by: Jenuine Poetess
I wasn’t going to write this blog, post this blog, admit this truth. Not now. Maybe not ever. And if I did, I imagined writing about this in ten years. When I could look back on this moment with all of the wisdom and togetherness of the future me I imagine. When I could say, “I have struggled with this.” Instead of, “I am struggling in this.”
I tell myself there is less shame in being on the other side of something, than being in the midst of it. Because on the other side I will have survived it. Will have overcome it. Will have gotten my shit together to pull myself up and out of this pit.
I’d never tell a client, a friend, a kindred that. Because I don’t believe that. Not for anyone. I save my harshest notions for myself. It is a peculiar gift.
This morning I have cried myself into vomiting. I have done some laundry. Washed some dishes. And made sixteen compelling arguments to myself for why I should never write or say to another living soul, not even my therapist, any of the things I am about to write.
I thought I could get away with never talking about this and certainly not writing about it right now. But last week there was a gas leak found in the 100 year old house in which my apartment exists. This initiated a chain reaction of needing to let repair people into my home space, which triggered an anxiety about that very thing, because of all of the shame I have been holding about the physical state of my home, which resulted in vomiting and crying and a small asthma attack, which turned into a temporarily emotionally paralyzing dread/despondence. Now there are repair people replacing all the gas pipes in the whole house which means I need to let them into my space. I don’t care that much about the judgments or opinions of repair people I likely will never see again. But eventually, when I have to go to work and they need to get into my apartment, my landlord will see my ugly truth. My landlord is a friend, whom I respect and admire. I’m horrified to have to let anyone I know into my mess. My literal, shameful, ugly, mess.
I’m not being modest. I’m not talking about a basically ordered home with one stray sock on the floor and two books out of place. I’m not talking about haven’t dusted in a month. I’m not talking about an unmade bed.
I just renewed a 12 month lease and I have a whole room of boxes I never unpacked. I have piles of the clothes I wash but can’t find the motivation to put away. I have dishes that have piled, used and unwashed, for probably months.
I look at my surroundings. I look at myself in the mirror. I wonder, “how did I let it get this bad?”
I don’t exactly know.
I just know that somewhere along the way of excruciating loss; of grieving; of a profound plunge into unspeakable darkness; of deciding to continue breathing again and again every day I wake up; of not wanting to continue breathing every day I wake up; of the grueling work of therapy and healing; of showing up in community; of fighting for every pulse, every act of resilience, every choice to hope instead of despair; somewhere, in all of that, keeping house got lost in the midst of surviving.
I’m having trouble being kind with myself.
Chores. Dishes. Cleaning my space. It is so basic. I learned it from the beginning. I was raised to keep an immaculate space. I always loved making a peaceful, orderly, inviting home where I could welcome friends and neighbors to eat, to rest, to gather. I used to be a professional organizer. I got paid to create and maintain order. I helped others through their messes into a place of self-love and organization.
I’m struggling to offer myself the same compassion.
I’m a grown woman, around the corner from 40. I hold a master’s degree. I’m a therapist. I should have all of the tools and knowledge and experience to deal with this. I should be able to implement positive coping skills. I should know how to handle this grief healthily.
I forget: my education and clinical practice were never an inoculation against struggle; they are not some impermeable armor that protect me from ever having to practice the thrashing bones of this kind of knowing.
In the last year and a half, while accumulating chaos in my home I have also maintained regular sessions with my therapist; I have continued to direct and grow community arts programming I developed three and a half years ago; I have shown up for friends in laughter and in sorrow; I have studied for and passed two intense professional licensing exams; I have began working in private practice with a kindred friend and colleague whom I cherish, respect, and admire immensely; I traveled internationally by myself to a global conference of artists and poets; I have published my first collection of poems; I have laughed with joy; I have found myself dancing; I am learning how to trust again; I am creating art; I am being alive.
This is not a list to brag. I document these things to remind myself I am not a failure. To remind myself that even in the midst of debilitating grief, I am yet thriving.
I am trying to talk myself into compassion and out of shame.
The mess in my home can be amended. There are clean dishes drying in the rack. There is laundry that can be washed and hung up. There is trash that can be taken out.
I’m trying to talk myself back into loving kindness.
I neglected the parts of my life and my environment that would suffer the least in order to show up for the things too valuable to lose. I just realized that. And I’m deciding that that is OK.
I don’t want to stay here. In the chaos and the dis-order. It is not me. Not authentic me. I miss the parts of myself I have not been able to be for all this time. I miss dancing. I miss cooking for friends and breaking bread together. I miss cultivating a peaceful, healing, space for myself.
I feel so very far from ever being whole again. But today I washed dishes. And that feels like resilience.