Side Eye and Some Feelings

I didn’t even have to see his face to know the extraordinary amount of side eye aimed my direction. That’s what being married for 20 years does for you–you can finish each other’s sentences and feel facial expressions without even looking. (Also–20 years! Squee!!)

You see, it’s January. Every January, I tumble into some degree of a slump, and every January, Tahd is worried about me in said slump and how long it’s going to last/how bad it’s going to be/how far down I’m going to go/etc. So every year, we have varying versions of a conversation that involves Tahd being worried about me and me responding to his concerns and him asking how he can help me and me promising that I’m really fine and he doesn’t need to worry.

That was the conversation we were having just before he gave me said side eye, the conversation in which he said, “I’m worried about you. You don’t seem well.”

And I explained that yes, in fact, I was okay and I just wanted to fold myself into a cocoon and have a long winter’s nap but that I’d be back, I batted my eyes as I pinky promised, and could I just be alone for a few minutes now, please, and I’d be down to make dinner in a moment.

And that’s when the aforementioned side eye made its appearance. Because he knows. He’s heard it before. Especially on the dinner thing. 😉

My counselor has been helping me to focus on feelings and how I don’t really feel mine so much as deny or manage them. Since I had an appointment with her a few days later, I brought up this exchange with her.

“I just want to fold in on myself,” I explained to her. “I want to hide. I just want to BE winter–be slow and at rest and regenerative, and wake up later, eventually, when it’s brighter again. But I don’t know…am I depressed? Is something in me broken? Should I trust this feeling?”

I’m leaving a lot unsaid, but she sent me home from that appointment with a short-term assignment, a prescription if you will: two hours of creative efforts every day.

Two hours!

The idea felt positively indulgent to me, but she explained that she suspected my soul didn’t so much need to hide or sleep as much as it needed to engage in—and be energized by—something different. So I agreed I would give it my best attempt and report back on what I learned.

I woke up on Monday practically giddy. It’s the first time in years I remember being that excited to begin the day. Knowing our schedule, though, I knew it would be more realistic to start smaller. So I did—the kids and I set things up for some independent work and I set a time timer for about a half hour and told them they’d get a candy cane if they let me write uninterrupted for the entire time.

Which they did, and it was GLORIOUS and I was thrilled at the thought of expanding things the next day, which also happened to be Isla’s 8th birthday.

And then the 8th birthday started, and…so did the stomach flu. I kid you not, the birthday girl got the stomach flu, poor lovey! Thankfully it wasn’t terrible, but it definitely changed the trajectory of the day, which led to changing the trajectory of the week because the axiom “Where one person vomits, OTHER PEOPLE VOMIT” held true for our household. So the rest of the week was spent more on vomit than creativity, an exchange which I can assure you was less than renewing to my soul.

I woke up one day this week—I can’t even remember which one because they all ran together—and saw my bedroom window covered in ice patterns and thought I’d better snap a quick picture of it because it might be my most creative opportunity for the day. I was right. It was—both the only opportunity and also an exercise in creative seeing, the frigid crystals simultaneously existing as infinitely normal and startlingly beautiful.

What amazing creativity emerges naturally from ordinary things like water and cold! I wonder how much of it I miss because my eyes aren’t conditioned to look.

It is now the second week of my three-week experiment, and I am starting again, this time with a hint of a rumbly tummy that I hope is really all in my head but I can’t be sure because of THE AXIOM. But after this long, I really hope I’ve earned some immunity.

And hopefully, too, I find that it’s not so tricky to remember again how to see beauty and dabble in beauty and be energized by creative endeavors.

I have to be honest, though. If the choice is between creativity/beauty and no more vomit, I will choose “no more vomit” every time! 😉

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