There comes a time when each and every one of us realizes that we’re good at something.
Kicking a ball.
Shopping the clearance rack.
But oftentimes we lose sight of said abilities — let them smolder on the proverbial back-burner until our internal smoke alarm goes off, reminding us that there’s more out there than what’s right in front of us.
Or our government shuts down, leaving us — and the world — to wonder what in the fuck is wrong with our country.
I’m zhoozhing my sleeves and adjusting my orange cardigan — my fashion-inspired homage to the beginning of October — as Rachel Maddow details how the Republicans are driving the country off a cliff.
And not in the tragically poetic Thelma & Louise kind of way. There’s no clasping of hands; no longing looks. Just fiery carnage.
I think of my friends and family who work for the government and wonder what exactly they’re doing.
How long this will last.
And what the end result will be.
But amid all of this nonsense, the days have to go on; we have to keep forging ahead. And somewhere in the chaos we more fully recognize the little blips of happiness for what they are, because it’s often not until we’re hitting something — a wall, a low — that we understand how flexible and pliable our flesh, our minds really are.
Each of us has Gumbyesque abilities — we adapt, we tweak things; we make something palatable out of scraps, mix in ambition, and mend our fractured selves into a different, yet more complete whole.
I know that the ripples of this national embarrassment will reach into each of our lives and pull and pinch and stretch us professionally. And try as we might to deny it, we know it’ll also hit home.
Which is why it’s important to remember the things we’re good at. Our fallback plans — our Hail Mary passes.
I know what you’re thinking.
Did Matt just make a sports analogy?
Now, I’ll be the first to admit how hard it is to bounce back from the lows.
I mean, look at me. I’ve been in a writing rut lately. I’m exhausted. I feel uninspired. I’m trying to figure out how to be better at my job. We’re about to move again. It’s all nuts and scary and tiring.
But every now and then — when my woe-is-me violin quiets enough — I recall past rough patches. The whole unknown of it all.
And remember the tenuous, yet joyful ambiguity it brings with it. There’s so much promise in that murky pool of emotional goo.
Fewer people look at you like you’re a nut if you talk about starting over.
Shades of your past creative selves start turning on their Dickens charm, leaving the dusty chains at home.
And you start remembering those things on the back-burner.
You acknowledge that, while you may not be good at everything, you’re good at more than a few things.
Hell, as I’m re-building my professional life from the crumbly ruins of neglected degrees past, I’m realizing this whole professional 180 degree business is hard. I’m making a lot of mistakes. Running to the bathroom every now and then to catch my breath. (And not because someone in my office ate bad chile con carne.)
The uncertainty — the challenge — is scaring the shit out of me. But in all of the mental chatter — the What in the hell are you doing? Did you really think that would work? — I glean a few shimmering bits, like pearls in an oil-slicked sea.
I embrace the positive. And I own it.
I balance the scales — tell myself that, sure, I may still be learning about XYZ; but I sure as hell can talk to people. Now, that’s not necessarily a ringing endorsement. But it’s something.
Especially when I realize that that southern-inspired quality, which I never really paid much mind to, is quite a boon when you have to talk to a lot of people every single day — or suddenly give a speech to a crowd full of strangers.
So, there you have it — at least I don’t have to worry about being the office weirdo who just breathes heavily and sweats when you talk to them.
Sure, each of us may be feeling a bit tipsy-turdy — that all this government cray cray is making us want to drink, upsetting our stomachs. But also remember this: While you or I may not necessarily be able to hit a home run every single day — be that Renaissance Person everyone looks up to — we bring more than one thing to our respective tables. (And apparently more than one sports analogy.)
Even if it’s not fully set, or has a little dry rot.
Because all we can do is bring appetites for better, nourishing days.
And sturdier legs to lean on.