Well, it’s November 11th. Last weekend was the Intuitive Arts Festival. I think that this is the fourth year that I have participated. I could find out for sure, but it’s not that important. The weather is grey, we changed the clocks last weekend, and the descent into winter has begun. And in the aftermath of that, and also because of some homeopathic remedies that I’m taking from my naturopath, I’m feeling a lot, and most of it is really, really subtle. So, I don’t know where to start…
This post is mostly personal.
I read this this morning sitting in the dentist’s chair:
Depression is quite real for many people. Millions of dollars are spent annually to relieve us of its debilitating consequences. Over the years I have come to believe that a good deal of this depression is due to an inability to feel our emotions. There is an inner need to feel our lives deeply, but who would understand if we kicked up our heels in a jig down the sidewalk? When we feel ecstatic, in love, when we raise our faces to the sky in utter gratitude for this life, how is that joy expressed in the body? It isn’t. We hold it in, just as we hold in our so-called negative emotions. (John Lee, Writing from the Body)
Pow! Just like that, in one single sentence, this beautiful man expresses what it took me my whole adulthood thus far to figure out: “a good deal of this depression is due to an inability to feel our emotions.” This book was published when I was 17. What if I had read it then? What if this had been one of those books that I had cherished and read and reread? It would surely have been one of the ones that I don’t lend out, believing the reality that most books you loan out never come home. (I will send you out to buy your own copy of Writing Down the Bones, for instance, because you can’t have mine.)
I will never know what if… But I can say with some certainty that I likely would not have gotten the message so deeply then as I do now. At 17 I didn’t know that I was depressed, even though I was. At 17 I also didn’t know that I couldn’t feel my feelings. I would have assumed that feeling feelings is the natural human state and so of course I could. There is so much, so much that I didn’t know. But perhaps I could have carried these words in the back pocket of my heart and I could have grown into them, letting them rise as my arrogance crumbled in the face of humbling real life.
So, I’ve been thinking about that. Thinking, indeed, about how much writing-as-practice has sustained me and saved me from my own intensity of self-punishing thoughts, how many times I have taken whatever-it-was to the page to cool it down.
The top bookshelf in our bedroom has, for the second time, fallen sideways in the shelf, spilling decades’ worth of my journals into the shelf below. Right now all of my journals are sitting in piles on the floor. They’ve been there for a couple of weeks. I left them sitting sideways in the shelf for about a week before that too. I’m avoiding them and I know it. It’s becoming clear that what is needed, besides something to brace the back of the bookshelf so that the flimsy plastic bits that are meant to be able to hold up a shelf full of books have some help, is for me to pick up all these piles of different-sized journals and carry them in here by the armful and stack them around this writing table. I need to read them and pull out the passages that jump out at me and type them into a document. What then, I don’t know.
So that’s one strand: depression and writing and being able to feel.
Another strand of musing is my teeth, and I’m aware of a feeling of being held in the care of my sister, who is a periodontist, and who has sent me to this very gentle dentist who does the most minor repairs possible to “buy me more time” with my fragile, chaos-ridden teeth. This is such a different feeling to working with the dentist who initially did the repairs to my eight teeth that were devastatingly damaged in a bike accident in 2004. Arrogant doesn’t even begin to describe him. I’m so grateful both for this current dentist and for the feelability of my sister’s love and support. My body still tenses up in the dentist’s chair. This morning, for some reason, it was my right butt cheek that I had to very consciously relax again and again, and my shoulders, as usual.
Somewhere in the past few years I saw just how much trauma my body was holding around my teeth and my jaws from the two accidents that crunched various teeth, and how little of it I had processed. None of it had been grieved: suck it up, get dropped off at school, carry on. When I went, less than a year ago, to see Brett Holland, a Rolfer here in town, he put on some gloves and held one spot of tension inside my mouth deep in my jawbone. My whole body started shuddering and tears leaked from both of my eyes. When the release was done, I left feeling fragile and exposed. I didn’t go straight home. I sat in the car looking at the water through the branches of an oak tree on Dallas Road. When I did get home, I noticed that my experience of myself as already-always-angry had disappeared. My mouth no longer held an already-angry shape. That made such a change in how I speak, especially in how I speak to my kids and to myself. Deep gratitude for that piece of transformation too.
Also going on are the dreams that I have been having every early morning for a week or so. These dreams are raw and fine in detail and strange. One detail in particular stands out from this one dream: someone stole my Blundstone boots from the entrance to a store where for some reason everyone who entered had to take their shoes off. I was gutted by this, and surprised, even in my dream, by how devastated I was to lose those shoes. I lay on the hideous royal blue shag carpet of this shop and wept for the loss of my boots and refused to accept a new pair of pretty but flimsy ankle boots in exchange. I wanted MY boots back. So. Hmm to that one. Clearly my own grounding and grounded, tough but maybe not so pretty boots are preferable.
In the midst of all this, I held my table space at the Intuitive Arts Festival. This year it was in a new location. No longer the James Bay Community Centre, but the Leonardo Da Vinci Centre that is about a seven minute walk from my house. This is much better for me.
Sunday morning at the festival it took an hour and fifteen minutes before someone said yes to trying out a Short and Sweet session with me. During that hour and a bit I suffered agonies of self-doubt and feeling small: nobody wants me, maybe I should just go home. It’s so unshakeable and easily available, that Eeyore gloom of mild despair. Once one person said yes, I had the fullest day that I have had yet at one of these things: I did 16 fifteen-minute sessions in less than five hours. Saturday I did 13 and also presented a workshop. So it was a full, full weekend.
And Monday I was incoherent and ordered a “matcha chai” at Bean Around the World when I went there to write, much to the puzzlement of the person taking my order. It was the look of confusion on her face the second time I repeated my order that made me listen to myself. “Oh, I mean a matcha LATTE. Sorry. I shouldn’t be out today…”
So that’s me for right now.
If you want a session with me, weekday daytimes are easy, Saturday spots are few and precious, and evening sessions are even more rare.