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The Caged Bird Sings

My heart is in a vice most days. My shoulders creep toward my ears. I long for the peace of the running brook and the breeze on my face, and instead I am surrounded by the cacophany of YouTube videos and Fortnite and a million questions, dogs barking, and the endless needs of the beings I share my life with. I feel frozen. Paralyzed. Trapped in a prison of my own making. My bones ache with fatigue and inflammation. My brain buzzes with the weight of more input and stimulation in the past week than my ancestors experienced for the past three generations combined. I am drowning in stimuli, internal and external, and I feel like my skin is too small.

Everything grates on me. Textures. Artifical lights. Sounds. Needs. Needs. Needs. So many needs. Needs from strangers through my DMs. Needs from clients. Needs from children. Needs from family. What do I need? I cannot find my needs beneath the precarious and poorly stacked piles of needs towering all around me, threatening to crush me at any moment.

I walk carefully, gingerly, through my days so I don't accidentally set off a landmine inside of me, the pressure building and the lake of fire within me rumbling inaudibly to all but my own inner knowing.

This is the life of a modern person, I tell myself. This is a season. Someday I will miss the chaos. This is the lived experience of parents, caregivers, service providers all over the world. This is what it means to be human today. Why should I expect anything different for myself? Who am I to think I deserve something different? And I know that there are people who are carrying far more burden than I am, so why should I be complaining? This is the world we have collectively agreed to create. But do I truly consent to this?

I am on day 18 of my sabbatical. I mostly just want to sleep, though I don't give myself permission to indulge that desire. There is too much to be done. Too many needs to meet, even now. I revisit my boundaries. Where do I need to draw a new boundary with myself, with those who depend on me? Could it be possible to cultivate a life that I fully consent to? I can't imagine that today, but I continue to ask myself the question.

I reach out to a therapist to make an appointment. They are not accepting new clients. I call another. Then another. The wait list is 6 months for insurance, but I can get you in next week if you pay out of pocket. The wait list is 8 months. We aren't accepting new clients. Are you in crisis? Maybe I'll download a free therapy app on my phone....

Everywhere I look, everyone is just as frazzled as I am. What have we done? What have we created? Why have we chosen this? When did we consent to this? What if I revoked my consent? What would the fallout from that look like?

I continue to recognize deep patterns of oppression that live within my mind. I keep myself imprisoned. Efforts toward freedom are met with crippling anxiety and visceral survival fear. The war is waged within me, and outside of me. When I sit with the plants, they show me how to stay. They show me how to remain supple in the fiercest winds. They show me how to bask in the warmth of the sun, how to be colorful and fragrant, and how to wilt when necessary. They remind me that my roots are intertwined with everything, so of course I will experience what the rest of the world is experiencing. I am not separate.

Plants develop defenses, like thorns and root growth inhibitors like juglone that prevents other plants growing nearby. Plants stay, but they are not without boundaries. What are my thorns? What are my chemical defenses? How can I create space around myself in this wild garden of my life?

This is the next phase of my sabbatical. Along with nourishment and reaching for the deep waters below, where shall I place my thorns? Where does a clearing need to be cut? What winds shall I weather, and what storms are too much to bear? I know that this lifetime is precious and brief and I deeply love this world. I am committed to living as fully and beautifully as possible. Today, I feel like the bird singing behind bars. Some of the bars were given to me by this world, some I have made myself, but truly the door of the cage is ajar. Will I be brave enough to fly through?


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