By Theresa Weiler
It’s hard to find anything I want to say right this particular minute.
For a month or so I’ve felt less of an urge to talk, to write, to make up stories. I’ve felt stymied in improv. I’ve procrastinated on my writing projects.
In an effort to retrace my steps, ideally to a time when I was bursting with words, I have been flipping through my old journals.
I began keeping informal journals—hardcover books filled with to-do lists, teaching notes, and the occasional reflective, stream-of-consciousness rambles—six years ago, soon after I had my fourth and final child. I had a vague but undeniable sense that an era of my life was coming to an end, and I wanted to write my way into the new beginning I was sure would soon arrive.
After all, as far as I remembered, childhood had flowed seamlessly into adolescence. College was a brief hitch, but from there I ran headlong until marriage, then motherhood. I built a career. It wasn’t all high heels and baby booties, but it all felt like growth. It felt like progress. I expected this next stage to feel the same.
My first journal is dated July 2016 to February 2017. I began my most recent journal in October of 2021, and I have barely made a dent in it. Each book covers a longer span of time. The early books are busy, scrawled over, embellished with the doodles of toddlers who found them unattended. The more recent books are full of empty space.
When I purchased the first book, I expected I would be charting the path to something new. Instead, every entry rings with exhaustion, desperation, loss, disturbance. I wrote frantically, trying to pin to the page all that I felt slipping away…my energy, my faith, my joy, my ambition. What is happening to me? I wondered. Where am I disappearing to?
“I am only ever halfway here,” I wrote in 2017, “A third of the way, even. I surface for a bit, then sink again. I have gotten so good at treading water. Like a synchronized swimmer, right? Churning underneath, but the judges only see the smile.”
In 2018, “I wish I could just sink into the present moment and be at peace. My brain and heart skate on the surface, where I slip and slide in every direction, like a water bug.”
Interspersed in the pages are resolutions, ideas for how I might shake the funk off and move gracefully into Whatever’s Next: Morning pages. Morning prayers. A new therapist. A new medication. A new career. Fifteen minutes of yoga, fifteen hundred calories, a five year plan. Nothing ever stuck.
“I have this need to skip to the end. At the slightest sign of tension, I skip to the last chapter. I hate surprises. What am I trying to identify the denouement of now? This, I guess. This scribbling. Am I writing, or am I waiting?”
So much happened in those years. I nursed my last baby and celebrated my first teenager. I concluded my teaching career. I walked with my husband through the loss of a parent. I battled with my child through a series of mental health crises. I ghosted the Church. I separated from friends. I sheltered my family through a pandemic. I never wrote about what was happening, though, only what it felt like.
Like grasping at vapor. Like fighting in a fog. Like abandoning my humanity and becoming an android. Like disappearing into myself.
Once, early in 2019, I wrote about a moment with my daughter. It was an auspicious day, the day she was admitted into residential treatment for the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that had stolen a year of her life.
The intake process for residential treatment is long and tedious. There are a lot of interviews, people to meet, papers to sign, and at the end of it all you say goodbye to your sick child and walk out the door. As scared as I was, my daughter was terrified.
“M climbed into my lap, curled into the fetal position, her whole body shaking as she sobbed, ‘Mom, I’m scared. I’m so scared. This is so scary. How much longer? How much longer? I don’t know what’s going to happen.’
As I held her, feeling how warm and large and soft her body had become, swollen from sadness and medicine and youngest womanhood, feeling her shake, and heave, and sweat against my breast, I remembered another transition….”
M was my second birth, and my labor progressed quickly. Dazed by the speed with which my body was accelerating towards birth, I decided on an epidural but was saddled with an impatient young anesthesiologist. Sitting up on the side of the bed, sweaty and trembling, the doctor trying inexpertly to place the line, I called out, frantic as a frightened child:
The resident was discomfited, or maybe just trying to lighten the room, and he responded by cracking something like, “Geez, it’s starting to sound like a war movie in here!” I was not amused.
“Don’t make fun of my FUCKING religion,” I shouted through my pain and fear. Then, the contraction subsiding, I took a breath and spoke more clearly, “This hurts. It hurts a lot and it’s really really scary. So just BE NICE TO ME.”
That shut him up. He placed the line, I felt relief, and by the time M was born an hour later, I was absolutely blissed out, telling the OB-GYN and nurses how pretty they all were.
In retrospect, of course, I had a name for the blinding pain and intensity that possessed me to call for the Blessed Mother and swear at an anesthesiologist. Those of us who have been there speak of it in hushed tones. Transition.
I thought these last six years would be a new beginning for me, but instead, I think I have been in transition.
Transition hurts. It hurts a lot. And it’s really scary, because you don’t know how long it’s going to take, and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
I think I am through the worst of it, but I can’t be sure. Transition is tricky like that. And I don’t yet know what is coming next. New life, I hope.
If life-transition works the same as birth-transition, it peaks right when you are absolutely sure you cannot endure another breath…but somehow you do. You take another breath, and another, and then another. Time stretches out into infinity, a time where there is no fear, just breath, and the rhythm of your body: a surge of strength, then a release. Another breath, surge, and release.
Then, when you least expect it, breaking like the dawn, tearing through your body, comes power, and transformation, and something shatteringly new.
I am in the timeless space right now. Maybe that’s why I have so little to say. The desperation is over, the fear has passed. There is only breath, and strength, and release.
I don’t know what is going to happen.
Theresa Weiler is a writer, singer, speaker, seeker. She lives in the Detroit suburbs with her husband and four children. Follow Theresa on Twitter @SometimesReese and on Instagram @realtheresaweiler.