The alarm went off. I smacked the “snooze button” and went back to sleep.
A few months ago I tried to trick myself into waking up at 5 a.m. I’ve always been an early riser, but I wanted to get back to having productive mornings. The kind of mornings that enabled me to have enough free time to write and make art.
I bought an alarm clock so complicated I still haven’t figured out how to use it. When I hit the “snooze button” the alarm doesn’t snooze in the traditional sense of the word, it just turns the alarm off. I’m sure there’s a snooze button somewhere, but heck if I can find it.
This alarm clock would be perfect for launching my ass out of bed, but the thing is my husband has an alarm on his phone. His alarm goes off around the same time mine does, but he has the advantage of a functional snooze button.
I much prefer his system to mine even though it doesn’t serve me well and I KNOW BETTER. But my brain goes *alrighty then his alarm’s on the case* and back to dreamland I go for nine minutes at a time until I finally drag myself out of bed just before six.
Facebook memories remind me this has been my lost year. I’ve had other lost years, but they were before social media forced me to remember them. It’s unsettling to see happy, productive milestones in the rearview mirror while enjoying my morning coffee (right now half Arbuckle’s Pumpkin Spice, half Folger’s decaf, because Lordy the heart palpitations are off the hook these days).
(Sidenote y’all know heart palpitations just might be perimenopause or menopause symptoms, right? I didn’t know that until Oprah told me this month but that’s another story about why women should seek out women doctors because male doctors and medicine in general don’t get it. No I’m not making that last bit up, there’s a whole book about it.)
This time last year I was writing a book I was super excited about. I was in the middle of launching myself and this blog in a whole new direction and my heart was filled with joy from the time I woke up until I crashed long after kiddo had gone to bed. I felt so on purpose.
You know how roller coasters work where you have that one big drop at the beginning and then everything after that is basically slowing down and slowing down and slowing down until you hit the end? Every once in awhile there’s a cool spiral or a surprising hill, or maybe even a linear induction motor when you least expect it that launches you off again just when you think you’ve stalled.
That’s the story of the last year.
Slowing down and slowing down and slowing down and launching and slowing down and slowing down.
I hit the end of the ride this summer. But it wasn’t like, fun or anything, the way you feel when you climb out of a roller coaster. It was that awful spinny *done too much gone too far* feeling.
Being completely honest here, I’m still in the thick of it.
I remember the last time I felt something akin to joy because I journaled about it. It was July something. I’m too lazy to go back and look for the actual date.
How much does it suck that I can mark *feeling joy* on a calendar and calculate that it’s been a quarter of a year since that moment?
We have an armada of therapists surrounding our family right now, giving us advice and propping us up as we go through some very challenging times. And, thank God, we finally have the right therapists.
For the first time in our lives, we have therapists who see us and understand all the moving parts.
Not surprisingly, I’m a huge part of the problem. Sure, Smalls being autistic and ADHD comes into play. But my trauma history, anxiety, and depression has fucked with our family dynamic in ways I never could have anticipated or planned for. I literally did not see it until professionals pointed it out to me.
It’s incredibly uncomfortable having kiddo therapists come into your house, assess things, and decide that work with the kiddo is (almost) secondary, we need to work with mom. I’m so ashamed that we’re here. I feel guilty and broken and *not a good parent* (even though I know I am). And I have to sit there with that uncomfortableness and try to learn how to heal myself so that I can help heal our kiddo.
It’s not all on my shoulders, Smalls has work of his own to do. And we as a family have family work to do. I don’t own those stories, so out of respect for everyone else I’m keeping the lens on myself. That’s the only work I’m truly in control of anyway, to the extent that anyone can control anything.
Our therapists keep telling me I need to find my joy again. They say this in a tone that suggests my joy is merely misplaced. If I keep looking hard enough maybe I’ll find it under the sofa, next to the abandoned socks and petrified goldfish crackers.
Sometimes it’s easier to figure out where things aren’t.
It’s not in the unfolded laundry or unwashed dishes.
It’s not in the overgrown garden I gave up on maintaining halfway through summer.
My joy is not in the half-started and now abandoned projects, the stack of unread books, or the piles of clothes I’ve outgrown as I ate my way through pain.
My actions would suggest otherwise, but my joy’s not at the bottom of a bag of Lays potato chips or a bottle of chardonnay, either.
My joy is not in the stories I tell myself about how I’ve failed.
I know for sure it’s in none of those places because I’ve been searching them for almost a year.
I have to believe my joy is still with me somewhere, otherwise I wouldn’t even bother to try.
Our therapists told me to start writing and blogging again.
Maybe my joy is inside a tube of paint and I have to keep trying different colors until I find the right one.
Maybe I dropped my joy in the place where I last found it – walking in loops around a nature preserve, watching the birds and the frogs and the turtles just be. Just be as I tried to run away from the edges of my anxiety and depression, always a step or two behind me, until I finally tripped and fell into the trap they’d set.
Maybe my joy isn’t missing, it’s just cocooned in layers of words not yet typed or art imagined but not yet expressed. Shining a light in that dusty corner of my brain might encourage my joy to hatch and take flight, free to claim its rightful existence in the world.
My alarm clock didn’t fail me this morning, as it has on so many others. I was sleeping lightly when it went off. When I popped out of bed I remembered the commitment I made to myself to try.
And so I did.
It might be a bad idea to try without a plan, but I’m trusting that the five or so people who read this blog on a regular basis will be understanding as I muddle through piecing my creative life back together and figuring out what I’m meant to contribute to the world.
As Elizabeth Gilbert says: