Or Why Things Are Good, But I Still Feel Stressed
Some years ask questions and some years yield answers.
2020 and 2021 were questioning years. Not just because of the pandemic, though that certainly colored my experiences. But because it was a 24-month mental illness crisis in my house. It was two years of online therapy, panic attacks, can’t‑get-out-of-bed depression, and med trials that made everything worse.
And then, miraculously, when I had just about lost all hope, we got a diagnosis that actually made sense. We found a therapist that could help treat this very specific illness, and we found a medication that actually worked the way we hoped it would work. It took over two years of really hard questions, but 2022 is finally giving up some answers.
And as my family settles into a season of relative calm, I find myself feeling… twitchy. Having finally gotten the break I so-long prayed for, I notice how I’m struggling to be present with gratitude and trust. Instead, I find myself on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop, Chicken Little staring worriedly skyward. All I wanted was my world to feel solid and steady. So why am I convinced everything will fall apart at any second?
I am terrified that nothing will ever be this good again. I’ve gotten so used to trouble, my nervous system cannot trust a life with fewer trials and tribulations. I always said we needed to lean into the calm times, knowing that this particular illness is a life-long struggle. So why am I assuming it’s all downhill from here? Maybe I’ve existed in a hyper-vigilant state so long that my body has simply forgotten what feeling good means. I no longer remember how to turn off my body’s alarm system.
I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. Good things happen to crummy jerks and awful things happen to good humans. Life takes a random, chaotic, circuitous route. It’s our moral imperative to make sense of those happenings.
It reminds me of a story I heard about Thomas Edison. By his late sixties, he was our nation’s most successful and celebrated inventor. In 1914, a fire broke out in his research lab. The stored chemicals quickly accelerated the fire, turning what could have been a small flame into a brilliant green and pink inferno that engulfed the entire building, shooting over one hundred feet in the sky and overtaking five city blocks. As they watched the enormous blaze, Edison calmly put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again. It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”
The next day, Edison stood amongst the ashes. Decades of priceless research had gone up in smoke, yet Edison seemed unperturbed. He told reporters that he would rebuild. “I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” He actually took two days off to make sense of the tragedy and then started rebuilding, despite the fact he had lost what would be 23 million dollars today.
Edison is a phoenix.
Maybe I’m just in a season of making sense, existing in the transitory state between fire and reconstruction. I’m standing shell-shocked in the ashes of who I used to be, not quite ready to venture into rebuilding a new normal. No longer in the fire, but not yet a stronger nor smarter phoenix. I’m going to need more than a two-day vacation to retrain my nervous system into trusting the answers, but I’m working on it. Praying that soon I will fly.