I talked with a friend the other day who is one of the most optimistic people I know. Even in circumstances that I would not call promising, he usually believes everything will turn out all right.
But this week, when I talked to him, he seemed uncharacteristically down. And who wouldn’t be, really?
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, millions of people are out of work, the flames of racial injustices are roaring-- all while the environment throws us wildfires, hurricanes, and flash floods.
It’s overwhelming. Who wouldn’t be down?
You’d have to be living on a different planet to not be affected by all that is swirling around. It’s like a toddler decided to take over and we are now living on a burning island in Lord of the Flies.
Finding the One Silver Strand
The conversation reminded me of a particularly glum period of my life after an epic adventure that went sour. A series of unfortunate events forced me to reframe how I viewed myself, the world, and myself in the world.
It wasn’t an easy passage to the other side. But things had gotten stirred up.
After the dust of misadventure had settled and the immediate crisis had stabilized, there was a period where I felt as though I was in a cocoon of darkness.
In the midst of seemingly endless darkness around me, when I couldn’t see how things would ever improve, I had a sense that I was connected to something larger than myself.
I saw it in my mind's eye as a tiny silver thread that connected me to the larger universe.
That tiny strand of silver was my signal line.
A signal line is the one thread that connects the spider to the web she has built. When something gets caught in the web, she can easily climb the line back to the web to collect her meal.
In the fog of darkness, I had a signal line.
When you’re hanging on by that thread, it isn’t time to push, to do, or even to try and climb out of the hole you’re in. It’s time to let the darkness cover you like a blanket, to rest, restore, and renew.
As much as our culture wants us to keep doing, (to stay open during a pandemic at all costs!), when you’re feeling like you are hanging on by a thread… it’s time to retreat.
This is how the new gets born.
When I eventually had the strength to climb out of my cocoon, I was forever changed. I wasn’t the same person I had been before the series of unfortunate events.
It was time to weave a new path, a new web, a new life.
We are collectively all hanging on by a thread. And when the storm passes and we have the strength to pull ourselves out of the cocoon, we will need to weave a new future.
In early September, a flash flood ran through my little slice of the world. Forecasters called for heavy rain and possible flash flooding. I wasn’t worried.
Thirteen years ago, I invested in a lot of money to install a sump pump and French drain system in my basement. A necessity for my house, at the bottom of a hill… in a neighborhood built on reclaimed swamp land.
A narrow band of rain barreled down on my town. I went to check on my basement. Sump pump working.
As long as that pump was pumping, I was in the clear, I thought.
My thought was wrong.
A river formed between my house and my next door neighbor Mario's house. My backyard was flooding. The end of the block filled up with enough water to fill a neighbor's car with water up to her seats. The new levee being built on the other side of the town (in anticipation of more storms due to global warming) was at capacity.
After oggling for a a few minutes at the sheer volume of rain that was barreling down, I went to check on my basement. My kitten’s litter box was floating on top of ten inches of water. My furnace, my hot water heater, washer and dryer were all sitting in almost a foot of water. My heart sank. I went back upstairs, with a long, heavy sigh.
This was one of those moments when home ownership felt like the worst idea in the world.
A few days later, after the clean-up, mopping, and dry out was complete, I called my friend Kirsten. It was time to try and start each piece of machinery that was in the basement to see if it was still working.
I needed some good juju. We sent positive energy to the water heater before I tried to start it.
“Hot water is what separates us from the animals,” my brother texted, when I told him I was waiting for my basement to dry out before turning on the water heater. Good to know.
I turned the gas back on and tried igniting the pilot. Success! After four days of drying out, I was back in business for hot water.
My dryer started right back up. My furnace kicked back on. I was feeling very, very lucky and contemplating moving to the desert. The last thing that needed to be tested was the washing machine. I was hopeful. This thing is built for water, I thought. I put a load of clothes in and turned her on.
She refused to fill with water. She was dry as a bone. How ironic.
I called Kirsten again. We got centered. We sent good energy to the washing machine. We read her energy. … to see what she might need. “She feels like a happy machine, with a possible hiccup,” said Kirsten. “Check the machine where the hoses come into it.”
I did as she suggested and there, in the back of the machine was a secret panel. I could see a piece of folded up paper sitting behind the panel. Instructions? I was beginning to feel like Sherlock Holmes. I got my socket wrench out and took off the back panel. I unfolded the piece of paper.
It had very specific instructions for resetting the machine. “Position cycle selector at 9 o’clock. Depress start button while rotating cycle selector knob 180 degrees. Release start buttons and all LEDS will light. This is position zero.”
Who comes up with this stuff? Should I also hop on one leg while doing it? I tried five times before I gave up.
I looked at the instruction sheet again. It had a schematic of the machine and realized I could open the front of the machine. I did this and noticed that below the tub that holds all the clothes, on the bottom of the machine, were about 50 wires. I placed a box fan by the wires for a few days. Maybe they just needed to dry out.
I tried the ridiculous instructions again. Nothing.
I caved and called a repair man (a mortal sin in my father’s house, as he fixed everything himself).
The repair guy came fully loaded with a COVID mask and face shield. He spent less than five minutes waving some sort of electric meter around the wires before he declared, “Your motor is spent.”
She had died. And there was nothing more to be done.
There are times in life when a flood of emotions overruns you and it’s hard to keep yourself together. And then there are times in life when an actual flood overwhelms you and it’s hard to keep yourself together.
And then there are times where it’s hard to distinguish between the flood of water and the flood of emotions.
This is one of those times.
Looking at the world from above the fray. Houkje writes about following her intuition, observerations on the magic of the natural world, and navigating creativity and chaos in an uncertain world.