Sorting My Thoughts Out Loud

I’m watching snow fall gently outside my window and I’m trying to find words to wrap around where my head has been lately. I want to describe why I’ve managed to write in my paper journal, send two newsletters, write a Kickstarter update, even draft some fiction, but not been able to put words into a blog post. I suppose it is because each of those other things is focused on a single train of thought, often with a road map of what I’ve written in previous iterations. Blogging is so much wider. It catches all the thoughts or pieces of them. It tries to make sense of all the fragmentary ideas which float through my head making noise until I manage to pin them into a coherent set of words. Except I think I’ve been having sensory overload from the noise of the thoughts in my own head, so I keep trying to drown out the noise by re-watching familiar shows. I also think that I’m afraid to expose some of the half-formed thoughts/opinions to potential public criticism. And the world feels hyper-critical right now. Or maybe my own thoughts are hypercritical with all the sharp bits pointed inward.

The criticism is omnipresent on social media. Everyone notices other people’s pandemic safety choices and has opinions about whether those choices are helping or hurting the pandemic problem. I don’t think it is just me who has a cloud of contradictory thoughts in my head any time I see a friend’s picture. Are those two people part of a safety bubble? Are they indoors or outdoors? Did they just take off masks for the picture, or were they not wearing them? Is this a special outing that they carefully prepared for, or are they in the habit of jaunting off to social events without much forethought? I really miss just being happy for other people without having a jostling crowd of judgemental thoughts about what I can see (or not see) in the photo. If I have crowds of conflicted thoughts about others, I assume that they have the same crowds of thoughts about my posts. So I feel like I have to qualify posts with footnotes on the exact safety measures we took and all the conditions that led us to decide a social interaction was safe enough. Yet that impulse to qualify and explain is less about the world at large, and more about me arguing with the critical voices that are in my own head. I second guess everything I do. (And third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc guess.) I give my daughter a hug. She doesn’t live in my house, but she is part of my bubble. She and her husband are the only part of my bubble that lives outside of my home. My anxiety screams at me about unnecessary risk while simultaneously screaming about mental health and the importance of connection. If I don’t hug I will be awake at 2am worried about the damage I am doing to relationships; damage that could outlast the pandemic. If I do hug I will be awake at 2am wondering if that hug set us on a cascade of consequences which involve permanent guilt and recrimination. No wonder I want to hide from thinking. I can’t think my way through to a useful answer. I just have to wait for outcomes. I just want to hug my child without needing to run a cost/benefit analysis.

Along with all the noise about pandemic choices, my head is also full of thoughts about the growth I’m seeing in my live-in young adults. They are overcoming their mental health challenges inch by inch, day by day, small habit by small habit. It is like watching a slow-growing plant carefully unfurl a leaf. The new leaf is brighter, smaller, and more delicate than the other leaves. It is able to grow because of the sheltered bubble we’ve created. We’re all critters in a terrarium, completely comfortable, physical needs met, but still a little trapped and maybe stifled. Because we’re all in the terrarium together I don’t get to walk away while they grow unobserved. Instead I have to sit right next to them, see the growth out of the corner of my eye, and pretend not to notice. Because learning to adult works better when Mom isn’t constantly hovering nearby to say “good job.” I would love to detail the little stories, the tiny triumphs, describe why something that seems so small counts as a triumph. Yet if having Mom hover and say “good job” is a problem, having her describe your accomplishment in detail to the entire internet would be far worse.

In the Spring every day felt three days long. This December the days keep getting away from me and I suddenly discover myself at 4pm, which feels too late in the day to launch into a new project, but still hours to spend before I can reasonably sleep. Each day has a unique task list. Each day I tick off most of the things on my list. Yet each day has a sameness with the days before and after so that I begin to lose track of the day of the week. Shipping every day does not help with this. The fact that we moved to grocery delivery instead of me doing a shopping day has not helped either. I’d been using groceries and shipping as day-of-the-week markers. Now the days all feel the same, while being different, and Christmas is inexorably getting closer, while still feeling like it will never get here. And I have no idea how I’m going to feel about New Years. 2020 is bounded not by a calendar, but by pandemic. It feels like 2020 began last March and won’t end until March of next year. Will I get that inhale, and ready-for-a-new-year energy which usually accompanies early January? Does that energy depend on sending kids back to school and the resumption of normal schedule, both of which are things which will not happen in 2021? What, exactly, do I have to look forward to during the cold dark winter after the holidays are accomplished? (Yes I’m aware these are depressive thoughts. Yes I’m going to keep doing my throwing breadcrumbs forward thing. Yes I’ve acquired a light therapy lamp to see if that helps. Yes I do have many things to look forward to, they just keep getting lost in the mess of noisy thoughts.)

I don’t have any conclusion to put here at the end of the blog post. My thoughts are far too unruly to herd into a conclusion today. Instead I’ll just stand here for a moment and watch them careen all over the landscape. Then perhaps I’ll step away and watch a show where I don’t have to pay attention for a while. It is remotely possible that the act of writing paragraphs to describe the shape of them has helped to tame them for a bit.