What’s Your Poison?

I was thinking today about a fundraiser my husband, daughter, and I attended a little over a year ago for our local museum. We dressed according to the theme and enjoyed free food and drink. I had every intention of being on my best professional behavior — after all, I had been hired as a speaker for the museum not that long before the event. But when we got there, the appetizers and cocktails were so tasty and the band so engaging, I found myself letting go. My daughter, of course, egged me on. We had a few silly moments on the dance floor I still enjoy remembering. I didn’t go all-out crazy that night (I’m still a professional at heart), but it was a perfect night to blow off steam. To get out of my head and into my soul and body.

Maybe I’m thinking about that evening because here in Colorado we’re back at Level Red due to a spike in our positive COVID-19 cases. There were no in-person fundraisers this fall, and now there will be no holiday parties. My friend has cancelled her annual holiday brunch, the only time of year I reconnect with many of those women. Our extended family is not flying out here to celebrate Christmas with us. We’ve all been asked to stay home as much as possible.

Without the distractions of other people, I’ve noticed lately I’m growing weary of my own company. It’s true my husband is here 24/7, but he’s busy working remotely. Much of the day, I’m keeping company with myself, going over every thought, treating every tiny decision as if it’s vitally important, attempting to distract myself from this constant state of underlying boredom, trying not to judge myself for all of the above.

This is nothing new, I’ve always been this way, too much in my head. But before the pandemic, I could lose myself now and then in visiting with people or leaning into an experience. Now I can’t run away from me. There’s nowhere to run.

There’s a scene in The Count of Monte Cristo where the Count describes the theory of slowly poisoning yourself a bit each day to develop a tolerance for the poison so it can no longer kill you. I used to think one of the worst existences I could imagine was one in which I was stuck at home most of the time, away from people, unable to travel, unable to experience in-person art, unable to chat with strangers. Now I’m living it day by day.

But I’m discovering that what once seemed intolerable, is more than survivable. These past few months have shown us all that in loss there is still love. There are memories that sustain us and hopes that drive us and reservoirs of strength within us we had not previously tapped. If I can’t look for distractions outside of myself, I can learn to corral my scattered thoughts and worries through meditation or journaling or even writing this blog. I can learn to sit with my emotions when they arise rather than hiding from them. I can learn to have more patience with myself.

What’s your poison? That thing you once thought you might not survive? Have you ever been forced to build a tolerance for that very thing? If not, maybe it’s time to start taking your daily dose. Remember the words of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

If you like this post, please share and credit Teresa R. Funke and “Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life” blog

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