I know I promised I was back and this was back and it was BACK, but as you’ve seen, I’m not as on the ball as I had hoped to be. I know other writers who have struggled with this sort of thing after a massive life change, be that having a baby or being diagnosed with a serious illness or just moving far, far away from home for the first time. These massive shake-ups are the times when our lives truly, truly far apart.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was in school and taking creative writing courses, the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory was usually an early handout. This inventory was perfected by various mental health experts to help better classify and determine just how stressed a person was. Some of my professors disagreed with certain items and moved them around, but for the most part this was the currency of fiction.
Characters in assignments were to have a score of 100 or 125 or 150 to really teach how fiction works. It makes a better story if there’s conflict, the entire world reasons. No one wants to read a story about a lovely picnic or a starry sky or a vast canyon. I mean, I do, but I’m not people, apparently.
The Bit About Falling Apart
Today, I sit at a 198. That’s plenty, if you ask me. This is why I’m falling apart. Client work is still moving along, I think it’s even getting a bit better, but personal projects, hopes, dreams, goals, all of that stuff is getting dusty on the shelf. This is the bit where I fall apart. I’m not depressed, I’m not in danger, I’m just… I’m so stressed I can’t function properly. And there’s naught to do for it except watch the big hand rotate around.
Until then, I’m trying to learn how to love my new home of Ft. Worth, Texas. I’m eating more tortillas than should be legal, I’m holding private tres leche cake judging contests between the various supermarkets, I’m exploring new and unusual vegetables and fruits. It’s not home, it won’t be, but it can be a home. I just keep chipping away at it.
The funny thing, I think, the funniest thing to me, anyway, is that in the midst of all this abundance, I am overwhelmed. You’d think that having sixteen different supermarket chains and twenty different healthcare systems and a zillion entertainment options and a sea of houses would simply thrill someone from a place that exists with only a tiny fraction of all of this. You’d think it would be a cornucopia. In ways, it is, certainly. I can visit merchants I had only ever seen online before, for example, but it’s too much. My brain can’t take it. I am constantly functioning with a status of “overwhelmed.”
… that’s the falling apart. That’s why I’m struggling. It’s like when you first got onto the Internet and there was simply more to see and do and read than you could have ever imagined. It was more collective thought (and porn) than anyone ever dreamed possible, but it was too much. You didn’t sleep, you consumed until you fatigued.
I think that’s where I am now. I’m pining for the fjords, but there’s nothing for it. This is what falling apart looks like today. It’s me missing fickle spring in Southwest Missouri, where it goes from 10 degrees to 70 in a matter of days. It’s the smell of sweet clover and cow manure wafting through my memories. It’s everything I knew disappearing into shadows.
… But Then There’s the Coming Together
As much as I miss my home and I fear it’ll fade into nothing the longer I’m here, no one can wallow in the past for long. There’s a bit in all of us that wants to survive, to live, to thrive. There’s that little glimmer of hope and curiosity and fucking overcoming life’s shit that keeps us moving on. I promise you, I have this, too.
I know because when I look over my neighbor’s fences and see the red-orange sunset that seems to spread forever I take comfort. I know because the wicked wind that comes across the prairie has stopped screaming and is now simply singing a low song. I know because tacos from a truck are far better than anything from a fancy restaurant.
As each box is unpacked, each picture hung on the wall, each day ticks down, I feel a little bit more like I am finding myself again. For those of you who grew up in these sorts of knots of confusion and noise that they call cities, I don’t mean any offense. It’s not a wrong way to live, but it is a very different way than what I knew. Even Springfield, the third biggest city in Missouri and probably the biggest city in the Ozarks, isn’t anything like this. Even the smallest suburbs here are more city than Springfield ever hoped it could become.
It takes time. Just like the first time I saw the Internet, the first time I’m forced to have to exist inside a network of cement and asphalt and trains and cars and noise and lights will eventually become my new normal. If it’s normal to have friends inside a computer, it can be normal to have a railway lullaby. Anything can become normal if we find a way to accept it that doesn’t clash with our inner self. That’s the coming together.
Like with writing, integrating in a new place can be as simple as understanding yourself and the context in which you’re placed. The falling apart and the coming together… it’s all a little bit you and a little bit me.