Friday, March 18, 2005

Thaw

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and was relieved to see snow falling. The thermometer read 29 degrees, and the local news had a severe winter weather watch effective until 6:00 that evening. Relief. I wouldn’t have to go to work. I could stay home. The Hubster was out of town on a business trip, so I would have a quiet house to myself for the entire day.

After e-mailing the folks at work and checking my own e-mail, I headed upstairs for coffee and breakfast. Breakfast! When do I ever have time for breakfast anymore? My typical breakfast is an apple or a banana in the car on the way to work, washed down with coffee. That morning, I had a big bowl oatmeal. As I ate, I made a list of the things I wanted to get done on my day off (this multi-tasking habit is hard to break).

After filling the empty birdfeeder, I was heading for the shower when I took a side-trip to the Inner Sanctum. George was there as always, and my big blue book of Bach chorales was resting on the piano bench. Waiting for me.

So I opened the music and started to play. The chorale I opened to was an arrangement of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” I played slowly, as usual, and marveled at how Bach’s placement of chords, his approaches and departures, his use of non-chord tones, can make even the simplest constructions—an E7, for example, or a held note—seem so divinely inspired that I get all choked up as I play. I found another arrangement of the same melody, and then another. I played them all, thinking of how each arrangement was a gem in itself.

Thirty minutes later, I felt like a peace had descended on me. I felt better and more rested than I had in weeks, probably months. I left the Inner Sanctum, took my shower, played with the blog a bit, and then went back to the Inner Sanctum for a “real” practice.

I was still relaxed. I worked, seriously worked, on the little Suzuki pieces with a concentration I hadn’t given them in months. Then, on to scales and arpeggios. Then the Mozart. I played through the Mozart a couple of times—not practicing, really. Warming up. My back was starting to hurt a little, and I wanted to stand up and walk around a bit. Break time. I’d been in the Inner Sanctum with George for over an hour.

I played with the blog a bit more (this computer habit is hard to break!), then, noticing that the weather had actually improved, checked the forecast to learn that it, too, had improved. I had a library book to return, and I thought it would be nice to go to my favorite coffee shop, Panacea, to work on music theory and my novel. So I ditched the rest of piano practice and headed to Panacea.

I love this coffee shop. It’s in an old warehouse, with smooth cement floors and a high ceiling, and brick walls. The owner is a former AT thru-hiker from Mississippi, so we always have a lot to talk about. I feel welcome there. When I got there, it was crowded because it was lunchtime, so I had to stand in line. I didn’t mind. My usual impatience didn’t rise up, boiling, as is customary these days. I just waited. Patiently. I was in no hurry at all

Later, I sat down at a small, round table and took out my journal. I hadn’t written in my journal for two weeks. In the 20+ years that I’ve kept a journal, I’ve rarely gone more than two days without writing something. But the Depression has taken away any desire I might have to write anything.

Depression. That’s what I wrote about. It seems that a lot of bloggers these days are talking about depression and the fact that they have it. I wrote about this, and wondered why I haven’t gone into great detail on my blog about my own depression. I’ve hardly kept it a secret, yet I haven’t dwelled on it. So I wondered why I haven’t dwelled on it, since it does play such a major role in my life, especially lately.

I wrote four pages, and I never did come up with an answer. I got up to go get a refill on my coffee. On my way back, a man noticed my LSU sweatshirt and asked if I’d gone to LSU.

“Yes, I got my Master’s degree there.”

He’d spent a few years in Baton Rouge, and we talked a bit about LSU, then I went back to my table. The man at the table next to me had overheard our conversation and asked what I’d gotten my Master’s degree in.

“English,” I said.

“Literature?” he asked.

“Well, I started out in literature, but I ended up focusing more on rhetoric, composition, and linguistics.” Honestly, my Master’s degree work was a mishmash of things. As much as I love literature, I hadn’t liked studying it on the graduate level, even though I had straight A’s in it throughout grad school. I ended up branching out, taking classes in everything but literature, including undergraduate courses in education.

We chatted a bit. He was a painter and a graphic designer who was also playing hooky from work. He asked if I’d like to go out sometime. I looked down at my ring finger and realized, to my horror, that I’d left my wedding ring on the piano at home. I told him sheepishly that I was married, and that was that. We chatted a bit more, then we both got back to work. He left a while later.

I was re-writing all of the fingering in my Dett piece that I’d torn up a couple of weeks before. I took a short break to head for the bathroom, and on the way back, I talked a bit more with the man in his mid-50’s, who happens to be an avid hiker. Then I went back to the Dett. A little while later, the hiker got up to leave, but walked over to my table first.

“You know,” he told me, “I really regret that you have a husband.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re attractive, smart, and very interesting. It’s rare to find those three qualities in a single person.”

I was so shocked at the compliment that I didn’t say anything at first.

“I hope I didn’t offend you,” he said.

“No!” I grinned. “Not at all!”

Truthfully, he'd made my day. I hadn’t felt attractive in months, and my job lately certainly hasn’t made use of my brain. For the past year or so, my thoughts and feelings have just been kind of numb. And when I look in the mirror, I see a pale, tired woman who, for the first time in her life, actually looks older than her years. Two sharp lines have formed right between my eyebrows, from constant frowning and crying. My eyes are often red and irritated from all the crying. My body has started to sag from lack of exercise. Yet I’m often too tired to exercise and want to crawl into bed the minute I get home from work.

But yesterday was different. It was my day off, and I was in a good mood yesterday. When I’m in a good mood, my eyes are brighter, and I stand up straighter. And apparently, I’m prettier.

Next stop, after the library, was the health club. I had so much good energy that, after doing upper-body weights, I stepped on the the elliptical machine and didn’t step back off for an hour. Then I went home and read a bit on the couch while snuggling with the cats. Before I went to bed, I looked at myself in our full-length mirror. I liked what I saw. I suppose I looked just as saggy and old and tired as usual, but I didn’t see that. I saw a pretty blonde with a nice figure and a friendly smile. It was odd to look into the mirror and not be disappointed. It was weird to think of myself as “attractive.”

I messed around on the computer for a while, catching up on blogs and reading the comments to my own blog. I felt good. I felt alive. It felt odd, but good, to feel alive.

I went to bed around 10:30 and, for the first time in months, I woke up this morning feeling rested.

It was a much-needed day off.

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