Whichever coastline beckons

riptide

It has just occurred to me that I am a dog-paddler. I know I have never “really” learned to swim and that has always affected my confidence in the water, but I didn’t realize until recently that I’m also dog-paddling through life.

Not having had an upbringing that included any practical lessons in earning a living, planning for the future, or even cooking for myself (cereal and toast don’t count), I made do with what I learned on the fly from books, school, observation, trial and error.

Now I find myself—despite my education, successful career, and life-long love of learning—semi-retired, partially disabled and without a clear vision of the future. I know not what I want nor what is possible. This was a surprise. After having supported myself and my kids through college and beyond, I have spent the last few years treading water; all efforts to make headway have eventually proved useless. I never stop trying. I can’t stop really. I’ve been terrified of drowning since childhood. So I try this, I try that, I give it my best shot and guess what? I am still at sea. I see a shoreline. But all my efforts to come in have cost me dearly in energy, time, and money.

Remember how they say when caught in a riptide you’re supposed to swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the ocean’s grip, then swim in? I never realized that can apply to life. Several posts I’ve read recently have made me realize I am fighting a losing battle, frantically treading water, and my energy is dwindling. I’m suffering from a pretty bad Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia relapse (not fun, believe me), and struggling to stay in place is wearing me out. In January 1990, I was still (sort of) normal, but post-divorce stress and strain were slowing me down. One very nasty virus later, and I was never the same again. For almost 20 years I worked full time despite this illness (CFS). Then, in the last 3 years I…

  • took early retirement because of years of unresolved harassment by a superior (losing lots of $$ in the process)
  • suffered a slipped disk and had to regain the use of my right leg, which still relapses. For the last 7 years, working in my studio for a few days means a week of recuperating afterwards
  • broke my ankle in two places and was in a wheelchair, walker, and cane for a very long time and, despite 6 months of physical therapy, this will never be the same ankle again.

Now I’ve been sick with CFS continuously since Valentine’s Day, the longest relapse I can remember in these later, “better” years of CFS. So life has taught me not the long, gliding strokes that move you forward toward your goals but how to struggle in place—to dog-paddle. I’ve built steely resolve but no bank account.

So, I give. I accept defeat. Uncle! I have decided to relax and stroke gently sideways, away from my ambition, until I am in calmer water. Then whichever coastline beckons will be my new home.

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6 thoughts on “Whichever coastline beckons

  1. You’re still swimming. Big up respect to you for that. After reading that list, my admiration only grows.

    I think it’s a great analogy, I hope that it’s like other things in life (writing springs to mind!) in that when you stop struggling, somehow it feels a bit easier. Thinking of you xxx

  2. Thanks Emma. In fact, just writing this helped me go back to the studio after my back calmed down and work some more today. I guess it just helps to define the problem and express it. Writing has certainly helped me in my art. I always felt like art is a mute expression (for me anyway) and actually writing how I feel is very liberating. No translation necessary. 🙂

  3. Really great analogy, and so true. I was thinking of how when a lifeguard tries to rescue someone they just throw a flotation device because the drowning person would struggle and sink the lifeguard as well.

    Not totally the same as what you’re saying, but still shows it’s a matter of surrender . . . the current might be trying to save your life or it might be dragging us out to sea, but the only way out is to stop fighting and do what we must.

  4. Hi Diana,

    I can’t offer much in the way of optimism, because platitudes don’t really cut it, do they? But… your honesty knocks me out and this is such a strong piece of writing. There’s no compensation for pain or exhaustion but you achieve so much!

    Since I started blogging again this year, I’ve come to realize how seduced I’ve been by all the ‘success talk’ you mention. It’s like a braying herd (‘Build traffic, define your niche, monetize, ad nauseam’) and, for me, it’s all back to front. The quality of contact (with people like yourself) has totally eclipsed all that and my experience is all the better for it. But it’s still hard to avoid those ‘Good Ideas’ and follow your instincts.

    Anyway, I hope you are feeling well today and productive.

    Best wishes and thanks again for such a great post!

  5. Wow, I’m really excited you called this “such a strong piece of writing”! I have always wanted to write but have spent my career developing my art instead, leaving the words unwritten. I see art as a mute expression (for me) but I can’t live without it. I am an avid reader —addicted actually—and live with stacks of magazines and books, piles of articles and url’s on sticky notes.

    It is “The quality of contact” I’m looking for as well. And no, I won’t give up trying to find my place in the marketplace. It helps to hear from people I read every day! Cheers me up immensely. Thanks.

    Watch for new art tomorrow…I’m in a Hawaiian Mood.

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