How do I put myself back into the world after being absent for an entire year? That's the question I find myself facing in these early days of 2017. In some ways, 2016 was easy. Well....no. Not easy, but at least straightforward: I was so sick that working a full time job was out of the question. I'm proud of the way I kept freelancing, met every deadline and started a photography business, but if I had a slow couple of weeks I could still feel satisfied that I'd accomplished my most important goal, which was to stay alive. By the time I was finally diagnosed with Lyme the December before last, the infection had reached my brain and it easily could have killed me. Fighting it off didn't leave me too much time to do anything else, but I outsmarted it. I lived.
And now I'm a year behind. In my career, my social life, starting a family, saving money, traveling (in so much as I want to travel) whatever- all of it. I was a sharp student my entire life and now that school is long over, I've been held back a grade.
Being behind is one thing. The lack of momentum that accompanies having been benched for a year, that's another. That's even worse. Inertia's a tough thing when it's working against you. I find myself drumming my fingers on the table without noticing- over Christmas I did it during Bananagrams and it drove my sister crazy. It's something your fingers do when you're restless, when you don't know what to do next.
If you think I'm complaining, look, I'm not complaining. Any day that I wake up and I can move my limbs and my eyesight doesn't go in and out is probably a day that you won't find me feeling sorry for myself. I'm just telling you what it's like for me, trying to merge back onto the highway after being broken down for so long. I spend a lot of time by myself, which I've always done, but even more so these days. I work, cook, clean, read, edit photos- all of it alone. It's just how I want to be right now.
Thankfully it's winter, a good and natural time for hibernation. Every three days I make a broth out of a chicken carcass and three marrow bones. I leave it to simmer for fourteen hours and then I make a soup out of it and we eat that for two days. Then it's time to roast another chicken. That gives a nice little rhythm to the week. That probably sounds bleaker than it should- we like the broth. It's good for us. It'd be good for you, too.
Every night, Dave and I lie in bed and listen to an hour of the King Killer series on audiobook, the dog snuggled between us. My husband is one of those lucky bastards who has to put in a concerted effort not to fall asleep after 7pm. He always drifts off before we're done listening the story and the next night I have to catch him up, which gets complicated.
I like spending time with my friend Anna. Together we're organizing the Asheville contingency headed to the women's march on Washington on January 21st. I'm pretty new to community organizing. Anna claims she's new, too, but she's a natural leader and she's very eloquent. On one hand I'm grateful that the march is coming up, because the news about Trump - whether it's the nukes or the tweets- makes me feel lightheaded with panic and deflated with fear, and at least we're doing something.
Action is the only antidote to fear. When I finally realized this I threw out all my Deepak Chopra books. Actually I only had one and I gave it to Goodwill. I'd never throw out a book. I'm not a spiritual person and I don't necessarily want to be. If someone tells me to Be Present again I'm going to lose it. I can't think my way out of the horror of this new administration, nor am I going to radical self care myself into enlightenment. I don't wait to ruminate and make myself feel fluffy and soothed, I want to do shit. More and more, I don't feel like I fit in with the zeitgeist of flowery talk about authentic selfness and white linens and Rumi quotes beneath instagram pictures of faded mountain scenes. But that's another story, for another day.
I'm excited for the march, and I'm happy to spend my mornings with Anna sitting at the cafe and organizing the rally busses. And on the other hand, I'm terrified someone's going to drive a truck into the crowd and kill me. Or, worse, something bad will happen to my parents, who will also be there. I think everyone who is going is a little scared. And we're all going anyway, I guess.
When I want to relax and feel happy, I think about taking photos. Nothing in recent memory has made me this excited as the photography business that I started, Wild and Bright Photography. The last time I did a family shoot, I left the keys in the door because I was in such a hurry to get to my computer and start editing the images. On New Years Eve I was the second shooter at a wedding of two young men from Atlanta. I was working with an exceptionally talented local photographer and I felt very much like a grasshopper. I worked as hard as I possibly could. I watched him and everything he did very carefully. I loved every second that went by. Photography makes me feel woozy with excitement, far more so than writing ever did, although maybe I'm just remembering that wrong.
As for writing, I think I want to take the pressure off for a while. I need a break from the click-bait and the listicles. And I don't need everything on this blog to be my finest work. I just want to talk to you guys a couple of times a week, and record this particular time in history because it's a strange time. It's a fearful period, certainly, at least for me and every single person that I know. But hope is a strange creature that shows up on the doorstep when you're least expecting it. There's work to be done and every now and then I experience a few moments of keen interest and commitment to doing that work, whatever it takes.
For me personally, that work involves a lot more healing. I still go to treatment about four times a month. I am still exceptionally careful about what I eat, how I sleep (if I sleep, let's be real), what medicines I take, how much energy I'm exerting. I'm symptomatic, although it may not be as obvious as it once was. I no longer shake, seize or convulse. I don't stutter or wince or say the wrong words. Most people think I'm all better, and while I'm much better, I'm not all the way there. I feel like the kid at the end of Stranger Things who puts a brave face on for his mom at christmas, but then you see him going into the bathroom and barfing up a slug, and you know he's not entirely free of the demogorgon.
The work is also work, itself. I need to start writing longer pieces in a shorter amount of time, and photographing more families throughout the southeast, and maybe find part time work somewhere where I could have a co-workers, and a holiday party to attend next year. It's a rough thing to have a holiday party when you work alone. Sometimes I daydream about being part of the crew at Trader Joes, part-time. Once I'm entirely sure I'm healthy enough to have co-workers that depend on me, I think I'll put in an application.
And as for the rest of the it- we do that work together. Read the paper and the articles that aren't created in the basement of some teenager in Maldova. Keep an eye out. Don't be fooled into thinking that it's normal to have a president elect who refuses daily security briefings. Take care of one another. Don't isolate yourself. Be present.
Nah, I'm just fooling with that last one.