Drifting Towards Center

canstockphoto13501949I’m wound pretty tightly. Lately, I’m having weeks where my schedule is so full, there is barely time to think. It means that I’m going to Sproing! at any moment. It finally happened yesterday – the unraveling, the unwinding, gears off track, springs shooting wildly off in every direction. I imagine myself to be like a cartoon, ending haplessly in a disassembled pile of parts.

I began to drift mentally. I flopped down in the middle of a productive day to be decidedly useless. I perused the books on my shelves, listened to Keb’ Mo’ on repeat and said “no” to everything else. We got hit with a huge snowstorm last week, so primal urges to be out and in the dirt gardening were squashed. There’s nothing to be done but wait it out.

Drifting can be an uncomfortable state for me. I have calendars and lists and reminders popping up on my phone and on my computer. I have sticky notes and files and some days I’m organized down to the millisecond. It makes me efficient, prepared, a “together” kind of person, able to juggle work and volunteering and parenting and domesticity in a single bound. Until I hit that wall.

I begin to absentmindedly dismiss all the electronic reminders and start to lose things. I laugh erratically when I realize I’ve walked out the door with an unmatched pair of running shoes on (true story). A sticky note is stuck to my elbow (also true). I can’t remember where I was supposed to go first and start muttering out loud. A little panic sets in. The sense that I’ve forgotten something overwhelms me and I’m paralyzed by anxiety.

There is a feeling that it will all come crashing down on me. That I will soon be revealed for the disheveled heap of forgetfulness and irresponsibility that resides at my core. I sit down. I’m exhausted. As my heartbeat slows, the noose loosens, I pick up a book or ten. I don’t really read, just flipping through words, words, words. My mind opens and thoughts of where I have to be and what I need to do dissipate, clearing the way for random, disorganized and unfocused thoughts.

The meaning of time begins to change. It stops being measured by the clock and starts drifting. I start to think about all the writers throughout the centuries, all of us grasping for meaning or notoriety or to get it all out. It’s really an amazing pursuit. I’ve missed writing the last couple of weeks. I caught up on correspondence, doing that time-consuming old-fashioned task of writing longhand letters, some illegible as hastily scrawled notations on a prescription pad. Writing longhand sets me back in time, when I filled pages trying to find meaning.

Sometimes, when I look at my books, mournful thoughts emerge. I will never live long enough to learn all that I want to learn. My books, some unread, sit hopefully on a side table. They remind me that I have a lifetime of intention that must be fit, if I’m fortunate, into a limit of decades. Sad thoughts follow quickly, as I thought about the many lives lost this week. There was Boston, then Texas, Iraq and an earthquake in China. Lost potential, lost years to grief. My thoughts are petty in comparison.

I took my time vacuuming and folding laundry – physical, but neither demanding nor mentally taxing. I took care of my possessions, dusting mementos and books and picture frames. Possessions are both important and not. It is the care that we take with them that imbue them with value, not ownership. It is the reminder of friends or times long past, but held dear. I hung a new piece of artwork, sent by one of my blogging buddies, a reminder of whimsy and new friendship and the value of something handmade or drawn.

I helped my daughter do some crafting projects, ate dinner with family, talked to the cats who have been repeatedly ignored and tripped over this last week. I touched base with all those people and things that put my “to do” lists into perspective. They are the reason that I do.

canstockphoto3520841Today, I plan more of the same. Unfocused thinking, book browsing, another walk on a snowy, gray day, writing here and there. And when tonight comes, my breathing finally full and natural again, my love of books and writing reignited, and gratitude for being alive refreshed, then I will sit down and write my list for Monday.

38 thoughts on “Drifting Towards Center

  1. Once in a while we feel the boredom of the day to day recurrence of activities that we seek for something our physical being needs. Maybe a walk in the park or a stroll at the mall simply enjoying the delight of being detached from what we usually do. Everyone else deserves a break in the middle of tiring and hectic day–you’re no exception.


  2. I am so glad I’m not that overwhelmed any more. But I do remember the days of soccer practice, music lessons, Boy Scouts, volunteer stuff, coordinating my husband’s and my schedules and making sure we had babysitters when needed. I am counting down the months (9) to retirement when I can sleep until 6, or later, every day and not just on weekends. The two weeks I had off caring for my partner after his foot surgery made me realize how tired I am.


    1. I have to remind myself often that I’m busy now because I’m doing the things that I want to do. The challenge for me will be to still feel useful and relevant when all these busy school/parent days are gone. Fortunately, I’m doing enough things independent of family, that the empty nest/retirement years hold a lot of promise. I’m sure you have a long list as well. Reading for hours on end and napping whenever I feel like are items high on the list!


  3. That all sounds pretty exhausting…I tend to go into shut down when I’m busy, unfortunately! I like to think of it as my ‘hedgehog mode’ as I more or less curl up in a ball and hide until I feel less overwhelmed. Or until my other half hits me with a pillow or pokes me with a wooden spoon, more or less cajoling me into action. I feel your practicality is perhaps a more appropriate response!
    If it ever, really becomes too much though, I find sitting for 10 minutes with a cup of tea – just 10 minutes, can help clear the fog in the head. But then being English tea is simply my go to guy haha.


    1. I’ve done the shut down thing as well. I’m trying to tweak it just a bit, so that it doesn’t mean I have more things to do and more stress to deal with when I come out of it. Practice, practice.

      As for tea, my mother and grandmother believed tea was the elixir of life, giving it to me even when I was ill, which made things worse! But, I too, believe sitting down and having a hot drink is one big wonderful sigh.


  4. I think our extended winter has contributed to these unproductive binges — I am pushing through one myself this week, despite an overflowing work and home to-do list swirling around me. We are so in need of a few days of flinging open our windows to fresh air and warm breezes, with the sight of green outside.


    1. I’ve got my window open now, chilled as I work on an art lesson plan. I’m pretty sure I’m losing my mind, as so many of us are, just waiting for the sun that stays, the snow that goes and the seeds to be planted. Much window flinging is needed!


      1. You have kin here in the overly tightened screwball category. I am restraining myself from tasks with Bach and stout. Peace out sister!


  5. Glad you got the chance to shut down. I find that I just run like mad until some inner clock just sends the alarm and forces me to stop. As for retirement, my only fear is being able to someday.


    1. No doubt – apparently the new retirement age will be 80. On a happier note, our healthcare exchange will cover whether or not we’d like hospice care or just to be taken out back and put down. That’s the HRA Ole’ Yeller Plan.


      1. Wow – we are having frost warnings, but I’m pretty confident the snow is done for the season. It’s nice to be snowed in now and then, but not in late April.


  6. I know exactly what you’re experiencing. Personally, I like being in mental slumps, because it gives me a chance to re-evaluate my motivations. The problem is I sometimes get so wrapped up in “thinking” about change that I wind never “doing” anything towards change. But truth be told, if we didn’t have those moments of unraveling we’d never be able to move forward. I like the way you discuss flipping through books, without really reading them–it’s as if there is a yearning for something, a searching for an answer that may or may not be uncovered in one of those books. Sounds like my life!


    1. That’s a good point – slumps are always a great time re-evaluate. For me, it’s usually priorities that need to be looked at again. My flipping through books gave me an idea for a non-navel gazing post, so it was time well spent!


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