I have been doing so well. Friends and family who have watched my ankles grabbed by the twin sea serpents of depression and anxiety as I swim ask, "How are you doing?" In the beginning my answers were tentative. Sticking a toe in to test the temperature of the water at the precise moment I was asked, I was often relieved to find it comfortable and could answer honestly, "I'm okay." As time went by, I became bolder, expecting to find the water like a bathtub. Over the last two months, I thought I'd learned to gauge without even testing. My immediate answer was that I was doing great. I was surprised by it myself. Dad's sick, Grandpa is dying, my husband has still not resolved his health issues...but I am okay. Had I found some magical balance? Was I able to splay my limbs out, face up to the sky, floating in the water unconcerned with the creatures below and above, knowing that they would do what they would regardless of me?
Summer is a time of strengthening. Flowers and plants that have begun to grow in the Spring spend the summer becoming - setting fruit, reaching for the sky, opening up to their full potential. I feel that push. Magazines offer 'bathing suit bodies', Target displays are full of bronzing products. Resolutions to learn Spanish and drop 20 pounds, finish my book and organize my house form a scrolling billboard playing in my mind's eye. I am committed to becoming better. Better wife. Better mother. Better friend. Better woman.
Cramming every minute full of potential, writing, cooking, cleaning, taking the girls swimming, visiting with friends and family I have neglected lately. I don't stop to realize I'm packing Pandora's Box. This morning Pandora came. Scratches at the lid as I lay in bed, 'I don't want to get up today.' Shhh, it's Saturday - nothing to do that I don't really want to do. Quiet, my dear. An orange flash at the bottom of the computer signals a dear friend wanting to Instant Message me. I summon my husband instead - I can't take the time for this right now. Instead, I retreat to my writing space. Pandora knocks at the lid, 'Let me out. There is no space to breathe in here.' Reluctantly I leave this comfortable room and follow her.
The lid opens. Stomach cramps, sweating, anxiety frizzles around in my brain, bouncing off my skull like lightning looking for a place to escape. I search for some linear explanation: too many cherries from yesterday's Farmer's Market, wine with dinner too many nights in a row... I know, though, that Pandora is manifested in my gut because I've not taken a cue from Mother Nature. Summer may be a time of strengthening, but what I'm doing is not that. The pea vines don't strive to become dahlias. They don't criticize their flowers because they're not showy enough, their mission is to take what they're given and use it to become the very best peas they can. Another lesson learned. Beauty is not in the do-ing so much as it is in the be-ing.