depression · life coach · loneliness

Bruised From Fighting Life? Align Yourself With the River

I’ve been AWOL. Not just from blogging but from parts of my life.

It’s been a very difficult few weeks, depression trying to settle into my soul, my house, my heart, my brain. My eyes are weary from trying not to squeeze shut to hold back hot tidal waves of tears, but to be presentable. You know, when you have to raise your eyebrows to keep your lids open and your brow is furrowed with deep sadness that you suspect you’ll never shake? And when people look at your eyes, you think they can see deep ponds of soul sadness, ready to overflow their banks? Yes, that’s it.

The absence of my daughter is breaking my heart. She needed the space, the distance from my helicopter parenting to discover, establish and proclaim her independence as a college freshman. I applaud her. I’m so proud of her and in moments my heart leaps for joy for her to have finally unfurled her wings and experienced the lofting breeze of life for which I so carefully, intentionally prepared her. And yet here I am, shattering over and over again each day into little fragments of mirror- very ugly jagged little things I’m too tender to pick back up, sort, resolve. I ache from missing her.

Suddenly I imagine a spotlight shining on those fragments of me, lying there in the floor, and recognize the feeling of shame; it’s the same when others ask me how I’m handling my “empty nest,” and I tell them calmly about the futility of life and how I wish the pain would cease, all the while baring my selfish, needy little heart for all to see.

Then realizing my mistake in being so awkwardly, uncomfortably honest, so freaking transparent, I cover my head and crawl in a hole, weeping and wailing. If I can’t control life, can’t I at least control myself?

So then I reach for Anne Lamott as I often do when I’m not ready to talk to God but willing to hear some truth; after all, Anne calls out my spades but makes me laugh through the pain of being discovered. Doesn’t matter which book or chapter; it could be Boiling Water in Three Easy Steps as long as it the voice of Anne.  I pick up Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Here she references KFKD, the “radio station of shame” that so often plays in our heads, as she herself picks up a book:

“I started to read and within a page came across this beautiful passage: ‘The Gulf Stream will flow through a straw provided the straw is aligned with the Gulf Stream, and not at cross-purposes with it.’   [..] So now I always tell my students about the Gulf Stream: that what it means for us, for writers, is that we need to align ourselves with the river of the story, the river of the unconscious, of memory and sensibility, of our characters’ lives, which can then pour through us, the straw. When KFKD is playing, we are at cross purposes with the river. So we need to sit there, and breathe, calm ourselves down, push back our sleeves, and begin again.” Ann Lamott, Bird By Bird

“…We need to align ourselves with the river. ” And here I am, a weak swimmer, flailing, splashing, choking and sputtering, trying to swim across the river, strainers and class 5 rapids be damned. The fight does not serve me, does not serve my daughter, or anyone else for that matter.

In life as in my work, protagonist in the one, writer in the other, I must lift my feet and let the water take me where it’s heading, not grasping for the nearest eddy. Only then will life begin to flow as it should, and my writing to make any sense. Only then will I become the person I was designed to be: available to let life and truth flow through me- not just for myself, but for others. Only then will peace and joy return. And I breathe in again.

What is your river? What truth do you need to align to once again? I’d love to know; please share your comments.


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