I have spent the last four and a half months feeling like everything is slipping from my grasp – personally, professionally, and in between. The torpor of life under a pandemic and a world wracked with pain has led me to feel like I am stuck in slowly-drying glue. Planning too far ahead seems nearly pointless. And yet, every day, we are asked to undertake haruspicy, to speculate about how our organizations and ourselves should respond to the remaining uncertainty, ideally with precision. The world keeps turning and we are asked to keep up, while taking care of family members, grieving our losses, or dealing with other challenges amplified by the present circumstances.
At the same time, I feel myself slowing down, or at least to continue trying to slow down. I have not read anything more substantial than an article since February, despite getting a stack of books out of the library in preparation for more time at home. The cognitive load of mailing packages can sometimes be too much. My tendency is to be impatient with myself because there will always be more that I wish I had the energy to undertake. These days, I often feel like it is no longer my choice. My brain feels like it is being besieged, and it reacts by protecting itself the only way it knows how.
I am asking you this: What can you see when you can no longer visualize what’s outside of arm’s reach? What can you think about when you feel like your brain is enrobed in molasses? What is it like to worry that you are a disappointment to someone you care about or respect, but to be unable to remember why you might be a disappointment in the first place? What can you sense beyond the ceaseless din resonating throughout your body, from the hairs on the back of your neck to your bones?
Finding comfort has required me to accept smaller increments of success, frequent remapping of where I am trying to get to, and why. It requires studying and looking at the tools and structures I end up using to provide that comfort. Without really trying to I end up perfecting recipes for crackers and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that are nearly memorized from the routine of executing them. Tending to the garden, with its many varieties of tomatoes and basil, means apply a degree of systems thinking otherwise unfamiliar to me. Relearning and applying creative technology - digital audio workstations, multichannel audio routing, vector illustration - is a directed effort to help me express and actualize something. The outcomes are a gift in disguise, but for the most part, it feels like I am doing them for myself even if someone else gets to enjoy them.
These practices are a way of grounding myself. Despite how valuable they are, they still often feel like a luxury. When I end up feeling mentally saturated, some days they are luxuries, and get cut out themselves. When my energy comes back, I find them waiting patiently, eager to be picked up where I left them, quietly chanting that perfection is not the point.