Do you remember that poem, “Fog” by Carl Sandburg? “The fog comes on little cat feet …” For some reason, that poem has stuck with me throughout my life. I think I only read or studied it once, years ago in elementary or middle school. Maybe high school. But even high school was 30 years ago, now. Anyhow, I love that poem. It paints the most wonderful mental picture. Even that one line running through my mind can cause me to see the fog swirling and twirling in lazy patterns, like a giant cat. It’s simple. But also beautiful.
I was thinking about that line from Mr. Sandburg’s poem today. Because I think life can be like this, too. It sneaks up on you with quiet little feet. And, sometimes, you don’t even realize anything has changed until you turn around and see that EVERYTHING has changed. It’s … disorienting, to say the least.
I feel bushwhacked by life. I thought I had everything all figured out, and that things were running along smoothly. I thought I knew what I was doing and where I was going, both mentally and physically. I think, maybe, I was happy. I had more days when I felt content than days when I felt uneasy and dissatisfied. “I’ve got this all figured out,” I thought to myself. I might not have loved everything about my life, but I could do it. That was the point. I felt like I could hum along quite happily with my life the way it was. Because I understood it, and it understood me.
But then, you know … Shit happened. It didn’t all happen at once. That’s not the way of the universe, I guess. One thing happened, and I mentally adjusted. Then another thing happened, and I adjusted again. But then, there was another thing and another and another. And, suddenly, I realized I couldn’t adjust any longer. I would like to say I refused to adjust, that I refused to give in to the “ick” that had slithered into my formerly happy and (mostly) well-adjusted life. Saying I refused to give in makes it all sound so brave and noble. But the truth is I can’t adjust any longer because I can’t figure out how to do it. There’s nothing brave or noble about it. I am a person who is backed into the tightest corner I can find, and I can’t figure out which way to turn or what to do.
It shows up in little ways. I’ve become forgetful. I forget to pay bills. I forget to pass along phone messages. I forget stuff at the store, or things I was supposed to take with me to the store. I still manage to feed the dogs, but that’s no great accomplishment. They are smart dogs, and they always let me know when it’s meal time. I drop my phone all the time. Like, ALL THE TIME. Pretty much any time I get into or out of the car, I end up dropping my phone. I know this doesn’t sound like such a big deal. People drop their phones all the time. That’s true. But I wasn’t one of those people. Before my husband’s heart attack and surgery, I could count on one hand the number of times I had dropped my phone. Since the surgery … Well, there’s really too many incidents to keep track of. I even managed to break the lens on my phone camera, and my husband has started to joke that he is going to buy the Otter Box case for me because I’ve become such a fumble-fingers. I avoid stuff. Like, I couldn’t make myself look at my daughter’s end of the year grades or progress reports online. Not because I thought she had done badly (she didn’t, by the way), but because I just couldn’t face one more thing. It has become almost an instinctive avoidance. I find I can’t really focus on things, and I don’t want to make plans. It’s not that I’m unable to keep plans. It’s more that I just can’t find the energy to think about what I want to do or when or why. I can’t find the energy to think of much of anything, really. I cry a lot. But only when no one can see me. I try really hard not to cry, because I feel like I might not stop once I start. It sneaks up on me sometimes, though. I’ve gotten really bad about crying during church. My thoughts are scattered. I can’t write. It’s as if every creative impulse in me has shriveled up and blown away into dust. I have ideas, which is an improvement over a few months ago, but I can’t seem to do anything with them. I had lost quite a bit of weight, but I’ve gained a lot of it back. My hair is falling out.
I’m just … floundering. Floundering my way through life. It isn’t pretty.
But then, isn’t that the way of things? Aren’t we all basically floundering around, pecking away at the edges of life, and hoping we can “get it right” more times than not? I think, on some level or another, I have been floundering away for my whole life. Going from one thing to the next to the next without any plan or purpose. I just didn’t realize it at the time. Floundering away is all right when you don’t realize that’s what you’re doing. But, when life gives you more than a healthy dose of self-awareness, it hurts.
It’s all such a delicate balance, isn’t it? We bumble along, day after day, blissfully unaware of how delicate things are. Just one thing out of whack can send the whole mess tumbling down around our ears. And you know what? There’s not a darn thing we can do about it, other than keep plodding forward in the hopes that we can get to the other side of whatever the universe has unexpectedly tossed in our path. Maybe this is the real business of living: this quest to get through the yuck and find better times once again. Sometimes, it feels like there aren’t any better times out there, but the optimist in me wants to believe. And so, I try to humor her.
I am tiny. I am one tiny person in the midst of a huge world. Maybe I had forgotten this, but, now … Now, I remember.