I always thought when you went over the tipping point that there would be a fall. Instead, I’ve learned when you go over the tipping point the point impales itself in your heart and holds you aloft writhing like an insect being prepared for a museum display.
Internally, I can’t understand why I’ve found myself stuck. All I’ve done is experienced two years of the pandemic in the most privileged way possible. I worked from home in my basement office while my husband worked from home in our bedroom, and my daughter attended school at home; then at home and at school; and now at school. We have money to pay for broadband, computers, masks, and COVID tests. I should feel lucky.
My mom is alive. I didn’t survive cancer. I don’t currently have cancer. My house didn’t burn to the ground. The opposite scenarios are all ones my friends have experienced since 2020. I didn’t get COVID. My daughter didn’t infect her grandparents when she got COVID. Thank goodness.
My co-workers think I’m a great boss and do great work. I’m working on a project to fundamentally reduce the climate change impacts of transportation system in this country. This week, my work was lauded by the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Transportation. I am at a career high point.
I know mental health. I’ve lived with a partner with depression for 22 years. I experienced anxiety during this pandemic in a vicious cycle of chest tightening, worrying I have COVID causing additional chest tightening and more worry that I have COVID. I was seeing the therapist at my doctor’s office until she quit. She never suggested medication. I took the quizzes every appointment. I’m not jittery. I can focus. I can sleep. I am fine.
Sometimes feeling bad is appropriate. Sometimes the combined strain of the banal — lost friendships, loneliness, dead pets — and a literal apocalyptic existence leave you feeling kinda crappy. I just checked my favorite John’s Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard and 5,802,066 people have died worldwide. I was tempted to round to 5.8 million, but 2,066 feels like significant digits. That’s 2,066 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, lovers, human beings. I can’t imagine 2,066 deaths much less the other 5,800,000. An antidepressant doesn’t make that go away. Every day brings new catastrophes. A quick scan of today’s headlines: war, border blockades, delayed vaccines for kids, and voter suppression. Awesome.
I’m supposed to work and achieve. I’m supposed to be a visionary. I’m supposed to lead, mentor, and manage others. I’m supposed to raise a healthy well-balanced child. I’m supposed to care for my family, my friends, and do not forget the all-important self-care. But what if self-care requires alone time to cry or scream? What if I’ve sucked up all I can suck and need to experience legitimate emotions during my endless daily cycle of bedroom, basement office, kid’s sporting events, kitchen, and back to my office for a few more hours before returning to my bedroom to sleep? When do I to take an hour, a day, a week, a month and fall apart because the world is a horrible scary place? And if I breakdown, then what? Do I pick myself up and start climbing to the tipping point again? This isn’t a brain chemistry problem. This is reality.
And here’s the thing. I’m not alone. If I look around there is a mountain range of impaled others. If I listen closely, I can hear a chorus of “I’m fine.” “I’m good.” “Doing okay.”
How am I doing? I am scared. I am exhausted. I am angry. I am stuck. And I don’t know how or when it gets better.
How are you?
4 thoughts on “Tipping Point”
Wow. Yes. This. So much on top of so much. It’s true you didn’t lose your house in an unimaginable fire, but you love someone who did, so her loss and the new understanding of the scale of possible disasters, mix in with all the other losses, disappointments, fears—both specific and local, and general and global. For me the loss of the fire represents another gearing down, trying to let go of expectations and plans for how things are supposed to turn out. My visual image is that instead of climbing to another tipping point, it’s dropping down further into a valley where I’m left with only the basics of being human. Connection, life around me, kindness and generosity, gratitude when some little remnant of my past shows up to replace something lost. Sometimes the valley is indescribably sad and exhausted—I just want to go home. But sometimes it’s simple and profound and reaffirming of what’s important. And no, I didn’t say that the loss was “just stuff.” That stuff was my history, my ancestors, my children’s childhoods, my dreams, my safety. But in some ways it reminds me that I’m just another living creature on earth, not exempt from disasters, natural laws, misery. Just human, a human who can hear the exhausted, sad voice of another human and share her feelings. Thank you for giving voice to what so many of us feel.
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Oh Ann! Especially now, our houses are not just stuff-repositories. They’ve been the place we’ve been safe while a pandemic changes all the rules around us. You must feel so adrift without your safe haven filled with family and memories. My heart still breaks for you. In the press to “get back to normal” I think about you, and people who’ve lost family and friends the past two years, and wonder how anyone thinks there won’t be seismic shifts to attend to before we can move on. Hugs to you. I can’t wait to see you!
J, I hear you. I see you. Does the Tipping point shift? Does going over once make it easier the next time? I’m right there with you. XOXO
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I dunno. I feel like I’m stuck. Maybe erosion wears down the point so eventually you can escape?
I saw your post. You’ve got SO MUCH going on. I don’t have any idea how you do it. Virtual hugs and waves from my impaled tipping point to yours. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”
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