Ten years ago, when I was forty-two, I realized that if I lived as long as my mother did, I only had eight more years. It wasn’t a morbid thought. I’m not superstitious and there was no reason to believe I would die young as my mother had. Still, it gave me pause: I knew that if I kept living my life the way I had been, I would die with enormous regrets. There were many regrets I feared, but there was at least one potential regret I thought I could do something about: I wanted to be a writer. I had always written, but had never taken myself seriously, so I decided to take one year and be serious, and just see what happened. At the end of that year, I had half of a novel drafted and I was on fire, alive in a way I hadn’t felt since my children were babies. In the years that followed, I went to grad school, started teaching, got an MFA, kept working on my novel … but still my life wasn’t right. I even knew what needed to change but thought it was impossible. Prone to mood disorders my whole life, I fell into a deep, intractable depression. I smoked cigarettes and pretended nobody noticed, I drank way too much bourbon, my diet was terrible and I barely moved. One semester, when I was theoretically revising the novella that had been my MFA thesis in the hopes I might publish it, I instead taught my classes (barely), drove my children where they needed to go, and binge-watched eleven seasons of Gray’s Anatomy. In five weeks. No kidding.
When I turned fifty—unhealthy, clinically depressed, and having written nothing for almost a year—I found the courage to stare down those impossible things I thought I couldn’t change. In the period of a couple of months, with the help of a brilliant and kind psychiatrist and the unflagging support of my best friend, I turned my life upside down and shook. I shook hard. All of the things I expected to fall out, did, most significantly my marriage of twenty-four years. A whole lot of other things fell out too, things I never in a million years expected to fall out: so many friendships, my church, my financial stability, my ability to provide a home for my children. What I had thought was impossible turns out only to have been the tip of the iceberg. There was nothing to do but to keep moving forward, but it was a messy, terrifying, traumatic couple of years. If I had known beforehand, I never would have had shaken things up as I did; after I did it—even in the midst of another clinical depression that nearly landed me in the hospital—I never regretted having done it. I lost almost everything, but what I gained was my Self.
I no longer smoke or drink. I eat really well and am healthy and fit. I have a home now, with room for my children, and a new spouse who is the love of my life, and two dogs I adore. I have a new church and a new tribe and a new handful of really close friends. I work in an independent bookstore, which is sort of a writer’s dream-job. I’m still working on that novel…. And in about a month, I will have a license to practice massage therapy.
I’ve learned a lot in the past few years, about getting unstuck, about moving through and out of fear, about the connections among our Selves and our bodies and our art, about our capacity to imagine and to build lives for ourselves that are meaningful and that bring us joy. I’d love to pass some of that wisdom along. I’d also like to support myself so I can finish that novel!
Welcome to Homeostasis: Balance with a Beat, my new business of massage therapy and creative coaching. I am especially interested in issues related to “neuro-atypicality,” (which I prefer to call “neuro-nonconformity," but more on that later), trauma, and the role of art and bodywork in dealing with and healing from both. I will be blogging here regularly about health and healing and art (my first post, coming soon, will explain the name of my business). I will also post links to articles and websites that I find interesting on the “news and notes” page. If any of this interests you, I hope you will check in often to see what I’m thinking about. And always, I love it when people leave me notes, questions, challenges—with all the usual caveats about etiquette and civil discourse, I will respond to everyone. You can leave comments on the blog, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.