A few weeks ago Eli and I went to my family’s lake house, and we actually completely disconnected. Not from each other, but from everyone else. Everything else. Lately I’ve been feeling sort of sad and anxious, because it has felt like Eli and I only get to spend a split second together before he or I has to drive 30 minutes back home. It’s been hard to fit an entire day’s worth of thoughts, worries, musings into three hours, along with a meal and an episode of a beloved show. It’s been hard to wind down, to ever feel fully at ease, with this commute again. It's been hard to deal with the inability to communicate sometimes, when his wifi is completely out two of the three times I try to message him. It feels lame to write about this, when it seems I’ve written about it a million times before. But by the end of that week, all I can say is that we needed this. We needed to go away, to be as alone as humanly possible, to think nothing and tell each other everything. We did just that, and while we weren’t necessarily alone as we were surrounded by my family, there were still plenty of moments of aloneness. There’s just something about being surrounded by people that turns a lonely two into a team. There was a palpable, We are in this together, sort of feeling.
We ate and swam and even took a freaking nap. We had no wifi and didn’t really give a shit about it. We brought movies to watch, played with a puppy and went on a boat ride. By the end of it, I almost forgot I was with him, because it didn’t feel like there was a him or a me. It was just us. My therapist says this situation is good for us in a way, because it has given us the chance to miss each other. But when missing starts to feel like you haven’t even seen the person in so long that you don’t even know if they actually exist anymore or if you just made them up…when it starts to feel like you are nothing more than two ships in the night constantly breezing by each other, when you feel like you are never actually able to have a conversation because all you’re ever doing is problem solving… That’s not missing. That's mourning.
I’ve been feeling this about myself too. I've felt empty lately, because I don’t feel full unless I’m emptying my soul of all the creative energy inside. If I don’t get it out, and it goes nowhere, then it's like I’m this vat of unmitigated and unexplored potential. It's hard to balance everything I need to do with all that I want to do. I need and want to write my book. I need to take a math class for school credit. I need and want to hang out with Eli. But I also need to create. I need to paint, I need to make videos, I need to meditate and draw random sketches and write silly poetry that will always remain half-finished. I read recently that the key to being an artist is to make art. The key to making good art is to make a lot of it all the time. I need to start a million things, so when some of it turns out good it's okay that some of it also turns out bad.
The trouble is, I feel like I never have time to do this. I learned a while ago that my mental health is pretty expressly connected to my creativity. Ie- I feel like shit if I’m not creating. This is why I took a creative mental health day yesterday. I needed to be alone, take my time getting up and writing and meditating and painting, then go to a coffee shop and just be, then go to another one and do the same thing. I needed to fill my day with creativity in an effort to be okay. I have a lot of good news. 1) I did it. I did all of those things and I was happy with both what I made and that I even got the chance to try. 2) I didn’t feel guilty. Remember that other week when I was sick and I didn’t even feel like I could call in sick to work? Well I got over that, because I realized that my mental health is truly a part of my physical well being. I learned to trust my intuition. I knew on Friday night that I needed to take Monday. Not because I felt particularly bad, although I did, but because I just knew that I needed that day.
This year feels quieter somehow. Similar to how I felt in 2013. Disjointed, sometimes dissatisfactory, like the progress I’m making comes in jolts— stopping and starting so I never really feel like I’m on a roll. I know I’m learning, progressing, growing if you will. But it doesn’t always feel like that. It feels like stagnation, like I’m a tiny wave of water caught in a stream, crashing over the same rock again and again, not moving forward down the stream with the rest of the flow.
This might very well just be one of those times where I don’t move forward, where I have to stay right here and finish some things (i.e. school) until I’m done and can keep going. Yesterday I took the day off, and of course I still made a plan, but I tried to let myself flow through it, not stick to it so precisely. I got up, made myself breakfast, then worked on my book for an hour. I did yoga and meditated, then did a tarot reading for my book, which was fun, creative and totally inspired me. I took a bath, and watched Gilmore Girls as I ate lunch and made a halfhearted attempt at painting. I went to one of my favorite coffee shops, and wrote some more with a rose lemonade and cookie.
I realized last night that it's been almost exactly a year since I left my last job and moved forward onto this one. This, of course, has brought on something of an existential crisis. What have I accomplished in an entire YEAR? The truth is, I've learned a lot about my mental health in this year, a lot about what I can and cannot handle, what I can survive, how to nurture and grow a relationship in any environment. Lately I've been plagued by these feelings of inadequacy. Never accomplishing enough on my book, towards school, never doing enough laundry or being nice enough to Eli. I had honestly sort of become accustomed to that feeling, because I thought it was just who I am. But when I started feeling it at work too, I began to worry. I was spending all day at work worried I wasn't doing enough, wasn't enough period, and then going home and feeling the same. So the point of yesterday was to get my head straight, and be okay with whatever I accomplished in my home time, so that hopefully that can extend to work too.
While of course I wish I wrote more, I always wish I write more, I'm so happy with and proud of what I did yesterday. I felt out the limits again, and learned how to step back when I felt myself getting too wrapped up in the TO part of To-Do. The part that makes me happiest, though, is that I haven't once kicked myself for what I didn't accomplish yesterday. I haven't ruined the day by telling myself I wasted it. I recently read this proverb that goes, "If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one. That's a great way of putting what I've been doing lately. Putting all of my energy, heart and soul into going after all the rabbits, and absolutely breaking down when I catch none. Yesterday was an experiment in going after no rabbits, and I was surprised to find that when I actually just let myself sit back, relax and do whatever I wanted, I accomplished a surprising amount, and never got a crippling stress headache. Maybe my current lesson is to figure out how to lure the rabbits in without expending much energy. They're only rabbits, after all.