In no particular order, some things that make me happy.
1. Taking myself on long walks around my neighborhood with a camera slung over my shoulder. I love finding little vignettes that make me smile, or are interesting combination of colors, texture, or light. (It is super pretentious to use the word vignette? Say, more pretentious than looking up a synonym for vignette so people on the internet don’t wonder that I’m pretentious?!)
2. Peppermint tea, slightly sweetened, no cream or milk. This is particularly wonderful at home with cozy slippers or in a sun-filled spot at a cafe with deep leather chairs and a good book.
3. Snuggling into Blue Eyes’ shoulder and listening to the sound of his heart. His strong arms, smell, and kind heart will forever be my safe place.
5. Real roses, as in, ones from your grandmother’s garden. While I was growing up we had an enormous rose garden along the entire east wall of our house, 2 or 3 bushes deep and something like 30 feet long. In the summer my Mom would trim 100 blooms off those bushes every few days. Real roses have this incredible sweet scent, and they are broader than they are tall with slightly irregular petals that are the softest, silkiest things in the world. Real roses are wild and warm and invoke memories of running barefoot in the dewy grass. I realize I am kind of ruined for regular (or even high-end) florist roses; to me they feel, smell, and look like plastic.
6. Rows and rows and rows of books. I think the library scene from Beauty and the Beast is forever imprinted on my brain. My dream house will have a 2-story library with a spiral staircase and an enormous fireplace. I know the chic thing nowadays is to have an e-reader and keep thousands of books on a slim device that fits into your purse. That just is not my style. I love a printed book, the weight, the smell, the feel. I love shelves and shelves of them in different colors and sizes with each title beckoning me to “pick me! pick me!”
7. Painting. I am not good at it yet, but I really enjoy mixing oil paints to create bright, clear colors, and then seeing how accurately I can recreate the picture in my head. I have a dear friend who is a legit artist–galleries and shows and hundreds of sold paintings–and she has been incredibly kind and encouraging. She goes so far in her encouragement that she introduces me to her friends as “Harriet, who is also an artist.” This, of course, makes me feel hopelessly inadequate and also incredibly, deliriously hopeful.
8. I am blessed with some of the most lovely friends on the planet, I feel as I get older I am finding more and more women with whom I deeply connect and appreciate. I’m not sure what actions on my part deserve such luck and such incredible friendships, but I am so grateful for this support-network of ladies who encourage me, inspire me, listen to me, laugh with me, cry with me. I’ve always heard you get fewer and fewer friends as you get older, and I have found this absolutely not to be the case. I have more important and fulfilling friendships now than I have had at any other time in my life.
9. This may sound off, but I love being busy. Which does absolutely not mean I love not having time for the things I value, I am getting better and better at segmenting my time to include the things that are important to me. I mean, I love having a lengthy-but-doable list of projects at work. I love having a constantly evolving to-do list at home. I love the routine that comes from having a full schedule, but one that has blocks of time for relaxing and friends and detoxification built in. I would so much rather be busy than any other alternative.
10. Seeing people in love. Not PDA-obsessed teenagers making out at the mall, but people with a shared history together of hurts and joy, fear and triumph, failure and success. I love seeing those people still choose each other, still light up when they see each other, still show affection towards each other and exude a happy contentment just because they are together. It chokes me up every time.
What do you love? What makes you happy? What are the things in your life you crave?
For most of 2013 I was unable to write. Part of my dilemma was circumstantial, but most of it was a gigantic case of writer’s block. I felt crippled, unable to from words or sentences that had any meaning. It has been terrible.
I tried a half-dozen different ways to unblock myself, but still, my cursor would blink on an empty screen. It was like I was in a contest with that damn cursor, a contest I had no hope of winning.
And then, just a few days ago, I found a revolutionary-to-me solution. A notebook. Not a pretty notebook, not one that was bound in leather, or with gold gilt on the pages. Just a regular, $0.99 cent spiral-bound single-subject notebook and a black, Bic pen. Nothing fancy, nothing special. Suddenly, the pressure is gone. I can write pages and pages! Sure, my hand gets crampy and my writing is mostly illegible, but I’m okay with that. I can read it well enough to copy it onto my laptop if it’s something I want to share. And if it’s not something I want to share, I’m not “messing up” a page in a beautiful notebook with scribbles or drivel, nor do I feel like I need to remove a less-than-perfect page from a spiral notebook (as, admittedly, I have done in many a pretty one).
I didn’t realize this, but I must have felt that a beautiful notebook or journal only deserved beautiful, meaningful, long-lasting writing in it. And that, my friends, is crippling. To feel that everything you produce must be perfect on the first attempt, or at least, only need minor edits. Gaah, it’s ludicrous! How could I be so….so stupid!? So shackled!? So tied to this supposition that anything less than perfect was not worth attempting?
As I thought about this (while writing this post, long-hand, on page 17 of my started-yesterday-but-filling-up-nicely notebook) it occurred to me that, just maybe, my scribbly notebooks may be worth more than a hardcover published work. The thought processes, the frustrations, the attempts, the marginalia…there is intrinsic value in that type of writing. And I knew it, but didn’t think it applied to me. Sigh. Sometimes, I really surprise myself at my own obtuseness.
I have missed writing.
1. any of various devices dropped by a chain, cable, or rope to the bottom of a body of water for preventing or restricting the motion of a vessel or other floating object.
2. any similar device for holding fast or checking motion: an anchor of stones.
3. any of various devices, as a metal tie, for binding one part of a structure to another.
4. a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security.
What is an anchor? It is a device–typically with hook-like arms that bury themselves in a secure surface to provide a firm hold–that can hold an enormous amount of weight in place, it will stop unauthorized drifting, but still give a little leeway for small movement. An anchor and anchor line are essential to the safety and integrity of a much larger mass. Both are sunk deep into water, debris, earth, and/or ice, and are completely hidden from view at the surface while holding the vessel steady against storms, currents, external forces and other potential instability. In fact, in many ways an anchor is often forgotten until it starts to slip and the once safe and secure cargo starts to lurch and sway.
Let’s talk about the life of an anchor for a minute (yes, this is a metaphor). Anchors have enormous hooks and barbs to secure their load, they often get hurled onto and then dragged across treacherous surfaces while trying to find a point of stability. An anchor carries countless scars, is covered in grime or barnacles, and spends its existence clawing for security in order to exert all its integrity and leverage in order to keep the load steady. An anchor spends every important and worthwhile moment of its life submerged.
Sometimes we are the cargo ship.
Sometimes we are the anchor.
Right now, and for the last several
months years, I have been cast in the role of anchor…and I’m tired. I’ve clawed at everything within reach to try to stay steady, I’ve scraped and scrambled to eliminate or redistribute weight, I’ve grimaced during the storms, hoping I can force them to cease and desist by sheer willpower (not possible). I’ve held on with my teeth, when necessary, exerted strength and determination I didn’t know I had, and, in a lot of ways, I’ve had success. But, I’ve also been slowly drowning.
I’ve been sinking for a long time, bumping along a rocky field trying to find something to latch on to, and several weeks ago I hit my lowest point. A few days later I had a massive panic attack in my doctor’s office and my medication that had been an “as needed” fix became a wonderful, wonderful daily lifeline.* I took a few days off work and tried to let go of anything that was dragging me down. I tried to float. I cannot be the anchor anymore, I need to be the ship, one with multiple anchors and lifelines.
Is this scary? Hell yes.
Do I feel like an anchor-failure? In
most some ways, yes.
Will I give up completely on being a force of security and stability? No. But I need to make some serious changes if I have any shot of coming out on the other side. And, for right now, that is as much as I can process. I need to be the ship, and I need to (re)identify my anchors.
*Re: medications. Dude! I had NO IDEA people could sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time! I had no idea they could breathe without having to consciously think about it! I had no clue that nausea and panic were not a normal person’s regular bedfellows…and work-fellows…and gym-fellows…and lunchtime-fellows…and Tuesday-fellows (and marshmallows?). I really wish I had known all of this much, much earlier! Better Living Through Chemistry, man. That should be tattooed on my (out-of-whack) chromosomes.