Week 40: Feathers


The last time I wrote to you all, I said I missed posting a week because my computer broke and I was busy entertaining visitors. Would you believe me if I told you the exact same thing happened again?

Well, it did.

Two weeks after I paid Apple more than half my rent to fix a few things on my computer, it had the exact same problems and I returned to the store. Good news is that I didn’t have to pay again, but the bad news is that they replaced my hard drive and I lost piles and piles of writing.* When the Apple clerk delivered the news, a four-letter word not safe for children’s ears boomed from my mouth. “Yeah, that’s the appropriate reaction,” he said.

I rode my bike to work, and on the way home from the Apple Store, I cut across Lincoln Park to hop on to the Lake Shore Path. While in my head trying to recount what I had lost and how I would recover it, I turned to my right. What I saw is the picture above this post. The evening breeze hit my face and reminded me to breathe.

My computer crash is another bead in a string of recent bad news, and losing a bunch of writing is actually the best of it. Over the last few weeks, I have thought about drinking, how I could just have a couple and forget for a second that something didn’t go my way. I could justify it, I know, and maybe try sobriety another time. But then the urge vanished and I was looking at the problem in front of me. I can either let frustration, disappointment, and unfairness consume me, or I can accept it and start working through the matter.

Sobriety, and personal growth, have given me a clarity I hadn’t had before. Typically, in situations like my computer, I wouldn’t initially be upset, but the more I’d think about it—ruminating how others may react to it, what’s at stake, calculating what kind of sympathy (attention) I could garner—I worked myself into a panic. I saw myself as a victim of life’s everyday ups and downs, and the only solution I could come up with was becoming perfect enough where nothing bad ever happens to me.

When I don’t reach fit level 10, I notice how I am really feeling. Staring up at the skyline and biking through the park, I realized that it’s just writing. My writing has become such a source of stress and panic lately that I have really enjoyed the times when my computer was broken, meaning I didn’t have to write because I read somewhere in a book I am supposed to write every day.

Back at home, locking up my bike, I thought about my empty computer and all the words I wrote that are somewhere in an electronic disposal bin. In my bag, as I shuffled for my keys, I found two feathers. My mom and I had collected them on the beach two days ago. I have this image of her, so sweetly watching this feather and bending down to pick it up. She missed it as the waves knocked it back and forth, but I was able to get it for her. She told me that feathers mean someone from above is looking down on you. I love this memory of my mom, and I hope it stays with me for years and years. I also love that this is what I thought about when I ended my day, not my dead hard drive or anything else stressing me out.

That image makes me believe in how all the pluses and minuses of life work together to teach us things, to bring us together. Matching the littlest joys to great devastations, I can see what matters most. I will take a split second image of my mother on the beach and two feathers or pages and pages of writing any day.

*Thankfully, a few weeks ago I got a whim to send a PDF copy of the fiction book I wrote to a friend. That PDF is still in email and so I at least have that. 

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