I'm finding myself in the oddest of situations.
I have free time, yet I feel I am not able to get everything done that I am supposed to complete. (The doctors will love how I avoided saying "should do"--in January one told me I was "shoulding [myself] to death.")
It's not just the typical laziness that normally high-geared people feel when they are on vacation; it's not a rebellious refusal to do work. It's just that working for money is off limits while I'm on disability for major depressive disorder, but that income will end in February at the latest and apparently I need to start mentally easing myself back into some kind of position with earnings.
My therapist this morning said that a couple of months ago I had been thinking about starting to do photography and maybe even work as an assistant photographer for someone for free and then move into a paid position later, so that for now I would be building a portfolio. I do remember that I was feeling relatively excited about starting a new life, since even if I wanted to I can't go back to teaching mid-year. I do still want to start a new life, I just don't think I can work THAT hard on it right now.
Right now when I wake up early enough to see the sun rising I think it is beautiful, but I don't want to jump out of bed to take a luxurious jog like I did years ago. And I have the TIME, it doesn't make any sense. I can tell something beautiful is happening behind those dusty white vertical blinds, so I rise, I open them, I lie back down and watch as well as possible from the bed. I know I must "get ready" for the day--a big part of avoiding a major relapse comes in simply dressing well enough to look like I might actually be well. So eventually I do that.
Then I eat (sometimes--I'm getting back on track with that task, I've always told my students breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and a mocha doesn't count), gather my art supplies and walk to the Espresso Garden to spend my day painting so that I can build a body of work, so that one day I can show my work and maybe even sell it. Then I come home and I look at all the stuff we have and think about unpacking more or cleaning my drafting table off (how did it get covered in papers and posters?) but somewhere between feeling overwhelmed or intimidated I return to my computer. How different is blogging from perhaps writing a first draft of a novel? Or at least notes for one? So even in this teenage tool for drama I find something to do that is almost excusably productive.
Eventually the husband arrives and we have to figure out something to do about dinner. In our vacation/depression eating-out we have expanded, so we have returned to the walk to Henry's to buy some goods for that night alone and maybe the next day, and then to cook, to eat and to clean together. Hopefully as our bellies shrink our wallets will expand from this method of nourishment. (Which, by the way, buys me some time with that man I married, and I like that. Bonus!)
Today the theoretical image that Nancy came up with for me (and some of her other patients, she says) was that we're like a little garden. And when we were growing up some of our seeds were nourished, and some were left to shrivel up and those are the seeds that we are trying to revive right now. The seeds I fed were the ones that drove me for all those years to be the best at whatever I was doing, to do as much as I could to please others and earn their respect/affection/love, and to relentlessly feel shame or guilt if I didn't reach perfection. For the past (Jesus!) eight months I've been trying to trim the vines of that rampant groundcover back, to tame it and not allow it to be my whole garden because it was depriving all the other seeds of the light and the nourishment and fresh soil that they need so that they might be able to grow within this space I occupy.
The problem at this moment may be that I have managed to cut back some of the crazy groundcover, but I am not really sure what the seeds are that are under the dirt and the muck.
How do you find what you're looking for when you don't even know what it is or even what it looks like or feels like?
I mean, I have slowed down; I do not care about some of the things I used to care about, I do not do all of the things I used to do to please people because I know it doesn't work and because I can't be bothered. I also do not have any desire to set myself up for failure--in the Tuesday night church group I would have to drive so far only to be faced with problems concentrating, understanding information, and then articulating a response to the information. In letting go of responsibilities I have also had to let go of my standards of perfection for some of the projects that happen even without me (!), but if other people are doing the work, who am I to judge the quality? That's sometimes hard. I like perfection. Sometimes I cannot buy fruit because the choices are so numerous yet so marred, and I am embarrassed to dig through it all in search of something that probably isn't even there.
But I digress.
So here's where I think I am right now. I do not know which seeds will develop into full grown plants. I do not know what the future holds for my career or my income or even my living situation once Justin gets his residency in somewhere-in-America-where-he-"matched."
But I do know that I love to paint. That I can capture the emotions of people with a camera. That I have probably written more creatively in the past eight months than in the past eight years. That I have some ability to market The Espresso Garden by using my photography, writing and graphics skills as well as my outgoing personality.
I know that none of these things are particularly geared toward making lots of money, and that the regular salary of a teacher is going to look mighty fine next to my new bits scraped together here and there. But I sort of have a plan. Keep painting: build a body of work. Market it. Keep photographing people, especially at weddings, and build a portfolio for that sort of work. Build a portfolio for portrait or commercial/architectural work. I've been told that customers prefer photographers with a focus--but I think there is a lot to be said for versatility and I can't get past that. I am versatile. Market it. I can even sing. (But that's not going to be a money maker, I'm just hoping my voice will come back (it's shaking again) and I will be able to solo in church for Advent and Christmas.)
I also know that I might end up with a job as a waitress or a clerk of some sort to fill in the gaps, but I know that right now there is NO WAY I could do a regular job. It's the word retrieval that is killing me. It makes me look retarded (and I am using that word judiciously). Today I spent the day working on the new Espresso Garden menu, and when I called the printer I couldn't think of the word for USB (what is it?) and I couldn't pick a paper color because I couldn't remember what Darren had told me just ten minutes earlier. I think at one point I even forgot the word "menu" and "trifold." I don't think I can have a job where I will constantly feel at risk of making a fool of myself because of my deficits.
I have so much sympathy for our special ed students now. It's horrible to live in such a confused state when everyone around you seems to have it together (even if they don't and can just fake it better). It's embarrassing. No wonder they lash out, or withdrawal, or don't even try. Why try when you know you're going to fail?
But I can't do that. I have to act as though it is impossible to fail. I have to give living a new life my all because I can't keep slogging through the muck looking for the seeds and pushing back the tenacious groundcover.
It's time to find myself. To create myself.
Like Justin said, I am still growing up.
I just have to do it faster than babies, infants, toddlers, children, pre-teens, teenagers and young adults. I am 31 years old and I can use what I know about life thus far to figure out at least a few of the next steps. Like Anne Lamott said, when you're driving through the fog you can only see a few feet ahead, but that's all you really need to keep moving forward.
I will keep moving forward. I will find the right seeds. I will grow into what I want to be, and I may turn out to be something no one ever expected (no matter what they say).