My 33rd year will forever be marked by the way it turned my life upside down. Pandemic, pregnancy, prolonged hospital stay, and postpartum…fog? anxiety? depression? who knows…in that order. There have been so many beautiful and important milestones sprinkled in, but as a serial pessimist, the scary and sad and volatile moments always seem to stand a little taller in my mind.
I think we can agree that the last year and a half (or maybe longer?) has felt like the TV section at Best Buy with its dozens of screens and stereos shouting and strobing to a different beat, skewed about, and vying for our precious attention, all at once. Ultimately none of them win, we walk away from the store with a headache and decision fatigue. In a loud loud world that wants us to care about everything all the time, we can simultaneously concern ourselves with the sins of generations before ours and what’s happening today across the world and who’s mad at whom down the street. It’s not surprising that while the internet makes the world seem like a really boisterous place, most of us have gotten really really quiet. It’s kind of tiring competing with all that noise.
When it wasn’t loud it was downright scary. Unmatched violence around the world and here on our soil. Meanwhile a virus made everyday decisions like whether or not to go to the gym or give our friends a hug or see them at all a massive moral dilemma. Suddenly our mundane choices felt like loaded guns and we’re asking the people we care about the most whether we can trust them at all anymore. So we stayed home. It’s kind of tiring having to always decide.
As someone who went through all of the above plus the massive hormonal disruptions, life changes, and priority shifting that comes along with birthing a human, it suffices to say I was traversing a landscape ripe for depression, but the weeks I spent at the end of 2020 alone in the hospital as the virus soared and my health went from fine to scary to questionable on what felt like an hourly basis left me with a few gifts: my daughter, my own life, and an unforgettable period of Buddhist-style clarity.
I don’t want to hyperbolize my situation at all. I was in a really nice hospital with exceptional nurses, staff, and doctors, and most of the time I felt pretty good physically as long as I could avoid the mystery IV cocktail du jour. But being in a precarious situation like that and spending approx. 22 hours a day alone will eventually make you feel like a bit of a prisoner. When you look outside and realize that you are not allowed to go out there, there’s a pull in the back of your throat and the claustrophobia starts to ooze in.
And so you look to routine. You anxiously await daily milestones like a hot shower and putting on hand cream and evening Facetimes with family. You grasp onto the little things you can control by tidying up your bed and doing your hair and making sure your pajamas match. And then the universe comes in and shits on your plans and you can’t take a shower because you’re hooked to an IV and you mess up your hair during a magnesium fueled nap. And that’s when you realize that as you sit inside a petri dish of a hospital room during a global pandemic with a baby who may spontaneously make an appearance at any moment and a body that might kill you both, you — my friend –are not in control.
But the next day just brings more of it. So you do the only thing that makes sense: you let go of the assumption that anything is going to happen, good or bad. You come to accept that the only reality is what’s directly occurring in front of your eyeballs at that very second and everything else is pretty dang up in the air.
And that my friends is how during one of the worst crises and scariest seasons of my life, I found the most real sense of freedom I’ve ever experienced.
James Victore says we are entitled only to the work we do. I’ve always tried to keep this in mind in my creative life. Projects get cancelled midway, clients derail your creative genius in exchange for something more “synergistic”, or your end product simply doesn’t match your idealistic original vision. What Victore says is true, we aren’t guaranteed a result, and it extends beyond artistic life. In the hospital, I wasn’t guaranteed a positive outcome. In life I’m not promised tomorrow. In society, we aren’t entitled to things being fair or even sensical (I mean, 2020, amirite?). So much of our pain and strife comes from the heavy expectations we’ve placed on a future that isn’t real yet.
Could I live a life where I just worried about NOW? As a solid Enneagram six, I’m not so sure.
But then again, I do recall a December 2020 version of myself who did just that when the shit got shitty enough.
I really want to be the kind of person who has it all together. But the older I get the more I am learning that having “it all together” is less like a picture and more like a mosaic composed of tiny decisions to stay in the moment, a beautiful web God weaves in our lives when we stop trying so hard to plan it all and figure it out and instead put one foot in front of the other and allow the path to unfold beneath us.
I am entitled only to the work I do. In life. In work. In parenthood. In relationships. There’s nothing else to say because any further elaboration would imply an expectation. So cheers, friends, it’s time to get back to work.