Living the Post-Apocalyptic

“If we jump back two or three years,” I told my therapist, “there was so much I was afraid of losing. But after all the changes last year, there’s nothing to be scared of anymore. The apocalypse already happened.”

“Well,” she said. “You’re a science fiction [sic] writer. What do you do, in a post-apocalyptic world?”

I thought. “You rebuild.”

“The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum,” by John Martin (1822). http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00793

This has been an ongoing theme for the better part of a year. Chapters closing, change, regeneration, rebirth. Maybe it’s silly, but I thought the intense period of transition was pretty much done.

After all, I changed jobs, I changed apartments, I changed a lot of relationships. What else was left?

I forgot about rebuilding.

#

So I left my therapist’s office thinking about living in the post-apocalypse. Maybe that sounds dire, but I think it’s actually quite apt.

What is an apocalypse, anyway?

Etymologically speaking, it’s a revelation (as in, “The Book of…”). The word apocalypse derives from the Greek apokaluptein, or “uncover.” In that sense, I suppose, it’s a cutting to the truth of things, a stripping away of the false and outmoded to some insight underneath.

More generally, it’s a passing of an age—the cessation of a certain way of life. Apocalypse might be the twilight of the gods or the elves sailing into the west, and it’s also a lot of very big life changes hitting very close together.

So—what do you do, in a post-apocalyptic world?

“Rain, Steam, and Speed – the Great Western Railway,” by J.M.W. Turner (1844).

You rebuild.

I forgot about (or failed to acknowledge) the work that comes after change.

See, here’s the thing. Let’s say you go through A Time. And you survive. Because of course you do—you’re tougher and more resilient than you know.

“Well!” you say. “That sucked, but it’s over. Things will get easy now.”

Except you need to rebuild, and rebuilding is still transition. Imagine everything at equilibrium—the old world, the caterpillar. Then comes dissolution and discomfort—an asteroid, the darkness of the cocoon.

Equilibrium doesn’t return immediately after that. There’s carving out a new homestead from the rubble; there’s the vulnerable butterfly drying its wings before it can fly.

And that’s okay, that’s all part of the process. It just means it takes longer than you think to reach a “new normal.” There’s a descent and then an ascent. The pause when the dust settles isn’t the end; it’s a beginning.

#

But I was a little surprised to hear my own words.

There’s nothing to be scared of, anymore.

#

What can you do, when you’re no longer scared?

Post-apocalypse is also post-revelation, post-insight, post-truth. Last year, I learned so, so much. As I’ve said elsewhere, I feel like I’ve spent the last eight years becoming. Now that I’m this person, what next?

How do you live a post-apocalyptic life?

#

I’m still chewing all this over, obviously. But in the short term, it’s been a good reminder to be more patient with myself—even as I feel like I’m underachieving in a lot of ways. But maybe I’ve applied too narrow a scope to “achievement.”

Surviving is tough. It takes a lot of energy.

But there’s nothing to be scared of, anymore. There’s only rebuilding. There’s only the work.

And if the former things are passed away—if we’re making all things new—then why not build the most beautiful and the best that you can?

“Sower of the Systems,” George Frederic Watts (1902). Watts Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sower-of-the-systems-13347

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

We keep it honest here. This week is “Ashes” from Deadpool 2. Yep. That Deadpool. Like most people in the comment section, I listened to it expecting a quick chuckle…but it’s actually really good?

Plus, the whole refrain of “let beauty come out of ashes” resonates right now for obvious reasons.

Posted on May 13, 2019, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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