Wading through quicksand

“Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.” – High Fidelity, Nick Hornby

As a result of a bizarre trend in cinema during my formative years, I spent a lot of my childhood worrying about quicksand. How would I spot it? What would I do if I became stuck in it? What if others I’m with are stuck too? A quick Google informs me that death via quicksand is decidedly rare, and I’m – thankfully – yet to face-off this fear in a literal sense.

But I’m starting to think the warning over the perils of quicksand may have proven allegorical. Just as Rob in High Fidelity has his remaining soul kept by the exit, next to the blues, my soul is out of reach whilst the rest of me is wading through the quicksand. Futilely grabbing at life-vines which snap before assisting any rescue.

I think I’ve lost my hope, and I’m not sure when I last had it so I can’t really retrace my steps to find it.

There’s enough reason for this boggy feeling to have arisen – not that anyone should have to feel like they must reason or rationalise their feelings for them to be valid. It’s more that, in this instance, I could see things were getting denser, the dumptrucks of life dropping off piles of sand at increasing shortening intervals but I thought I was okay. Things were ‘manageable’. This is all temporary. This too shall pass.

But now I’m in panic mode as things have bypassed my capacity levels. I no longer feel that my head is above water and breathing feels a little patchy.

Ironically, for someone who never learnt to swim, I’m pretty good at that ‘just keep swimming thing’. Dory would be proud. My work, personal and general life has thrown enough at me to test my personal buoyancy. Yet, as I’ve hit a 100% likelihood rate of answering ‘existing’ to every single variant of the ‘How’s things? You okay? How are you?’ question format I wonder if it I’ve just become numb.

Because right now I feel like a lobster without it’s shell, red raw and so vulnerable to the point of defensive – more likely to attack out of self-perseveration rather than risk another hit landing. There’s no doubt this is the by-product of burnout, of having utilised my supply of bounce-back and now the energy packs need charging.

And thus, I’m wading in the quicksand, too tired to pull myself out.

Which, as far as I can work out, leaves me with two options.

One, I keep hoping for a Fairy Godmother to arrive and lift me out of it. Not the best solution as the existence of Fairy Godmother’s is, as far as I’m aware, unfounded and unconfirmed. I’d be waiting a long old while. And, knowing my luck, the Fairy Godmother from Shrek 2 will arrive and just wreck more havoc.

Then there’s the other option. The advice for what to do when stuck in quicksand might be the key here: lean back so that the weight of your body is distributed over a wider area. Moving won’t cause you to sink. In fact, slow back-and-forth movements can actually let water into the cavity around a trapped limb, loosening the quicksand’s hold. Getting out will take a while, though.

Maybe Dory was sort of onto something with her sagely wisdom. Maybe keeping swimming is the answer, but I need to abandon those big old’ movements. Maybe I need to keep moving, slowly, a little at a time – celebrating the progress, not lamenting the time it takes.

Because, apparently, ‘getting out will take a while, though.’


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