What's been going on while I haven't been doing anything much? Guess what? The world did not stop spinning, just because I did. Life went on while I didn't even pay attention sometimes. As I lay prone in my fallow field, it rained, the wind blew, snow fell, and it got quiet. I mean it got really quiet. The chatter in my head actually slowed down enough to feel quiet. If the sun came out I dutifully went out into the dirt and weeded it, but that's it, and it was quiet, and when I closed my eyes I saw nothing but the negative images of those weeds.
This is not to say there wasn't a constant push-me, pull-you struggle going on. Everyone around me had to adjust to having a person in their lives who refused to play the game. My kids had to do with less. My husband had to deal with my sometimes raw emotional self-flagellation when we were alone because I couldn't bring myself to do more and saw that my kids had to put up with less, we had to put up with less because of it. My endless guilt was no party. So, perhaps laying prone in a fallow field is not the perfect metaphor for everything that went on. But internally, that's what it felt like. It felt a lot like giving up, and I had friends walk away from me because I couldn't offer anything else. I walked away from most opportunities that would have at least kept me busy even if they didn't really ever pay off because they simply weren't something I could imagine tending for that long.
The weeds were one thing that I did. I had a single goal to help at least one of my writing students finish a script for the Nichols Fellowship this May. That was a service obligation I cared about and had volunteered for and so, I kept up with that. I volunteered for the schools and drove kids to play dates and activities when I could muster it. I cooked nearly every meal, shopped for groceries with grave frugality, walked my dog Lucille two to three times a day. I ate too much chocolate and let my hair grow. I watched tv shows. I know! It sounds pretty good! But, for an ambitious person it was near torture to be honest.
I transitioned into a new life and the landscape changed a lot when I finally sat up and looked around. Blinking, this is what I saw: hills of fertile soil. It had been so long since I saw fertile soil, pristine and weeded, ready for planting, that I hardly recognized it. When I first looked at it, I was filled with despair. "Empty! Nothing is growing!" I shamed myself with that and pounded my head against it and went back to sleep for a while longer because I couldn't see the emptiness for what it was in fact.