“Perhaps the reason you are drawn to flowers is not only for their outer beauty, but because they remind you beautiful things will bloom after the longest seasons of waiting.”
– Morgan Harper Nichols
That quote is from an art print I recently bought and hung over my desk. It’s part of a trio of prints by the artist and poet Morgan Harper Nichols that are now affixed to my wall, arranged in a diagonal cascade of color against what was once a blank white space. The top one features bright brushstrokes and reads, “Note to self: you can do this.” The print I quoted at the beginning of this blog, with white typeface against a backdrop of golden yellow, sits proudly in the middle. And at the bottom, one word stands out across a swirl of seashell pink and ocean blue: “Breathe.”
That’s what I am currently trying to do: breathe through a season of waiting. It hasn’t been easy. I have felt heavy much of the time. I have been creatively stagnant. I haven’t written or published anything new on this blog in over three months, a fact which has made me feel more guilty with each passing day.
What have I been doing with myself? In this season, time has been hard to track. As spring slid into summer, the hot, humid Savannah days have blurred together to the point that they’re almost indistinguishable.
The months of April and May found me clawing my way through my second quarter of graduate school. Like every university everywhere, Covid-19 thrust the Savannah College of Art and Design into a virtual learning environment virtually overnight, with lectures, discussions and interactions with my professors and classmates all mediated through a computer screen. With university facilities and local businesses shut down, there were no libraries or coffee shops to escape to, and I spent eight to twelve hours a day in my room with the door closed, trying not to go insane. Between crafting digital media copy (one class) and reading about public relations strategy (another class), I devoured New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily press briefings and daydreamed about a not-so-distant past, when I was just a subway ride away from the lobby of a cozy hotel in the West Village, or the vaulted ceilings of the Rose Room at the New York Public Library. During one of many socially distanced walks under a canopy of live oak trees, I watched teenagers throw frisbees in Forsyth Park and fantasized about making a jail break. But where would I go? There was nowhere safe to run to. There was nothing to do but stay.
If there’s a word to describe how I’ve felt these last few months, it would be “suspended.” As outbreaks of Covid-19 continue to spike in various cities and states across the United States, plans have been put on hold. Friends will not be visiting, and I will not be making my summer pilgrimage across the country to the rocky shores of Case Inlet. It’s the first time in many years that I won’t spend part of this season looking out across that silvery slip of water from the picture windows of my grandfather’s house. My grandfather’s house has, in fact, been rented. By people I don’t know, but whom my uncle assures me are very nice.
As I write this blog, I’m keenly aware of how self-pitying it sounds. To be honest, fear and loathing of my own self-pity is what has kept me silent for so long in the first place. So I feel compelled to tell you that in spite of my complaints, I know how lucky I am. That my life is good and my problems – while real to me – are tiny and insignificant compared to what so many others are currently suffering through.
I recently had a long talk with a close girlfriend who has been a rock though some of the most difficult moments of my last decade. She supported me though the deaths of my parents, supplied me with endless mugs of herbal tea and an oceanside sanctuary to rest my head when I left my marriage, and counseled me though heartbreaks I thought I’d never heal from. During our conversation, she remarked how hard it must be for me to have to stay in one place, when my M.O. for the last many years was to hop on a plane whenever things got uncomfortable. She was right: travel has been my balm through pain and grief. It has been both a needed distraction and a tool for avoidance. “Maybe being grounded for a while will be good for you,” she suggested.
It doesn’t feel good, but as much as I can, I’ve been trying to look at this season of waiting as an opportunity. An opportunity to heal from the things I haven’t and to prepare for the next, more grown-up phase of my life. To that end, for the first time in almost five years, I decided to go back into therapy.
It was surprisingly easy to find a counselor, given the resources provided to me through SCAD. During the slow summer months, I’ve been able to schedule weekly sessions – for free – with a licensed therapist. And though – like seemingly everything else these days – they’re conducted on Zoom, the sessions have been a lifeline to me, helping me navigate both the uncertainty of the current moment, and all that lies ahead.
There is beauty in the waiting. There is pain too. And amidst all that is unknown, there is the conviction that something has irrevocably shifted. That whoever we will be on the other side of this tenuous moment we are all living through, we won’t be the same.
And maybe that’s OK.
Until next time, friends.