Saturday, September 19, 2009

Valuing the inner life

I'm in one of those periods when everything feels like swimming through peanut butter. There is no motivation and no energy to do anything even when there is some motivation. I'm truly in the swamp of myself at the moment.

On the outside things are settled safely - still in visual upheaval, with a dresser half made all over the living room floor, and the red rug I brought from Vancouver (now a rolled-up red albatross also lying on the floor of the living room, because only too late did I realize it really is too large for the room and doesn't suit it anyway). But I don't care right now. I sit on the roll while I build the dresser from a kit. I step over it to open the balcony door. I am careful not to lose screws or screwdriver or hammer in its folds. I don't care how long it lies there because I'm sucked down into the muck at the moment. I'm the engineer, off my own train, having to build more track out front before I can get life moving again. My attention has been sucked down into someplace I can barely apprehend. For now.

I don't care about any of this actually. It feels fine, or perhaps I'm just kidding myself about that.. I don't know. All I know is that I'm in the nadir place again. I've been here before, at least three times in my life. I recognize the territory. I recognize that I'm depressed. I saw this coming and arranged outer life to accommodate it, rather than let it crash me into a ditch. I've acquired a useful illusion of control. I can anticipate my own crashes and prepare appropriate landing places.

Furthermore I know what I have to do. I went out yesterday and found a gym about 6 blocks away, right beside a beautiful indoor swimming pool. I plan to join it. I have absolutely nothing else I have to do with my body, because I'm not working at the moment. I can work with it, as opposed to using it to work. It is now about 35 pounds lighter than it used to be, and I want it to feel stronger; I want it to sustain me better. I want to work with what's left of it. I do want to feel "better." Physically. I don't feel bad, physically. But I also know I can feel "better," physically. Regular exercise is a mood-enhancer. I've used it on and off over the years like other people use drugs. It works for me.

I have never wanted to do exercise in anything more than bouts, a few weeks or months at a time, and only when necessary. I've always been afraid of dependency. Worse, I've seen how exercise addicts tend to ruin their own bodies through excessive dependence on strenuous behaviour to feel "good." They turn exercise into a religion, feeling guilty when they don't do it, instead of using it carefully as a medicine, and only when necessary, to feel "better."

On the way back, I dropped in at the Wheatland Center, for the first time under my own steam. I headed immediately for the jigsaw puzzle room. Instantly my brain wove this room into a self-construct for therapy. My jigsaw therapy room.

I worked for a little while on the puzzle that was out yesterday - a snow scene with deer, lots of deep blue colours. While I puttered finding pieces with bits of antlers on them, I chatted with a few of the seniors there. A woman named Helen works there everyday, is the caterer as well as the main administrator/treasurer. She rents the place out for events, and takes care of organizing the monthly dinners. I agreed to help out with the one at the end of this month, a turkey dinner. I am to arrive at 9 AM and help with potato-peeling, etc., leave for awhile, come back in the afternoon and set out desserts. After she left to go do some banking, I met her husband, whose health has declined. He walked in heavily, and we introduced ourselves to each other. He went to sit by the window, told me about his experience having to let go of one of his favorite past times, bridge. He has acquired a speech difficulty which creates pauses that are too long to be able to feel comfortable holding his own in a bridge game. He's had some surgeries which he didn't tell me about but which his wife had mentioned before he came into the room, and about which I didn't ask for detail. He chatted randomly about himself, how he feels his life closing in around him, how he was going along just fine, then suddenly his health seemed to collapse on him all at once. He said to me, "When you have your health and everything is going along fine, like how you are now, you just don't know what it's like when it's gone." I found exactly the piece that I needed to finish both a blue hill in the distance and a chunk of deer butt, put in in its spot in the jigsaw. "Well.. I guess sooner or later we all get to find out what that feels like." I replied cautiously. He seemed satisfied with that.

I started doing jigsaw puzzles a few years ago because I find them soothing, relaxing, refreshing on some deep brain level or other. They help me disperse inner fog. They help me re-establish, at least temporarily, some illusory sense of control, or order. Moving here to Weyburn and being able to access this jigsaw puzzle room freely will be perfect. There is no system (I don't know where I got that idea from - maybe my brain just made that up). You can borrow as many puzzles as you want, take them home, do them, bring them back. No one asks you to sign them in or out. Marvelous. All social interaction here, with the seniors, is a sea of personal and interpersonal trust. I love that.

I've changed my whole outside context, quit work, moved home, moved away from the outer fog - now I can start tackling this inner fog. Jigsaws will help me kill time while my brain gets itself back up on the track.

I plan to pick up this book, the Red Book, by Carl Jung, as soon as it makes it onto the shelves. Here is an article about it in NYT. The Holy Grail of the Unconscious, by Sara Corbett. Caution - it's a really long article.

I am going to read about Jung's adventures while inside his nadirs. Maybe it will be full of useful travel tips.

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