with solitude. My calendar and life are comfortably quiet, punctuated with occasional phone calls and text messages. Periodically there is some unrequited call for warranty replacement, or notification that my social security has been compromised. But overall I work quietly, create art and putter around the house in almost complete silence which usually doesn’t bother me at all.

But some days the solitude is different. Some days the solitude feels like burden, an obstacle, rather than a state of being. Those days carry with them the heaviness of climbing a mountain in boots that weigh a thousand pounds. Deep drifts of soul fog blow in, suffocating life and light and joy

On days like these I move in a slow circle from the coffee pot, to the desk chair, to the recliner. My wandering barely shifts the dust on the floor that has taken advantage of my cleaning abstinence. A few moments during the day sputter and stop just shy of igniting creativity or ambition.

The day feels long with empty hours and purposeless minutes. I struggle to find intention and motivation. Its hard to decipher whether my lethargy is loneliness or depression. The distinction between the two feels negligible.

“Am I ok?” I wonder. “Does everybody have days like this, where movement is heavy and painful and the world feels far away?” And “What if I always feel this way?” The panic of wondering about the longevity of loneliness and depression is as stifling as the feeling itself.

But one day inevitably turns into the next bringing with it a whole new realm of possibilities and endings. Sometimes it is one long day followed by another long drawn out day. Other days are filled with peace, lightness and joy. There are no guarantees of more days or of better days. But to be sure, at the end of all searching for meaning and answers there is always faith, hope and love.