Lately I can’t quite find words to express what I’m feeling. Maybe it’s unsettled. Maybe it’s anxious. Maybe it’s ambivalent. None of them seem quite right, and sometimes neither do I.
Not only can I not name the feeling, but I can’t point to what is causing me to feel off-kilter. Hmmm… maybe that’s the right word - off-kilter.
There have been countless times lately where the most insignificant decision seems insurmountable. Something like what to make for dinner, might as well be what to pack if I were climbing Everest. Decisions that are a little bigger, yet have no lasting impact, like where to travel or how to get there also have an Everest equivalent.
There are days when decision fatigue makes sense. At times like right now, however, when things are good in my world, it just doesn’t.
Recently my family willingly spent the day driving the backroads with the top off the Jeep and paddle boarding. I had moments of pure joy with my face upturned and the wind sliding over the windshield tugging at my hat. There were moments of laughter as we watched Ziggy balance, or not, on a paddle board. And moments mixed with giggles and trepidation as we almost had our very own version of paddle board demolition derby.
For some reason though, I was off-kilter. For, not the first time that day, I was on the verge of unexplainable tears.
As I process these moments where things don’t feel quite right, like I’m not quite right, I wonder. I wonder about those moments when I don’t seem to be feeling the right emotion for the situation, or the moments when I can’t seem to make a trivial decision. I wonder what’s going on.
In the last year or so, I’ve done a lot of counseling but through it all, I never really asked about my “diagnosis”. I think of all the people I know that battle anxiety, depression, and so much more. I wonder if this is what it’s like - being seemingly unable to name, to control, to turn around. I wonder if perhaps these are the words I’m looking for, but then I wonder if it really matters.
Sure having a name for an emotion, or a condition, can be helpful. It can level the playing field and make communicating what’s going on a little easier. But it also feels a bit like an illusion. It gives the illusion of having everything fit in a pretty little box and having everything under control when in fact everything seems like it is precariously balanced and about to topple over.
I wonder what would happen if I just embrace the off-kilterness instead of trying to explain it away. Maybe it’s not the naming of it that’s the issue. Maybe it’s more the desire to explain it away. What would I discover about myself? About others that I interact with?
I wonder how many other people, at this exact moment, are struggling to name or understand what they are feeling. I wonder how many are trying to explain it away or pretend that it’s not an issue. I wonder if they feel like they are balancing on a tightrope, juggling chainsaws, all while trying to convince themselves, and those around them, with a plastered on smile and perfectly tailored outfit that they’re ‘just living the dream’.
All of these wonderings lead me to look for a solution. Only things have changed. I no longer want to explain it away. I no longer want to pretend.
That would’ve been my solution before. Instead, I want to start a conversation.
I want to be able to openly tell someone that my tightrope is sagging. That my outfit is riding up in places it shouldn’t. That my cheeks hurt from a fake smile that isn’t reaching my eyes.
I want to be able to openly tell them that on this day, the sagging tightrope, too small outfit, and dull smile are just as good as it’s going to get. I want to be able to tell them that I hope tomorrow to be able embrace these challenges and see it all as an adventure, but if I can’t that is okay.
I dream of sharing these off-kilter moments honestly and unpolished (I have some work to do here!). I dream of laying shame aside and answering the “How’s it going?” question with truth and without discomfort for either of us. I dream of doing this as a way to invite others to share their off-kilter moments too.
Think of what will happen when we share our burdens rather than trying to cover them up. Imagine knowing that the person sitting next to you also wonders why they have wiped tears from their eyes five times today without any tangible reason. Imagine knowing that the person at the desk next to you or down the hall from you, is just going through the motions even though they seem to have it all together.
I dream of a community where it’s okay, and even encouraged, to be real, without reservation, without judgement - with nothing but open hearts and desire to realize that we’re all battling something.
Meghann and Ziggy Guentensberger are Rylie's parents. During their time in the hospital with Rylie and after her death, they began writing about their experiences. What started as a way to keep people informed of Rylie's condition, turned into a way for them to process all that was happening. After she died on May 26, 2017 they both continued to write as a way to process and heal themselves and occasionally inspire others. These writings are housed on the Rylie's ARK Facebook page.