“When I think of home,
I think of a place
Where there’s love overflowing.
I wish I was home,
I wish I was back there
With the things
I’ve been knowin’…”
— “The Wiz”
Okay, so maybe I took this whole “holiday” thing a little too far.
I wish I could say that I had a plan—and that the plan was to take a deliberate, scheduled and very strategic time-out from 40 on Fleek—but that would be a lie.
If I’d had a plan, I’d have shared it with you. But alas, this was more burnout than time-out. Actually, it was a “crash-and-burn-out.”
It happened entirely without warning. One day, I was just skipping along through my life, an itinerary full of bookings and dates—so booked, in fact, that I could barely find time to write (but there’d be plenty of time for that during the holiday, right?). I had no complaints, outside of being in demand. I was on a roll, firmly back in the saddle, accumulating stories to tell…
And suddenly, I tanked.
It really couldn’t have happened at a worse time. I was sitting in a lovely restaurant, across the table from a lovely man, having a lovely conversation. It was a perfectly lovely first date (hell, I was fresh off a photo shoot, so I’m pretty sure I even looked lovely).
Too bad I wasn’t really there.
As we enjoyed our wine and several courses of gorgeously prepared food, chatting about our professions and politics and the like, my body was there, but my mind was definitely elsewhere. We traded information and anecdotes, but I was mentally packing my bags for the upcoming holiday, considering whether I had time to visit my new godson the following day and/or fit in a manicure before I departed…or maybe even another date?
Worst of all, I was already crafting my next blog post. What would I nickname this gent? How was I going to spin our dinner conversation into something charming, glib and thoroughly entertaining?
Yeah, I know: Gross.
Somehow, I managed to snatch myself back to the present moment before dinner ended, but unfortunately, not in time to tell you much of what we discussed. Not because he was boring—far from it, in fact. As I recall, he was fascinating, cultured, both very successful and incredibly socially aware, and quite possibly one of the most intelligent men I’ve ever met.
Which is why it was entirely unacceptable and downright disrespectful that I didn’t grant him the full benefit of my focus. He absolutely deserved it—which is to say nothing of the disservice I had done myself.
Thankfully, he didn’t seem to hold it against me, and even suggested that we meet again, post-Thanksgiving (and I hope we will). But that night, as we parted ways and I slowly walked home through my brain fog, I was full of self-recrimination, wracking my brain for an answer.
What the hell is wrong with me???
Because this wasn’t what I signed up for, was it? This wasn’t the plan when I decided to grant this (almost) all-access pass into my dating life. No, I was supposed to go in search of romance, and invited you all along for the ride because I was too much of a punk to go it alone.
But suddenly, the ride had taken over, and taken off…and I couldn’t keep up anymore.
I reflected on the previous four months of dates…mostly solely first dates, now well into the dozens. With the exception of a handful of men (who know who they are), it was a blur—of faces, experiences, assorted facts, endless drinks. Hell, I’d have to consult my own damned blog to tell me where I’d been, because it was beginning to feel as if it had all happened to someone else.
Even now, as I write, I’m painfully aware of a certain journalistic detachment—the kind of detachment that may ensure endless entertaining stories to come, but likely never a happy ending. And that wasn’t the plan. That isn’t the plan.
So…what is the plan?
At that moment, I hadn’t the slightest idea. I’d prided myself on having no set destination in this journey; but all at once, I was exhausted by the effort—exhausted, and incredibly anxious. If you know me personally, you know that these are generally signs of an impending implosion.
By the next morning, I was in a full-blown panic. I roamed the rooms of my apartment, getting nothing much done except stoking my own angst; bags half-packed, unsure of whether I should run home to my mother or attempt a staycation to try and “adult” it out (you know, because I was already doing so well at that).
I’m still not sure how I got packed, but with some coaxing from Mom, I managed to get on the plane. As we crossed Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline came into view, I knew that as usual, Mother had known best.
I muddled my way through the social graces of a big and boisterous Thanksgiving family dinner; but unfortunately, my anxiety wouldn’t even allow me to keep it down (I know—what a waste). Was I sick? Not physically, perhaps—but something was definitely terribly wrong.
While Black Friday protests marched down Michigan Avenue, mere blocks from my mother’s apartment, I crawled into bed, taking refuge under the covers for the next day or two, mindlessly watching TV and aimlessly skimming social media, unsure of exactly what was ailing me, besides my own seeming inability to function, and the drama continuing to unfold in my hometown.
Then, in an attempt to connect with something more meaningful than my own discomfort, I stumbled upon a post on DreamDefenders.org (http://www.dreamdefenders.org/smblackoutstatement). It was an explanation for their recent multi-month break from social media, and one passage in particular caught my attention:
“…we couldn’t shake the fact that our neurosis was somehow enabled by our addiction to “follows” and “likes.” The symptoms were evident: The cynicism, the searching, the scrolling, the beat of our thumbs against our devices, soon soured our vision and even influenced our strategy. We were obsessed with doing the “biggest,” “most shared” thing and, subconsciously, we led ourselves into a war against ourselves…”
Ahh yes, I knew that feeling all too well. The desire for approval; listening for the laugh track even as I crafted the words…
As I felt the empathy wash over me, so did a realization: despite having no set destination, I’ve been running this project like a sprint, when it has long since revealed itself to be a marathon. With no foreseeable finish line yet in sight, it’s no wonder that I’ve lost focus, and run myself entirely ragged. It was inevitable.
So, what’s the plan now? Well, I won’t be abandoning 40 on Fleek—or my dating life—so, no worries there. But since I’ve taken a week (or more) to sleep, breathe, detox, and regain some focus, now what?
Well, I’m out of bed and back on my feet, and even back on the run (though I’m sticking to the treadmill, for now). But if I’m going to continue on this course—hopefully, with you still cheering me on—I’m going to have to pace myself a bit better.
Because as entertaining as this journey might be—as many characters, scenarios and whirlwind romances might ensue—this is still my life. And long after these tales have ceased to interest anyone but me, I’m going to have to live with the consequences.
Ultimately, I hope this journey will lead me to love. But the first step is self-care. Because, as the incomparable Michael Jackson once sang:
“You can’t win,
you get over your head
And you only have
yourself to blame
You can’t win Chile,
You ain’t break even
And you can’t
get out of the game…”
Fun fact: “The Wiz” debuted on Broadway the same year I made my debut into the world. At age three, I sat enthralled in the darkness, as it debuted on the big screen. By age twelve, I would begin enthralling audiences of my own, performing the role of Dorothy and embarking on what would become a long and passionate love affair with the stage.
As I sat watching “The Wiz Live” on NBC—my mom at my side—I was reminded of all of these moments, as well as what it really means to be home (or, whatever “home” might mean to you). Sure, it’s a place of comfort (and ideally, always a soft place to fall). But it’s also a grounding cord; a constant reminder of who we’ve been, where we come from, and who we’re becoming.
In my case, it’s also helping me focus on where I’m going.
“And just maybe I can
convince time to slow up,
Giving me enough time
in my life to grow up.
Time be my friend,
Let me start again…”