Archive for the ‘Dark Phase’ Category

I have never been good at counting my blessings; I’m far too negative for that. Those chipper, upbeat people on my Facebook feed (how did I even get these friends?) are constantly posting positive, life-affirming sayings, and it takes a great deal of will power on my part to not refute each and every one as oversimplifying, sugar coating or self-aggrandizing the true nature of our existence. Luckily I was taught not to say anything if I have nothing nice to say and so I remain, to most people, very quiet.

However, I sometimes feel the need to take a life inventory of sorts, just to remind myself how none of this makes any sense, but here I am and no matter what, it could always be worse.

Here then, in my most positively pessimistic perspective, is my list of miseries and how it could be worse:

1.) I make music that absolutely no one wants to hear. It’s my passion, my heart and soul, but apparently my heart and soul is lacking, boring, potentially dated and out of tune (do not tell me it’s because I’m a downer , not while The Cure and Morrissey are still touring).

It could be worse. I could be loaded with talent and still just as obscure and nowhere, like many of my truly gifted friends.

2.) My house is an absolute pig-sty having just spent the last week and a half enjoying a visit from a friend and her children and making little effort to contain the chaos.

It could be worse. I could have high expectations of my housekeeping abilities and spend the next week stressed out while working towards a presentable home. Instead I will take this opportunity to continue to enjoy the summer and host many more social engagements, knowing I won’t have to clean up much afterwards to maintain status quo. All the while I will not worry that my friends are secretly judging my messy home and deciding my best efforts are not good enough; I made no effort. Perfect!

There is the added bonus of boosting my friends’ confidence in their own housekeeping standards. Once they leave my place they will have a bright new perspective on how nice their homes truly are. I am a good friend!

3.) I’m turning 46 in a few weeks. How did that even happen? I was 27 just a minute ago and now here I am starting the 4 year countdown to 50. What have I even done with my life? Do I really need to go any further with the physical aging process? Because I know how it ends and I don’t like it. And . . .and . . .reading glasses!

 It could be worse. I could still be living with the youthful optimism that it will all work out without any effort on my part. That was a big lesson I learned only in the past 6 or 7 years: if there is such a thing as fate, you have to get her number and harass her regularly to get her to work for you. Or you can just do the work yourself (easier).

 Also gone is the underlying anxiety of where my life might take me because I finally know:  it’s taken me right here, a messy home with a couple of kids who, I hope, are enjoying summer break with their mom, a woman who isn’t stressing over things that don’t matter that much.

 Without being too optimistic, I’d like to say I am okay with where I am right now (although being at Comic Con this weekend would be good too).  There’s still some road ahead with potential twists and turns, but I think I’m better at navigating it than I was in my youth. Or not.

I certainly don’t see myself embracing the bright side of things anytime soon, so I’ll stick with counting my miseries and my life long philosophy. . .Could have been worse

I’ve been meaning to write.

I’ve been meaning to write about pain and loss and grief and the importance of finding small joys.  I’ve been meaning to write about uncertainty and inevitability, the uncomfortable position of navigating a friend’s mourning process in hopes of offering solace and support, and the even more difficult conversations you have with people for whom hope is not an option, but neither is defeat.

I’ve been meaning to write about my own anxiety and the endless one-note symphony of my creative failure.   I’ve been meaning to write about the hard, dull thud in one’s soul when, just for a moment, you catch of glimpse of your place in the universe.   I’ve been meaning to write about fear – fear of having traveled the wrong path for too long, the fear of aging and the unspoken powers of youth.    I’ve been meaning to write about the inequities of physical beauty, and raw, tangible talent versus much-practiced, lesser abilities.

But when I sit down to arrange any of this in a reasonable, logical fashion I get stuck on how unreasonable and illogical it all is.  And I feel helpless.  I cannot give myself the attributes I do not possess and I cannot change the circumstances of those I see around me.   And really, they aren’t in the same realm are they?  Absolute loss and misguided expectations are two different aspects of the hard parts of life.

And so I haven’t written at all because I don’t know what to say.

I tell myself to keep seeking out the small joys – dancing in the living room with my kids, singing in the car, enjoying that first cup of coffee in the morning.  I tell myself that as long as I’m alive and healthy with a roof over my head I can still work out the feelings of inadequacy and failure.  I tell myself that the time to save face and hold back is over.  There’s nothing to save; let people look and laugh or look and admire or ignore it all.  But there really is nothing to be saved for later.

Give it all now.  Give it all you’ve got.

small joys

Letting Go

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Dark Phase, images, motherhood
Tags: , ,

I am teaching my children time travel.  It works like this:

Wherever you are right now – pay attention.  Close your eyes.   Notice how your feet feel on the floor; move them around a little to get the full texture.  Listen to the sound your feet are making as they move.  What other parts of your body are touching your surroundings?  Move ever so slightly to take in the sensation.

Listen. What do you hear?  The whoosh of cars going by?  Dishes clinked together while being washed?  Someone typing on a computer?  Music playing on the stereo?

Now take a deep breath.  The air doesn’t just carry the scent of your surroundings; it has a quality to it. It might be heavy with humidity, or thin and cold. But also pay attention to the smell.  Scents are evocative; they can be powerful triggers of memory.

Finally look around and look closely.  See the whole area from the large objects to one or two tiny details you may have never noticed.  And really look at those details.  If you look long enough it will be like seeing something for the first time because perhaps it is.

When you’ve captured your surroundings like this, in a mindful way, tell yourself you’re saving this for later.  I can’t guarantee that everything you save will still be there, but you will find some of it again years from now.  And when you find it, for a second you will be back in that space.   And maybe, depending on how much time has elapsed between the initial imprint and the playback, that place won’t really exist anywhere but in your memory.  And it will feel like time travel.

I tell this to my children but I’m not sure they fully understand.  When you’re a child it can feel like your world is a rock, solid and unmovable.  But as an adult you come to realize how quickly things can change.  Something that seemed certain on one day is already gone the next  and then you need to learn to let go of it.  But if you weren’t really paying attention in the first place  you can get all messed up.  You start making substitutions for what it is you thought you had.  You imagine it bigger or smaller or more or less important than it actually was.  You start having feelings for it that you didn’t have at the time.

And so it’s good to take a moment, wherever you are, to really look around to see what is it you have right now.  Later, when it’s gone, you can visit with it as it really was, or at least as close to what you perceived it to be,  and you can be there again just for a moment before you let it go.

memory board

Disappointment (who perhaps looks a little like Mr. Howell from Gilligan’s Island)

One of the hardest things to do is to sit with your own disappointment; sit quietly with it in a room, no running or reaching for the phone to call for help, no opening a bottle of something to drown it. Disappointment can be huge, and yet still drowns neatly in a small bottle of the right stuff. Funny how that works. The challenge is to just sit with it, look it in its colorless eyes and wait until it gets bored. Eventually it shrugs and says “what did you expect?” before it finally lopes off to some other non-event.

But I can’t do it. I can’t wait out disappointment like that. If it looks like disappointment is on the way, anyone’s disappointment, I will be the first to cast an anxious eye to the horizon and scream, “Distract, distract, distract!” And  it must have been that time when I could not distract myself from looming disappointment, that I discovered the power of failure.

Failure can be a beautiful thing. It builds no expectations, and with no expectations there can be no disappointment. The twisted twin of: “Do or do not. There is no try,” there is only “try” in my power of failure. And I try everything – film making, sword fighting, singing in front of an audience, creative writing groups, so many endeavors that make others pause and worry, “What if I’m no good?” I simply mutter my negative affirmation “I’m going to suck. Oh well,” and barrel onward.
Sometimes I do stop and ask, “Where has this gotten me?” Because obviously approaching everything with the understanding that you will fail doesn’t leave much room to strive towards improvement. I suppose the answer is nowhere, but it’s an interesting nowhere. And I’m rarely if ever defeated, which makes me something of an alpha loser.

Sadly though, any expectation, even an expectation of failure, will lead you back to disappointment. Witness the moment a peer in one of my activities turned to me and said, “You know, you’re not as bad as you think you are.” It was intended as encouragement, but it meant that I had failed at failing.  And what do I do with that?

“Burn” with Pauli Gray

 

“Say Anything” with Pauli Gray

 

My youngest wakes up crying for a certain kind of breakfast food I don’t have in the house. For reasons still unknown to me, I agree to run out to the store to appease his craving. I throw on some sweatpants and my winter jacket and head out to the local store that is not as safe as its name implies (you’d better check the dates on the organic yogurt, if you know what I’m saying).

As soon as I start-up my husband’s car, the mp3 player comes to life and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” blasts forth from the stereo, throwing me back in time a good 25 years. And then, like a character from a Philip K. Dick novel, my timeline is scrambled. I am both a middle-aged woman driving down the pleasant, suburban street on which she lives on a crisp Monday morning, and I am also an awkward, discontent teenager, shut up in her room listening to records, dreaming of a future she knows will never materialize.

“It’s okay,” I want to tell my tell my teenage self. “Things turn out nothing like you planned, but it turns out fine. By the way, can I pick up anything for you at the grocery store while I’m out?” My teenage self gives me the silent treatment as usual.

There’s no one else out here except for a teenage boy walking to the bus stop; his dyed black hair provides no contrast to his black hoodie and his black t-shirt.

“And if a ten ton truck crashes into us, to die by your side, well the pleasure the privilege is mine,” croons Morrissey.

For just a moment I fight the urge to pull over to the Emo boy and say, “Hey, want a ride?”

It’s that time of year when I should be neglecting my blog because I’m so busy with the bustle of the holidays, but instead I’ve been fighting inertia.   I’m not sure if it’s the shorter days, or the anniversary of my mother’s passing four years ago, but  this holiday season has found me listless and unfocused.  Tasks I normally look forward too like decorating the house for Christmas, seemed overwhelming.  I managed to pull the boxes of decorations out one day, but then let them sit in the hallway for a week before I summoned the energy to actually open them and put things out.  My music practice space in the basement has become cold and unbearably dark as well, so I found myself avoiding it, even though I had an on-line show scheduled.  Mostly I’ve been wanting to curl up and sleep.  This is not really a viable plan when you have kids.

So I started doing some research on ways to combat winter depression.  Here are some of the tips I found:

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables:  The vitamins will give your immune system a boost and the carbs will give you energy. Bananas are particularly good because of the fiber content and they contain dopamine,  a hormone that improves your mood.

- Get some light: Sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the  central nervous system and digestive tract and is thought to contribute to a feeling of general well being.  Because of the shorter days,   some people benefit from daylight lamps to get the light their bodies need.

- Exercise:  Any kind of exercise can lift your mood, but yoga in particular has some moves that target the pineal gland which helps regulate the production of melatonin, yet another hormone  that helps balance the mood by keeping the body’s sleep-wake cycle in check. A quick side note here,  I found a yoga program on Netflix’s streaming library that targets depression.  This was ideal since I did not have to leave the house for a class;  the idea of leaving the house seemed exhausting. However, yoga can be difficult to do properly from just an instructional video, so use your best judgment.

All of these tips are good, and other than the daylight lamp, are things everyone should do to stay happy and healthy.  I have a few more personal tips that may be helpful to others as well.

- Music: My safest drug of choice, music is the ultimate mood-altering substance for me.  Upbeat music made me feel angry, and Christmas music made me feel even more depressed, so I tried some ambient electronica/chillout music. I recommend Soma FM’s Groove Salad should you need some mood boosting grooves to pull you out of the doldrums.

Wallow in your depression creatively:  Make something.  Make something dark.  Use your depression as the ultimate shield against disappointment.  You expect nothing, so anything you create will be better than expected.  Oddly enough, this philosophy works well for me in times like this.   This is what I came up with.  Certainly not my best work (I hope) but it made me feel like I accomplished something and also conveys my feelings right about now.  For the record,  the music was recorded many years ago,  I only put video to it.

- Engage others in an activity, if only electronically:In the thick of my listlessness, I didn’t want to chat with anyone in person or even in real time online.  It all required too much effort.  My husband, never shy about commandeering my iPhone, downloaded Words with Friends without my consent and then challenged me to a game.  For the most part I hate games, but I’m a sucker for word games.  I reluctantly gave it a try.  The back and forth and the need to re-engage my brain actually drew me in and in doing so, pulled me out of my mood.  Plus, I couldn’t help but feel pretty good about myself when I scored 60 points for the word “hamlet”.

I will say I’m feeling much better these past few days and am now looking forward to Christmas.  More so, I’m looking forward to getting past the whole holiday hoopla, so I can move on to 2012.  In the meantime, have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!