Gently, I pushed open my daughter’s bedroom door. As usual, she sat cross-legged on her bed, computer in lap, either virtual schooling or scrolling through Pinterest. Impossible to tell these days.
“I’m going to lay in my room with my feet on the ceiling,” I announced, “and then stare at them.” She raised an eyebrow, as though to ask whether I was kidding or serious, because, you know, it’s impossible to tell these days.
“You can do that in here if you want,” she offered, patting the bed. Crawling onto her fluffy black and white comforter, I rolled over onto my back somewhere between the Eiffel Tower and the word Love and placed my socked feet on her slanted ceiling.
She watched me, and typed either “amylose” into her science essay or pinned fan art from Be More Chill – impossible to tell these days, then looked up from her keyboard. “You know, I never do that.”
“How can you NOT put your feet on the ceiling?” I asked – because these are the really important conversations that mothers have with their teenage daughters.
Honestly, I don’t remember her answer, maybe she didn’t answer. Maybe the question landed in that famed rhetorical space – because, even I will admit, resisting ceiling foot resting is not one of the really important conversations a mother has with her teenage daughter.
But sometimes it’s not the conversation that matters. It’s the moment. And in the moment my daughter invited me into her room to be more chill, something stuck inside loosened.
We talked. We talked about being in this strange place – in a foreign country, but stranded in a house, in school, but not in school, ready to move forward but with nowhere to go, because once again, we are in a pandemic lockdown. We talked about writing. We talked about feeling stuck, and how being physically stuck can translate into being emotionally stuck or intellectually stuck, or visa versa and inside-out until stuckness became a Venn diagram with a million overlapping circles, the word STUCK bold in the shaded center.
It made me wonder – what would happen if I cracked just one of those circles. Could the others shift? I hadn’t written in months. I couldn’t seem to dig beneath the dirty dishes, wrinkled laundry, struggling children or my own ragged heart to find a thought worth sharing.
“Mom, you need to find something,” she said. I stared at my feet on her ceiling. Whatever it was, I concluded, this ‘something’ wasn’t hiding on her ceiling or written across my socks.
I kissed her cheek, excused myself, and sat at my desk.
Maybe I couldn’t find a thought to write, but surely, that could be something to write about.
Writer’s Block Wind rattles words against an empty door jamb a threshold that is neither entirely closed nor open. The past grips the frame with knuckles whitened. Hoarsely the future calls shunned so long it’s nearly silent. Wind rattles words against an empty door jamb aged ambitions little more than dusty footprints echoing down a hall long forgotten. Trembling fingers rub temples that once housed aspirations worthy of worship. She reaches for a pen certain that these particular words are desperate and deserving of more than rattling against an empty door jamb. Vines of Perceptions intertwined with Truth beat within her chest. Untold stories woven trapped in chambers that are neither entirely closed nor open. All she must do is find the courage to share them.
Since that day, the circles of stuck have gotten a little weaker, pulled a little farther apart, the overlapping center shrinking, a Venn diagram dismantling.
I imagine this drastic “stuckness” is a phase, one that we all struggle with at various stages of our lives. Some people are mired in it now, as you read this, with pandemic restrictions tightening throughout Europe. Others are not, with the hope of a vaccine coursing through their veins. Mask’s on, social distancing, trapped in our homes, who’s struggling, who’s not – impossible to tell these days.
But if this might be you, if ‘stuck’ is dominating your bold, shaded center, perhaps the sage advice of my daughter will help you the way it helped me.
“If you want to move forward,” she would say, “It’s time to take your feet off the ceiling.”