Here's the story.
I can tell you the moment it happened.
The last 2013 US screening of Indie Kindred just ended here in my Brooklyn neighborhood. I walked home and sent the sitter home and drew a bath. "What an Experience" by Janelle Monáe was playing--a frequent post-show pick for me, but on this night it took on the most melancholy tone. Candlelight tricked across the tiles.
And a thread that felt like it was holding my heart to shore simply ceased to be. I drifted out to sea and watched the land disappear.
A lot of people have theories about what might have happened to me that night, and in the days and months to follow:
- That's the Achievement Hangover.
- It's the post-project let-down.
- It's just winter.
- Or plain, old-fashioned weariness.
All I know is this: I wasn't okay. And I'm not sure I've been okay ever since.
I knew I needed help, so I started reaching out. I booked some time with Halley Razz Gray, even though I worried that I wasn't in good enough shape to cross anything off a to-do list, let alone execute a plan. I went to yoga. I talked to my therapist and to my doctor.
Let me tell you about my usual M.O. Its primary strategy involves going underground--DEEP underground--especially after a long or intensive season of being as seen as I was on the five-month Indie Kindred tour. It looks like hiding out, it sounds like radio silence.
But Halley said, People want to hear from you.
If there's one thing that is nearly impossible to believe when your heart is lost at sea, it's that anyone wants to hear from you. Let's face it--out here it doesn't feel like there is much to give. Low reserves, if any. Empty pockets and not even a couple of oars.
Most of all it looks like wanting to withdraw, hide out, or fly under the radar until one feels bright and shiny again. And, I am finding out, that could be a very long time.
One by one, I started to do the things that Halley told me to do, even though I was afraid of every single one. What if I started a Facebook group for online kindreds and couldn't keep up with it? What if I listed things for sale in my shop but couldn't get the orders shipped? What if half of my email subscribers fled after I started writing them more often?
But it kept working out.
I went at the pace I needed, and one small action actually called me into the next. If sending out a big email felt like it took more courage than I had in one day, I would just draft it one day and hit "send" the next day. I literally broke everything down into that size of manageable-at-the-time pieces.
I chose connection over isolation. Even with a heart lost at sea. It's taken courage and trust, but that connection is saving me a little bit every day.
Here's what I'm learning.
A Heart Out to Sea Looks Like:
- waiting for your next assignment
- not having a lot of words (maybe only having words for one person)
- not wanting to talk much about What's Next
- trying to finish well, when how to do that is difficult or unclear
- living to the edge of as far as you can see.
- Ask for the help you need. All hands on deck. The expert with the expertise you're missing. The healers. The guides. The companions who aren't afraid of the dark.
- Keep moving. Follow the advice you're given. Even small gestures count.
- Connect. Send out messages in a bottle. Send them when it feels futile, even when you can't imagine the difference they might make or them ever being found. Send them even when you don't have the intuitive clarity to know if it's the right thing for right now, or if you're saying it the right way.
Connection trumps isolation.
It is the boat keeping me afloat. The rest is blind faith and trust that whatever I send out--even in this condition--that it will matter. That it might be found. (And it does! And it is.)