An Alternative to Heartsickeness
When all your plans go belly side up
Yesterday afternoon I picked up a brown and brittle leaf the size of my husband’s hand. A poplar leaf, from the tree that borders our neighbor’s property and ours. The woodpeckers have ringed it round and round and round, from top to bottom, which warns me the tree will not be long standing, but I enjoy it while I can. I squeezed the poplar leaf in my hands and it crumbled entirely. Less than a week ago it was still golden and clinging to the tree. I feel a bit like this leaf today.
It is nearly November. A month from today I and a group of twenty others were supposed to leave for ten days in Israel and the Palestinian region of the West Bank. We’ve suspected for weeks now that our trip would need to pivot, but the word came in this morning. I sent out a sad and also somehow hopeful email to the participants.
We will bend, we will not break.
If you remember earlier this year, this isn’t the only trip in my 2023 that won’t unfold as planned. After months of planning and weeks of packing and prepping (amidst finishing the last chapters of The Understory and my last semester of grad school), the day before we were to hook our trailer up and take her through some of the most majestic places in the US, we got some sudden and concerning news about a health issue Nate has been dealing with. The strong recommendation from the specialists was to stay near good hospitals and no, no, no you cannot go on long hikes at altitude.
We will curve, we will not break.
In September, days before I was going in for eye surgery, I felt a surge of hope and excitement rise within me. I rarely feel high highs or low lows, so I’ve learned to pay attention to them when they come, to give myself the time I need to feel the feeling I’m feeling instead of thinking about the feeling I think I’m having.
This is excitement, I said to myself. You so rarely feel this, so pay attention to what it feels like, I told myself. And somehow, alongside that thought, the parallel thought came: every time you get excited about something, it ends up not happening, so lower your expectations, Lo.
A month out and I still can’t see clearly.
But will we break, though?
What do we do when we have learned to, in the infamous words of Wesley to Inigo Montoya, “Get used to disappointment?” What do we do when we have learned to hold the world and all its offerings—its pleasures and joys, its healings and hopes, its resolutions and fullness—with limp wristed indifference? What do we do when the proof is in the pudding, the verdict is in—all the good things we hope for end in a crashing, smashing, flattening failure?
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