• Lauren Morris

Tick-Tock Goes the Clock

The Dip by Seth Godin explores when it’s time to quit and when you are in the “dip”. The lull of projects, life, spaces that seem to be spinning their wheels, or just difficult. It’s those times you decide that you are going to put your head down and commit to working through it or quit because this path isn’t the right one for you. I often referred to this book when I was teaching and directing. I also see it continue to exist throughout my life.

I’m working hard to undo thought patterns that were developed to protect but now no longer serve my needs. In the midst of this, I also think I’ve reached a stopping point in my physical recovery from my vestibular injury. I’m not entirely sure this is true just that I’m unable to move forward in seeing what else I can do because of the pandemic. It limits my options on the “what’s next” chapter of my life. This dip I am is deeper and more difficult right now because I’m attempting to let feelings and emotions stay with me whereas in the past I would shut them out. Unlike dips of the past, I also feel what I can only describe is a countdown clock.

Staying present and just being in this one moment is so hard. There are times I can do it but more often than not I feel the countdown clock. I get frustrated when people continue to repeat you don’t have to figure things out right now or take it one day at a time. That often feels as if it’s coming from a place of privilege. I do agree it doesn’t all have to be taken care of at once but you do have to confront challenges and figure out how to move forward. At some point taking it one day at a time turned into 15 years and now there are relationships that are harmed and my sad, shame-filled, anxiety-riddled, brain is convinced it’s too late for repair or redemption. So I feel the weight of time everywhere. From my past to my future.

In the past, I felt the clock tick as I entered through the doors of the theater. It was a place I could go to step away from the difficult existence that existed in my mind and home life. It was a place that was for coping and escape. It always thrust me back into existence because it came with a time limit.

Writing comes with a countdown clock especially now with the pandemic. If I’m lucky I can get an hour to myself before my thoughts are interrupted by the kids. I constantly feel the rush to get drafts completed on someone else’s timeline. These days, the writing I am engaging with is personal and deep. It requires space to stop and honor the difficult feelings that emerge. I don’t have that space because I’m on the clock.

There’s a countdown clock for therapy. The place where you are allowed to dig deep but only for an hour once a week. It’s both fascinating and frustrating to me how it is so much like my experience with improv. It’s a respite while simultaneously rubbing salt in my wounds. I often find my mind wandering to the same spot it does with my current relationship to improv: what is the point because both in the end leave me on my own to figure it out.

The countdown clock on my work years is running out by the sheer fact that I am a woman in her mid-40s in a society that doesn’t deem staying home with children someone who would bring value to their workplace. On top of that, I have no idea how getting back to “work” looks when I still don’t know what I’m physically capable of given the limitations due to my nerve being damaged.

My worth as a parent has a countdown clock. Parents to young children get a lot more support than parents with teens. It isn’t just outsiders counting down but my own children as well. They don’t need me the way that used to and they shouldn’t because that’s the cycle of life but I’m quickly becoming obsolete and I feel it all the time.

There’s a countdown clock to everyone in my life. There are people who I used to talk to every day that I barely talk to now. Not because of anything other than life zigs and zags. Everyone is aging and everyone has an expiration date. So the clock is always ticking. WIth this scenario, I tend to manage it better. I recognize it and let it exist but I don’t get lost in it.

The one place I don’t feel the countdown of the clock is on getting “better” from an emotional place. I think that’s because I don’t know what better looks like. That would require me to allow hope to come into the mix and I often go toe to toe with the protective part of my brain that plays bouncer to the room where my feelings reside. Hope is a dangerous place to be because there’s a huge risk. So in a way, it’s comforting not having a clock while also just a sad place to land because I’m not at ease but resigned.

It all circles back to the dip even as I make small strides to climb up, I keep landing back in it. The pain from these dips isn’t only from unhealed, incredibly infected wounds that are in desperate need of triage and treatment but from the pain of what’s in front of me right now. In so many ways, I just want to sit still and feel. I am frustrated that I have to limit it to certain times and places. There are things from my past that have been emerging with a clearer lens and while that might be necessary, even good, it’s clouding my path forward. A path that already feels limited so instead I just sit in the dip at the bottom of the chaotic sea. Maybe I’ll end up drowning altogether, or perhaps the next Seth Godin book I read will enlighten me, or while it might be the tiniest steps forward it isn’t quitting and I’ll eventually climb out of the dip.

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