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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fetal Ball Napping

Today I struggle with way too much on my plate and a will that is wobbly.   It’s really hard to be the hero of your own life day in and day out.  And yet the alternative is what? – just curl up in a fetal ball and suck your thumb?  Actually, Henry, my father did that  - well maybe not the thumb sucking, but when my parents were all but evicted from the ancestral home in Plymouth they had too little time to divest themselves of possessions and get packed.   On the day the movers came, the house was no way near close to being packed and when my father was called for, to make some crucial decisions, he was found curled up in a corner of a remote room, on the floor, sleeping.    He had shut down.

I suspect this happens a lot – all systems just shutting down, life being more than one person can bear.   My husband, Steve, has done this.   He has given up on life and spends every day holed up in a grimy apartment with no air conditioning and splits his time between sleeping and watching TV.   He says I have ruined his life.  The gal that waxes me just discovered her ex hanging from a rope.  She cut him down and then went about the business of notifying his parents, planning his funeral, explaining to the small kids, and taking care of his affairs.   She didn’t shut down.

I fantasize about getting into a car, adopting a pseudonym, driving to Texas and being a short order cook in a diner where nobody knows me.   I will do the big hair thing if it’s a requirement for living in Texas.    A new start would be lovely.

So, how do we go on when life feels impossibly hard?   Almost everyone I know and love carries unbelievable burdens, real burdens like poverty, sick children or grandchildren, addiction, incurable disease, ailing parents, loss of prestige and position, loss of love, loss of dreams….the list of travails goes on and on.   And yet, almost without exception, these friends are Living Well – they are the heroes of their own lives.   I am humbled and inspired by these friends.   And maybe my friends do not represent an accurate cross section of humanity – maybe I’ve picked them because they are special, heroic and an inspiration. 

Writing this inspires me…..if Liza can get up every day and squeeze every last minute out of the day in pursuit of her family’s wellness and happiness, if James can swallow his terror of the future and leave an unhappy marriage for a tiny little apartment and be jubilant about his new couch, if Pat can embrace life with such glamour and humor in spite of her Parkinson’s, if Patrick can hold fast to his dreams and leave the comfort of a loving relationship for something unknown that he hopes will be more what he needs, if Tom can decide that the risk to remain tight in a bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom…….then I can do better.  All these people I care about, getting up each day with burdens, but still showing up to play the bittersweet game called Life.  

The challenge today…..just show up and stay in the game even when your heart is breaking or your gut is wrenching…..no fetal ball naps while the world spins around you.


  1. The "remain tight in a bud" reference is a quote from Anais Nin - not claiming it as my own!

  2. Sarah, thanks for the kudos. There is an important thought I wish to share: Never give up on YOU! You are to be applauded, praised, cheered, and commended for facing life square on. You are in a position to see and experience a life well lived. Don't quit. Ever.

    I can't take credit for that outlook, the author is anonymous. But spoke the truth!

  3. My new couch is AWESOME! You are stronger than you think, Sarah, and you prove it to me, Liza, and everyone else everyday. There is no right or wrong way to deal with pain and loss, as long as you don't let it defeat you.

  4. I'll book end this with two friends facing cancer, one survived, the other is in the throws of it -- an incredibly powerful and resolute man who is reduced to a 'fetal position' of sorts in handling the pain. To the survivor I asked, "How did you cope with the pain?" He told me that he redirected his attention to what did not hurt him.

    Where we focus our attention (aka - energy) gets fed, I think of your post "Discomfort Zone". When you speak of Steve, this is a person who is front & center on what's miserable and seemingly insolvable, you show a person who may be in the trough of his own personal sadness. Focus on the good, my advice is that every day try to do one positive thing, focus on one thing you can accomplish and feel good about. Over time this becomes practice.

    When I think of my own challenges over the past decade I realize that not all of them were overcome by plowing through the center and attempting to fix them. Sometimes focusing our energies elsewhere, on what's positive does indeed starve (some of) the malignancies of our lives.

    Remain powerful. Remember that you are all that you need.

    Every day you have experienced prior has prepared you for this one.
    This day helps prepare you for what's to come.


  5. Wonderful comments all!