Wrong Side of Sometimes

My blog preparation for this week has been full of indecision.  I have been working on two separate posts and struggling to complete either as my motivation and interest in each post seems to fluctuate based on my mood. As I struggled to focus on either post,  I contemplated the age-old question of the glass being half full or half empty. Despite the general overuse of this expression, I couldn’t help but acknowledge it fit.  These past few weeks I have wavered between feeling certain the glass was full enough and feeling equally certain the only possible solution was to smash the glass.  

To provide context, here is a story from my time as a recent college graduate in a big city.  In our shared apartment, my roommate and I had a very large collection of plastic mugs.  One day, in a somewhat accidental moment, we discovered that if you threw them really hard on the concrete patio, they would shatter with a satisfyingly loud cracking sound.  Although we didn’t make this too frequent of a habit, several times after a particularly challenging day, we would go out on the patio and smash one of these mugs.  The feeling of actually smashing something provided a momentary release for all the stresses we were navigating as young adults in a new city. Now, I can’t remember the last time I actually broke something on purpose, probably back when I lived in that apartment, but I remember the satisfying catharsis it provided. 

The days when I daydream of smashing the glass, I am drawn to the rough draft of a post based on a quote by Jenny Lawson, “The world is a terrible place. Sometimes.” However, as I mentioned, my mood has been fluctuating and there have been days where I have felt good, or at least good enough, glass half full.  On those days, I have been writing a rough draft of a post about a toy slinky and the moment the toy surprisingly reminded me to breathe and look for peace even in the midst of chaos. 

My conundrum lies in the fact that neither of these posts encompass exactly what I want to say.  They both feel skewed by the whims of my emotional frame of mind when I sit down to write.  I recently reflected on the vision for this blog, “to offer an alternative to the comparison trap and to help combat the isolation often associated with the pressures to achieve.” As I thought about this, I found myself frustrated with both potential posts; because, despite the honesty of the topics, I had found ways to wrap up the nuance and the complexity of each in a way that made life look easy.  The comforting conclusions I had drafted were in direct contrast to what I actually felt. 

This led me to attempt to combine both posts .  What I am left with is a piece that no longer feels especially cohesive or easy to wrap up. But the complication of combining two separate topics into one post felt authentic, as not all of the thoughts perpetually filling my head are always cohesive or easy either.  So, in a strange way, the incompatibility of combining two different topics into one post makes sense, it’s similar to reality.  

And so, a word on my slinky analogy. That spiral spring toy that can do all sorts of things, like make rainbows in your hands, climb down the stairs, or bring you hours of endless “fun” as you unravel the inevitable tangled knot.  A few weeks ago, I watched my kids playing with their new slinky. They laughed as they started a game of “let’s see how far this slinky can stretch.” (note: it stretched very far)(spoiler alert: it did not end well for the slinky).  As I watched the coiled slinky unfurl, I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, I am the slinky, I am wound too tight!”.  The past six months, I have been moving so incredibly quickly through transition after transition, that at some point I think I got stuck in overdrive. I responded to the spiral of changes by settling into a constantly coiled state of stress. The stress of the transitions had become the new “normal” and I realized I had been clinging to that “normal,” fearing something different and entering an additional emotional transition.  Similar to the tightly wrapped slinky, l looked the part, functioned appropriately, wavered between tightly wound and slightly stretched, but always returned to my coiled state of the stress bubble I had made for myself.  So, I started to breathe.  And, as I breathed I would visualize my internal self, like a slinky, stretching apart, letting air and space back in.  And with this newly visualized internal space, I pictured there now being room for some of the stress to escape.  Rather unexpectedly, I found this visual so helpful that I attempted to add it to my daily routine, five  minutes to breathe, focusing on a way to unwind.  

In my previous draft, I had ended the post with a comment about how we all need to create some space in our bodies and minds to just breathe.  But, when I revisited the post on a day where I felt less optimistic, the simplicity of that ending did not sit well with me.  On my “smash the glass days,” the reminder to create “space” seemed to have an opposite effect: instead of the stress escaping, the space seemed to make room for my anxiety with a reminder that “the world is a terrible place.” 

Unfortunately the reality is, there are a lot of terrible things right now.  Sometimes I feel lost inside all of the hurt, loss, meanness, cynicism, hostility, fear, sickness, and death in the world.  Our news is saturated with pain and social media is peppered with anger and hostility.  The message spreading through so many sources is that everything is terrible.  

However, I often forget to keep reading, to move past the word “terrible,” to remember to incorporate the complete quote: “The world is a terrible place. Sometimes.”  Sometimes. Because on the other side of sometimes is love, hope, laughter, helpers, healers, friendship, family, dreams, and connection.  The world is not an either/or, it is an and/both.  Yes, it is terrible and it is good.  Some days I will smash the glass and some days I will slinky breathe.  Some days the terrible feels insurmountably heavy and some days I find moments so full of joy my heart practically bursts.  Some days writing comes easy and the thoughts in my head flow onto the paper and some days the words feel stuck, because I feel stuck, on the wrong side of sometimes.  

Jessica is a wife, mom, social worker, and aspiring writer.  She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.

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