Where have I been?
You probably didn’t even miss me. The problem is, I was missing me. In my quest to achieve what society deems success, I was spending every waking moment looking for a job – which I would get and then immediately become overwhelmed. I liked what I was doing, but I wasn’t sleeping well. I neglected everyday items like cleaning out my car or organizing our bedroom. It wasn’t that I didn’t try to do these things. Every day, my To-Do list was pages long, yet I never seemed to finish anything. My life consisted of half-doing several things – badly.
Then my body decided it was time for a serious wake-up call. In May, I had a pulmonary embolism; everything in my world came to a grinding halt. If you aren’t familiar with PEs, they happen when a blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lung, blocking blood flow to a portion of the lung.
What followed was an endless series of tests and doctors’ appointments – cardiologists, hematologists, neurologists – punctuated by frequent trips to the ER when I was scared of the pain in my chest. I was exhausted all the time. Walking up a flight of stairs became a major challenge.
Still, I continued to pursue getting back the job I had before I got sick. That lasted about 3 weeks until I had to admit – not only did I not feel well, but now that I was fact checking a finance web site – I was way in over my head.
We are all supposed to work, right? I went to college and then graduate school. I was supposed to be bright and capable.
But I’m not. Or so it seems. I don’t think I have ever finished anything I’ve started that was of any great consequence. I get scared and sick and end up in some sort of hospital, be it medical or psychiatric. During my first marriage, I lived in Orlando, Florida. When I sought help for migraines, the pain specialist put me on 90 Percocet a month. All I had to endure in exchange was monthly occipital nerve blocks and trigger point injections. I let a doctor insert a needle into the base of my skull just so he would keep prescribing pain pills. When I was divorced and moved back to the DC area, I rehabbed to reclaim a life without oxycodone, but to this day, I’m never sure when I’m really sick or when I just need to escape the pressure of the world. Psych wards are still a refuge for me. There I feel comfortable because I know that every patient has his or her own problems. No one is perfect and I don’t feel a need to pretend that I have everything under control
When the embolism hit, though, I was definitely sick. And terrified. I was on the verge of turning 50 and I was afraid I would die. Even worse, I would die without writing a book. This nonexistent book has been my life goal – yet I have kicked around the same plot for years and have fewer than 10, 000 words written.
Growing up, when asked if I’d rather be rich or famous, famous was the obvious answer. Famous is still my answer, but with each passing year, I know the chance at literary fame becomes slighter. More improbable.
I recently wrote a draft of the murder scene for my “book.” Six paragraphs took me three hours to write. I cannot shake my compulsion to self-edit.
That impulse is symbolic of everything that holds me back in life. If I cannot perform an action perfectly, I cannot complete the task.
Having a PE made me see that imperfection must be an acknowledged and accepted part of life. Am I comfortable with this realization? Not at all. Why perform a task if I can’t execute it to even my own satisfaction?
Because, if I do not, I will do nothing.
I’d like to be able to report I have beaten my devils and my novel is finished. Untrue.
I can say coming to terms with the fact that I have to just let go. As an exercise, I have written this essay making as few corrections as possible. No stopping for an hour to find just the right word. I know my thoughts are disjointed and jump subjects and themes at an alarming rate.
It’s, okay, though. I am starting to discover myself, even if I do not always like what I find.
This world is filled with diversity. All I am called upon is to act in a way that is authentic.
I’m trying. (Yes, I paged through a thesaurus occasionally when I couldn’t find the exact word I wanted.) There is no immediate cure. Only progress. Finishing this piece is a sign of progress.
Now, I will close my eyes and submit it.
(Maybe I’ll keep one eye open.)