So taut I might snap


It has been a very difficult few weeks in my world.  Mostly work-related, but I feel worn down and stretched thin and generally as though I am about to fall apart.  I read my friend Amanda’s piece, Love, Doubt, and Guilt Dance on the Head of a Pin at exactly the right moment.  Last Wednesday night, to be specific.  I’ve been dropping balls.  I’ve been snappy.  I haven’t been sleeping.  I haven’t been writing.  I feel pretty terrible all around.  I read her piece, particularly these lines:

It’s inevitable that we spend moments pulling ourselves taut; it’s how we grow. Stretching doesn’t make us weaker or put us at risk of breaking, it makes us stronger. We lean into work, surrender ourselves to intimacy, devote time to our kids, these are the ways that we nurture the different parts of who we are and the people we love. It isn’t easy and I don’t think any of it comes without debt or compromise, but each instance of enduring the tautness and learning from it helps us understand the things that we want to hold on to and the ways that we can contribute.

Oh, God, I read this paragraph and started to sob, alone in my office with the rain pelting against the windows and the rapidly-darkening street outside.  Is this tautness, this feeling of holding my very life together with held breath and wobbling scotch tape, helping me grow?  I sure hope so. One thing I don’t feel a smidgen of right now – not even a little bit – is ease.  Not at all.  I feel tired, and wired, and anxious, and sad, and overwhelmed.

I loathe complaining (just ask my children: there are a few surefire ways to set me off and one is complaining). The truth of my feeling not-at-all-good is at war inside my head with my own awareness of my tremendous good fortune.  How can I be whining, when so much is so good?  How is it possible that I can admire the beauty around me – and I do – and still feel like this?  I don’t have answers for that, though I can’t stop thinking of what Leslie Jamison writes on the back of Marilynne Robinson’s exquisite book of essays, The Givenness of Things:

…Robinson’s determination to shed light on … complexities – the solitude that endures inside intimacy, the sorrow that persists beside joy – marks her as one of those rare writers genuinely committed to contradiction as an abiding state of consciousness.

Contradiction as an abiding state of consciousness.  Maybe that’s what this is.  The darkness and light that mark my life are shifting like tectonic plates, creating small earthquakes inside of me.  They are both still there.  Even on days – weeks, months – when the darkness feels all-consuming, when I feel brittle and exhausted and spent, I have to remember that the good exists, flickering like a pilot light.  I need to trust it will return.  And I do.

43 thoughts on “So taut I might snap”

  1. Contradiction as an avoiding state of consciousness… Wow. That hit a tender spot. Sending you love in this season xo

  2. You are not whining. As my 9 year old says, “Sometimes you just feel what you feel, and pushing it down just makes it worse.” Be gentle with yourself;) Beautiful writing as always. xo

  3. Sometimes stating that things are not good is not a complaint, it’s a fact. Be patient with yourself. So much love.

  4. It’s so hard. And you are a person, through your writing at least, that seems to feel things extra hard (I am one of these people, though I think I’ve built up a tremendous callous to it over the years).

    I also think it’s the seasons working against those of us in the Northeast. And heck, I like the cold and Winter. But that one day a few weeks back when it was like 60 degrees and the kids got to go out and ride their bikes? I could feel my spirits soar!

    I hope things improve with work and all for you.

  5. Oh Lindsey – I can relate. I have been in a very weird snappy place. I haven’t written an original post since the beginning of January. And today, I am going to a new job (which kind of fell in my lap), in an OFFICE – for the first time in fifteen years. I too am so taut I might snap!

  6. Oh my, this is a beautiful description of where I am. I pray that you’re right and this taughtness doesn’t mean I’ll snap, but grow. Thank you for the reassurance that it’s ok to feel gratitude and extreme unease at the same time. May you return to a place of comfort soon!

  7. Oh yes, it will return and you will ease yourself back into the new rhythms with gratitude, I’m sure of it. Thank you for sharing this part of your self. You are not alone. Xoxo

  8. I’ve been building to a crescendo of, “I choose.”

    Because one of the things I have done when pulled taut is say yes without thinking, or ok, largely to people who don’t deserve it.

    This swell of awareness that I can steer and I can stop; it is filling in my brittle cracks and making muscle where I thought I was withered.

    You have more within you than you allow yourself to claim. Sending love and a whispered promise that there are people who will catch you and saw away those balls.


  9. Your beautiful and open words came at just the right time for me too. Thank you! So hard to fit it all in, and to do so without questioning if I am focusing my energy correctly. As if there is some perfect balance that is possible to be achieved.

    I’ve often struggled with feelings of dissatisfaction or exhausted or just unhappiness when, looked from a bit of perspective, my life is beautiful. A person I’m working with reframed that in a way that really helps me. All those emotions, they are not to challenging us to appreciate what we have. They are a finger pointing in a direction that is asking for attention. Maybe it is attention that we can give it now, or maybe it has to wait. But observing those feelings and remembering them when we have more space will lead us to the parts of us that want to, are ready to, be healed. So I’m with Amanda on this one. xo

  10. I love the wise comments on your posts almost as much as I love your writing. And I want to echo the “you are not alone in this”, especially right now. I feel like life is a funny combination of the individual and the collective and right now, I know there is high anxiety and stress and bumpiness in the collective.

    Sometimes where we are emotionally is due solely to our choices, our patterns, our darkness coming to light. Sometimes we are picking up on a heaving in the collective unconscious that we then blame ourselves for. And so there’s a gentle and delicate balance of taking it on (personal responsibility) and knowing it’s not all ours to carry (ah – I just have to live through it and take care of myself as best I can).

    I know I’m finding that balance over here right now and so I’m taking some deep breaths with you, in this discomfort, and trusting it will pass.

  11. I so hear this. I’ve been feeling taut and worn, too. And I don’t know what to do except keep going – because I have to. But I am hoping for more ease, soon, for me and for you. xo

  12. Oh yes. I so get this, and live it often.

    “How can I be whining, when so much is so good? How is it possible that I can admire the beauty around me – and I do – and still feel like this?”

    Because, you are human. Because, there is no magical cure. Because, we have the beautiful ability to feel more than one thing at once. Because, it’s not perfect.


  13. This comment brings me to tears. The line between personal responsibility and not carrying everything all the time is one I’m still figuring out. xoxo

  14. Your post today soothed me in some kind of existential way. It was like I could see my own neighborhood – literal AND figurative – with new eyes. Thank you. xo

  15. I am SO there with you right now – it has really been the story of the last 6-8 weeks. I feel like even the things that I like to do and usually find relaxing (yoga, running, etc) are squeezed into the schedule and therefore not relaxing. It feels like there’s no slack. This section perfectly described my existence lately: “I’ve been dropping balls. I’ve been snappy. I haven’t been sleeping. I haven’t been writing. I feel pretty terrible all around.”

    I don’t have any answers yet, so I just wanted to say that I relate! (And I also relate to the part about everything being objectively good overall – so why am I such a stress case?)


  16. I so appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in this post. And this line is exquisite: “the good exists, flickering like a pilot light.” I hope your days grow more light-filled and easier soon.

  17. Oh sweetie. I’m sorry. You are in a hard spot and I echo what Alana and Amanda said. Such wise words: “You have more within you than you allow yourself to claim.”

    I am not sure “ease” is ever easy, if that makes sense. Sometimes effortlessness is only achieved with great effort. Maybe ease is like patience. The more you ask for it, the more we get to practice finding it. And sometimes that is just a bitch of a lesson.


  18. Holding ourselves together. What else can we do? Breathe. Meditate. I don’t know, when it gets to a certain point, if there is much we can do besides get out the tape. “tired, and wired, and anxious, and sad, and overwhelmed.” That is exactly how I feel at the moment. You will look back at this and marvel that you made it through. Beautiful post and quotes and, as always, thank you for sharing. You are such a brave, genuine, lovely person. ????

  19. So sorry that you’re experiencing some hardship and overwhelm. Your brain knows that “this too shall pass”, but it’s never easy to make your heart understand it too. It’s ok to drop balls sometimes. Is there anything you can take off your plate for a little while until you’ll feel better? Take good care of yourself!

  20. I am sorry that you’re in a similar place, though grateful to feel not alone! And I don’t know the answer to that last question, but I sure do wonder about it a lot! xoxox

  21. I am not sure, but I am considering what I can remove from the current plate. Thank you for this kind comment. xox

  22. Talk about reading something at just the right time. This is perfect. I am just coming up for air after completing a commitment that took too much of my time, my energy, my sleep. It was not the right fit for me but also just right. I haven’t written or slept or read the way I need to for months and today is my day to sit still and return to it all. Loved starting my time with your words. And hoping there is a bit more ease for you very soon…

Comments are closed.