The only thing that is still the same in my life right now as it was 18 months ago, is that I am currently breathing and have a heartbeat.
Even minor things I completely took for granted are different. I still walk, but my body is different. I still do music, but every aspect of it has shifted drastically.
I would love to say that this is one of those uplifting articles where the hard times are over and I’m rebuilding and coming back stronger than ever. But it’s not – I’m not there yet. I’m still smack dab in the middle of it. As the DJ’s say, “the hits just keep on coming…”
The details don’t matter. I’ve not spoken up about them because I was trying to “stay professional”. The art I create is known for being sweeping and powerful and shining light into the dark places. And typically I see myself as a relatively strong person, so I didn’t want to admit I was struggling. Especially out loud. But that’s been going on long enough now.
I want to talk about what it means to be Shattered. And I want to talk about how I’m doing my best to function despite this fact. And how sometimes I make it through the day pretty good, and sometimes everything just goes to shit.
Being Shattered means you don’t have anymore to give. You are out of fight. You are out of steam. One more blow comes at you and instead of even raising your arms to defend yourself, you just let it hit you. One more piece of information comes in and you can’t muster the energy to raise your voice in response. You are in pieces. Tiny little pieces you could never put back together. Like a lightbulb that’s been stepped on.
But regular life doesn’t stop. It never does. The earth will keep rotating which means that annoying bright ball in the sky will keep shining through your window every 12 hours. Your bills don’t care. Your pets need food. Your projects are still due even if you got an extension. And no matter what’s going on in your life, if you want clean underpants you have to do laundry. It’s one of the laws of nature.
When you’re Shattered you… can’t. Things you could always do suddenly you can’t. Which has a vicious-circle feeling to it, because these were the things in your life that were a given, and suddenly they don’t work. It’s like you’re kicking yourself when you’re already down. For example, having the ability to get out of bed seems like a no-brainer, and yet you can’t do it. Or having the wherewithal to answer the phone. Or being able to carry out a simple task such as play a song you wrote. The little things you could count on are no longer the things you can count on, which leaves an additional feeling of being ungrounded. Disconnected. Lost. There’s nothing to hang on to. You don’t know where the surface is.
It’s hard to explain to people. When you’re typically the person who can handle 17 projects at once while simultaneously juggling 5 chickens and putting out 2 fires and suddenly you can’t even return an email… what do you even say? “I’m sorry. I can’t” doesn’t really resonate. What you get is a lot of blank stares. Which in your weakened state you tend to turn back on yourself. “Why can’t I do this? I should be able to do this. Just hit ‘reply’. Just click on it. Just do it. Why aren’t you doing it? I should be able to do this. Why can’t I do this?”
I can’t because I can’t. When you’re Shattered everything is a struggle. Every. Thing. Walking to the mailbox is exhausting. Doing a menial task like wiping off the sink makes your arms feel like they weigh 900 pounds. But with Shattered, you get the extra bonus of not having enough fight left in you to push through it. So you pick up the sponge, wipe off half the sink, leave the sponge where it is and have to go sit down.
Before Shattered happened, a normal day for me had a 30 or more item to-do list. He and I are running our own company. It’s a full time job and a lot of damn work. And that’s just ONE of my jobs. I also manage a building, teach private music lessons, and drive for a ride share company. So when Shattered happened, my first response was “I really don’t have time for this.”
Now? It’s all about priorities. I really do have to get this contract edited because a bunch of people are waiting on it. I don’t really have to update the website right at this minute, and the social media stuff can wait a bit longer, and I guess I don’t have to take a shower because I’m not leaving the house tonight… so the small bit of energy I have goes into the contract – finishing it takes everything out of me – and yes, that is the only thing I’ll get done that day.
One thing. From thirty down to one.
And that’s on a good day. Sad, isn’t it? Getting one thing accomplished is now a “good” day. But that’s the truth.
Bad days? Oh man. To be honest, bad days scare me. Almost every day scares me to some point because I don’t recognize myself anymore, so I feel almost like I’m walking around in someone else’s life, and basing everything off of the cues I’m getting from other people. (Oh, you hugged me. We must be close.) (Oh, you’re saying you’ve been following me online and are so glad to meet me and to see me perform in person. I must be good at this.)
But bad days. (see also: “when it goes to shit”) On bad days from the second I wake up everything hurts. My brain, my soul, my heart. I’ve been only half-asleep all night. Always exhausted but can never quite fall asleep. Or, if I do fall asleep it’s not sleeping so much as a coma. On bad days I never quite make it out of the haze. Everything is numb-ish. On bad days I can’t do anything. Or maybe I’ll start to do something on autopilot, like take out the trash or start responding to emails, and then suddenly my batteries will crash and I have to lay down. Bad days are the days that put me behind for the rest of the week. And if I have two or more Bad Days in a week, then it’s a Bad Week, and pretty much nothing will get done.
You’re reading this waiting for the bright side. I can feel it. I’m not promising anything, but I’ll do my best.
I’ve lived through this before. Not this exact scenario, of course. Actually, the times I’ve gone through it before were not as bad as this one. This one wins hands down. But from my past experiences, here is what I know:
1. Just like everything else in life, this is temporary. It will end at some point. It could be tomorrow, it could be five years from now. I won’t know until I’m there.
2. Nothing I do can move the process along any faster. All I can do is try to ride it out and be as gentle with myself as possible. Instead of constantly beating myself up because I only got one thing done, I celebrate that I got one thing done. If I focus on the good things, and let the bad things slide by “unnoticed” (because of course I still notice them) then I end up feeling proud of myself for the micro-victories and less like a giant, pulsating failure.
3. Every other time I’ve gone through “A Shattering”, the woman who rises from the pile of broken glass, while cut up and bleeding, is wiser, has a new connection to the universe, understands herself better, and understands her path better. I am already QUITE aware that the life I’m living is a calling. This is not the life I have chosen for myself (nor would it have been). Which is why it is so so necessary that I consistently have two things in my life; hope and faith. Both of which Shattered likes to “borrow” and hide in clever locations in the house.
And here is where, in the midst of all of this mess, (thanks to years and years of therapy), I pull out the least likely card in the deck: Gratitude.
On days I don’t have hope, the people in my life who love me have hope for me. On days I can’t believe, they believe for me. They tell me over and over, “you’ll get through this” “you’re stronger than you think” “it’s okay to be broken today” “you don’t have to do this yourself, we’re right here”. They call and check in on me. They come over just to sit. They remind me over and over that I can. I can. I can. And I couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t do it without all of you. Not even for one day. Gratitude. Gratitude and thanks and love love love. To all of you. Forever.
And faith. If I’m going to talk about faith then I have to talk about Him, because I have learned more about faith walking next to this man than I ever did in 10 years of parochial school and 20 plus years in the Church (no offense to all the pastors and other Church officials in my family). He is The Rhythm. He is my Guardian-Angel-Warrior-Anchor. The self-proclaimed General of My Army. When I can’t have faith, he has enough faith for both of us. And that is something I don’t even know how to say thank you for.
So that’s the truth. If I don’t seem myself at shows, or my social media stream goes dead for weeks on end, or I don’t reply to your email as fast as you’re used to, or I forget stuff, or am late, or any of the other things that are so very unlike me, this is why. I wanted to be honest and up front for my own sake. To take the pressure off myself to act like I’m fine when I’m not. This is my exercise in self-care, and wanting to keep my lines of communication open even when I’m messy. I need help getting through this. As embarrassing as it is to ask for it, it’s true.
I know there are lots of people out there who are going through “Shatterings” of their own – please know that I’m there with you. Please feel free to reach out. We will all be okay. On my good days I’ll try to send you some sunshine. And then, of course, I’ll have to lie down. 🙂
September 5, 2015