Still Standing.

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m waiting for video to render in one program and upload in another. During this brief mental pause, it has occurred to me that I haven’t left the house since Tuesday. That “quick swim” outing I had planned turned into a doozy of an unexpected, semi-awkward, multi-locational conversation that lasted upwards of eight hours … but that’s a different story.

I’ve been working against a deadline this week, and through it, unintentionally discovered a brilliant albeit temporary cure for my blues — forget everything else that is frustrating and dive deeply into something you know how to do! Even if it’s related to the creative process, which harbors its own emotional upheaval and for me usually looks something like this:

  • Step 1: I have no idea how to start. How did I get this job anyway?
  • Step 2: Oooh, well, whaddya know, this isn’t looking half bad.
  • Step 3: This is the best thing I’ve ever done.
  • Step 4: Oh my word this is crap! It’s time for a career change.
  • Step 5: I have no idea where to go from here.

My creative cycle repeats as often as necessary until the job is done, or until other bits of life yell loudly enough to get my attention. Meanwhile, pretty much everything else suffers. This round that means I haven’t studied a lick of Turkish, haven’t exercised, and just this morning realized that I’ve been in the same t-shirt and shorts for three days. If there was a shamed-faced emoticon, I would insert it here ____.

Luckily my husband has had a meeting or appointment almost every day, so he’s been able to forage for food elsewhere, because the most effort I’ve put into household operations is to thank my previous Holly Homemaker moods as I yank something out of the freezer and slam it in the microwave.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my tantrum, and doing an informal, cost-benefit analysis of this life we’ve chosen. Difficult words keep coming to mind — words like patience, forbearance, diligence. And the most upsetting words of all — perseverance and its’ byproduct, character.

Someone once told me that running up hills builds character. I replied without even thinking — I have enough character thank you very much … which is why I’ve always freely given myself the choice to walk even the most gentle of inclines. My rationale is — I’m already up off the couch, so what more do I need to prove?

A couple weeks ago I read a book that posited that we are, in actual fact, always qualifying ourselves for the next job. I can’t remember the quote exactly, but it went something along the lines of: “when I was five, my job was to not draw on the walls or hit my sisters — a job I found very difficult. When I was ten my job was to go to school and to not hit my sisters — also difficult. Now my job is even harder, and I find it as difficult as ever.”

Which reminds me of a rather horrifying statistic I read once, that people in comas lose 8% muscle mass every day.

Which brings us finally to the set of questions that have been filling my silent spaces lately — is it really true that if we’re not climbing up the hill, we’re already starting to slide down it? That if we’re not moving, we’re atrophying? That in our very core we were made for struggle? That a 40-year-old not only cannot, but should not, be satisfied with a 5-year-old’s job, or even a 39-year-old’s for that matter? And is it really true that nothing causes us to thrive more than to fight the good fight, to run the good race, and after all the dust of the latest skirmish has settled, to find to our great surprise that we’re still standing?