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Pickle Me This

November 20, 2019

Bits and Pieces

I want to blog, but I don’t know where to start, where to end, where to focus. Which is not only a blogging problem specifically, but also a broader statement about my current state of mind, which is scattered and anxious, as well as mostly fine. But the anxious part is weird, and I’m annoyed because I’ve spent the last while piggy-backing on my husband’s mindfulness, for the sake of efficiency. He’s gotten really into meditation and it’s helped him a lot, and it’s helped me too, because whenever I’m starting to lose it, I call on his knowledge and wisdom, and it’s hugely restorative. But maybe mindfulness-by-proxy is not a great long-term plan, and I might have to start meditating too, but how? There are not enough hours in the day, and of course, I’d rather be reading.

It’s the flip-side though of something I believe fundamentally, which is that the little things we do make a difference, that they matter. But this can also start to feel like an overwhelming kind of pressure. I was talking to a friend of mine who is a paramedic the other day, about CPR, and how I could never remember anything I was ever taught in a first aid class, but how he has restarted hearts and there are people walking around who are only alive because of him. But as I said these words, it occurred to me that if you get credit for all that, you’ve also got to take on all the people who you couldn’t save. The same as how you can’t believe your good reviews, or else you have to believe the bad ones too, except book reviews are less involved with literal peril.

Of course, because we’re talking about me, who never saved anyone, the stakes are very different. I honestly had a crisis sometime earlier this fall because I read an article about a cheese company that was going out of business, and the weight of having insufficiently supported the local cheese industry was weighing heavy on my shoulders. Does it officially count as a first world problem if you’re feeling anxious about your failure to support the cheese industry? I use this example to show that a) I am ridiculous and also b) the idea that one person can make a difference comes up short, is a scam, and diverts from the necessity of all of us working together, but then working together is hard.

Last fall was a difficult time. All our friends moved away, and my novel was rejected (this is when I wrote a post called Publishing a Book is Not a Catapult), and my husband tends to struggle in the fall in general due to cyclical things involving the seasons and his workload, so it all was not the best. This fall, however, even with some of our friends having moved back and new friends, and my book deal—it was still hard. Maybe fall is just hard? And I forget about it over and over with the promise of September and the glorious beauty of trees on display against a sky that tends to be impossible blue.

Last Friday I took my children to a play that turned out to be in December, but I’d thought we were late and the theatre turned out to be three blocks east of where I’d thought it was, so we were running to get there, but instead we were a month early. And then we went to get something to eat, and a crowd of teenage girls at a nearby table were staring at us and then laughing at us, and I still don’t really know why. (No doubt it was for a very complex and interesting reason, right?) They got up from their table and left, but didn’t leave altogether, instead lingering around a corner peering around to look at us and make faces at us, and why was I so upset and intimidated by a group of actual children? And I felt so powerless, and sad, which is never a great way to feel around your own children, and I wish I didn’t crumble under the scrutiny of a bunch of stupid kids, that those girls didn’t take me right back to when I was their age and intimidated by the power of girls like that. I grew up, but they still have that power. Why do I give it to them? Where is my spine?

Although nothing has taken me back to childhood social dynamics like watching my own child navigate those waters. I feel as though I haven’t fundamentally grown or learned anything since I was that age, because her struggles take me right back there. There is no perspective that I have to offer, except that the life I made (my friends, my people, this family that my husband and I have made together) is like a raft that I cling to on the turgid waters of life itself, and all I can hope for my children is that they get one like it.

And for the success of the local cheese industry, obviously.

Just once, I would like to be cool and laid-back. I would like to forget to bring that letter I need to mail, and instead of getting heart palpitations and reorienting my entire day to go back and get it, accept that it would fine if I just mailed it tomorrow. I would like to buy a block of cheese with no regard whatsoever for its origins (am actually quite good at this) and not even feel bad about it. I would like to genuinely not care if someone doesn’t like me. I would like to not be intimidated by teenagers. I would like to stop feeling guilty about decisions made months ago out of my own volition. I would like there to be be somewhere between my entire life being constructed of mundane to-do-list items, and everything going to shit because I didn’t bother to get it all done. I need to catch up on my emails.

I was sick for the last two weeks, a rather brutal cold that slowed me right down, depleting the energy stocks I count on, and they’re still not all back yet. I am really tired. I also was unable to swim the last two weeks, and I have come to count on swimming too as a kind of meditation and energy-release that keeps anxiety in check. I’ve also not done any creative work since I submitted my novel about a month ago, and I think I’m suffering from a dearth of that. So maybe it’s time to write a short story.

But in the meantime, I’ve managed to write this post, to process something of what has been on my mind. And as always, it’s cathartic.

6 thoughts on “Bits and Pieces”

  1. Dora Dueck says:

    so real, so splendid, this

  2. Sarah says:

    If I did my own Gleanings, this post would top my list! I did read ‘energy stocks’ as ‘energy socks’ and wondered for a split second what that meant. Can we investigate what energy socks would be and maybe buy some for the next six months?

    1. Kerry says:

      I was washing my hands in a public bathroom recently, and the soap dispensers were all labelled CERTAINTY FOAM. It made me think how much I’d appreciate easily dispensed certainty—in foam, even. As useful as energy socks.

  3. Nathalie says:

    A friend who is a psychotherapist and who credits her own meditation practice with keeping her going, said that swimming is her favourite exercise. She said it’s about the breathing. The timed and deep breaths are like the deep breathing and mindfulness of meditation. So. You’ve been meditating all this time and you’re that much farther ahead in your own meditation practice. You’ve been doing it length by length and all on your own steam.

  4. “so we were running to get there, but instead we were a month early.” — a metaphor for a lot of things. I also think the swimming is meditation, the breathing and the focus, and even the being in the water, a reminder of birth, tears, and so on.

  5. theresa says:

    I agree with Nathalie. Swimming, with its deep breathing and the repetitive strokes, gets you in that zone sure as anything. Sometimes when I finish my slow kilometer (and a third), I don’t remember where I am. And this is a wonderful post, by the way. So many strands. So much casual beauty.

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