Early this morning, I was flat on the floor of our bedroom, phone in flashlight mode propped beside me, trying to retrieve a shoe that had someone landed under our bed, unreachable, as it had somehow moved to the exact center. I stood up, frustrated, looking for a tool to help me, and spied the poker from our never-lit bedroom fireplace – a heavy metal stick with a small hook at the end. I laid back down, making a racket with the clunky, heavy poker, managing to reach the edge of the shoe, but unable to move it toward me nor push it away, off to the other side. So I did what any reasonable person would do…
I laid down my head and started sobbing.
What I needed was just out of reach, mockingly beyond my grasp.
I had an awkward tool that did me no good.
And I was tired, so so tired, unable to problem-solve.
What is it about that damn shoe?
That shoe has been under my bed for months (it’s a summer sandal and it’s March in Cleveland). I remember discovering it there, and saying to myself “You’re going to forget about that sandal and it will come back to haunt you. Fish it out now.” But I didn’t drop everything or add it to my ever-present list of things to do. I likely responded to a kid calling “Mooooom!” or needed to finish an email or a timer went off to remind me not to burn our dinner. And the shoe was forgotten.
This morning, needing that sandal minutes before leaving for a flight to Arizona to visit my parents, I was thrilled I remembered where it was. But the frustration of (not) retrieving it triggered such an emotional response… those big tears and shoulder sobs that pour out when you’re hurting.
And of course, it’s not about the shoe.
I’m carrying emotions that I’m not acknowledging. I’m 52, happy enough in my work, blessed in my incredible husband and teenage children, and secure in so much in our lives. But I’m feeling middle-age angst and emotional discomfort, a lingering frustration with myself: Am I doing the right work to care for this world and my community? The politics of hate, the racism and violence, the many people hurting but without choices for healing. My awareness has grown a thousand-fold in the past two years, but these problems are generations old. And I’m racing around, newly aware, posting on Facebook, writing checks and sometimes rolling up my sleeves, but mostly, ignoring that lingering feeling that I should be doing much, much more.
Flash forward: my husband gets the shoe for me. I blow my nose. And start writing.
I need to put on these sandals, get out a pen (or… my laptop), and get to work.
I intend to use this month of writing to clarify my purpose and address those nagging emotions that exploded as tears.
As I hit this next decade, I want to strive to be a productive citizen focused on creating light and love*.
I need to rediscover my tools and I know, build new capacity.
Pen in hand.
Ready to go.
*Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963