…Why does it feel more disheartening to be thought of as old (or not young) than it is to be thought of as fat or not very intelligent?
I’ve been starting each day with the last few lines of the day before in order to give this project some continuity but most days it doesn’t work because my brain has moved on to the next thing. At least for now. I circle round and round the same obsessions so it stands to reason over 30 days I’ll trace and retrace the same emotional circles. I think every artist has an obsession or two in their work though they never might articulate it as such. What’s hard is exploring those obsessions in one’s art practice without starting from square one with those emotional things in one’s actual life. I think I’ve moved forward from a lot of the things I write about, but there’s still more to mine there. So am I stuck, or am I just thorough?
Yesterday I fell too deep into myself, which happens sometimes. I probably should’ve expected that after a week of being social, being out of my regular routine, that I would introvert hardcore. And that’s good if there’s some sort of movement going on—I’m going to lunch (or in the case of yesterday, I should have gone to church), or I’m walking up and down my apartment thinking and doing bits and pieces of the things I want to get done. It’s meditative and I can usually push myself forward over some hurdle—emotional, spiritual, professional—by at least a centimeter. But every once in a while I choose instead to spend the day on the couch, which starts out okay but ends with me way deep inside my head feeling heavy with stuck-ness, with emotional inertia, which is the perfect stage for all of my insecurities to flounce across, preening and parading, and sticking their dumb selves in my face. Which is not to say I shouldn’t sit on the couch ever and let myself just watch TV and dream, but there are certain times when I’m tiptoeing around an ice rink of depression that it’s just better for me not to linger there. And I think I always know when I’m at that place, but I don’t always listen to myself. Yesterday I pretty much talked myself out of going to church, which was stupid cause clearly the me that actually knows how to take care of myself (she lives quietly somewhere in the center of my gut and passes her days knitting and daydreaming and sending secret mind messages to Josh Groban and Michael Fassbender) was trying to force me into having some human contact so I wouldn’t spiral down.
I did finally fight my way out of it and by the time I went to bed last night I no longer believed I’d never get to a healthy weight at which I was comfortable, that I would die alone without friends, that I hadn’t ever done a damned thing that mattered, or that I was—when you added up my sum total—merely an insignificant, depressive speck. I don’t expect that I will ever stop having depressive episodes. The same brain that works itself into a let’s-go-jump-off-a-cliff-so-the-negative-chatter-will-stop frenzy is also the same brain that fills me with empathy and love and the courage to keep that damned pen moving across that damned blank page. In other words, I think part of my depression comes from letting too much in, but it’s all that stuff that comes in that gets filtered into poetry. So I’m not sure I exactly want to fix my brain.*
What I do want, and what I actually have gained through lots of thinking and lots of practice over time, is perspective. As much as I was weighted down with darkness yesterday, I knew from experience, that just doing one little thing different would put me back in balance. So I forced myself to take a shower and changed into fresh pajamas and washed the dishes. And at first it felt a little like slogging through molasses but little by little I felt my regular rhythm start to come back. I have the perspective now to know that even though I can sometimes feel emotionally squashed, squished, and outright pulverized, I just have to grit my teeth through it cause it’s not forever. I think that’s an important life thing to realize—nothing’s forever. Which we often think of as being a sad fact, cause we tend to think only of good things ending. But I’m going to be blatantly Pollyanna and say it also means bad things end, and good things get even better or just change into a different version of a good thing. Nothing’s ever in stasis, is it? No matter how stuck we feel. Hmmm, so maybe that’s the only thing we can count on as being true forever? Everything changes eventually.
To be continued…
*PS Don’t freak out people, I am going back to therapy soon and have two bonafide recs from my doctor.
In the seven days since I last posted, I’ve thought about a lot of things to write. Ultimately, however, I couldn’t get myself to write them out loud because a lot of what I was thinking felt too much like crying over milk that was spilled decades and decades ago. So I decided to just keep silent in the blog, though I have continued to do my morning journaling every day.
I don’t know what to write now—I’m so tired from an unexpectedly long day that included travelling to downtown DC for the first time since surgery—but I feel like if I don’t write something today, then it’ll be December and I’ll have wretchedly few days checked off on the calendar on which I’m tracking the days I’ve blogged.
I think maybe I’ll just leave you with this photo I took yesterday. What I love about it is how much personality the tulip has. I haven’t quite made up my mind if it’s leaning its head on the wall’s shoulder cause it’s lonely or tired or melancholy. Or maybe it just feels like flirting with the wall. Whatever it’s feeling, this image reads to me like everything I’d want to say in a poem if only this weren’t one of those days when words simply cost too much.
More bad family news tonight so I’m just holding onto the belief—the fact—that God never gives us more than we can bear, and also whatever comes to us—good or bad—is meant for us.
I’m also holding on to this quote from A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” It’s part of a longer quote that you can read here.
Tonight I mostly want to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s starting following my blog recently and to everyone who’s stuck with me as my blogging has waxed and waned. I don’t have much to talk about today; it’s been a day of mostly transcription so someone else’s voice is currently buzzing in my head. But I do want to share with you a double quote—May Sarton quoting Carl Jung—which stuck with me when I read it this morning. It’s about suffering, not with a capital “S” but the ordinary sorrows that give life their texture. Sarton and Jung believe, and I agree, that suffering is necessary to growth. And by choosing to avoid suffering, or as we do in many cases, choosing to not acknowledge our suffering by squashing it deep down inside through opiates (both dangerous and benevolent) or sheer will power, actually arrests our growth and keeps us from walking fully as the people God has made us to be. But Mmle. Sarton and Messr. Jung say it much better than I do:
“We fear disturbance, change, fear to bring to light and to talk about what is painful. Suffering often feels like failure, but is actually the door into growth. And growth does not cease to be painful at any age. Jung says, ‘The possession of complexes does not in itself signify neurosis, for complexes are the normal foci of psychic happenings, and the fact that they are painful is no proof of pathological disturbance. Suffering is not an illness; it is the normal counterpole to happiness. A complex becomes pathological only when we think we have not got it.'” — May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude