Thursday, September 22, 2016

"On the Go"?

Several days ago, an acquaintance made this observation:
You're one of those women who always needs to be on the go.
I promptly started crying, right there in the restaurant.

I didn't know why I started crying. It was quite embarrassing, really; it's not like me to begin weeping inexplicably in a public place. And inexplicably is the right word. At the time, I didn't know what had triggered the tears, which kept coming for several minutes. I made some lame, half-humorous excuse and managed to contain myself long enough to finish lunch, but I cried even harder once I was back in my car.

When you've suffered from major depression for much of your adult life and your unmedicated self burst into tears for no apparent reason and those tears won't stop coming, you start to worry. Am I getting depressed again? Do I feel suicidal? Should I call my therapist? What's wrong with me?

I wanted time to sit and write in my journal to think about what was going on, what had made me so unexpectedly emotional, but I didn't have time. I went back to work and did my work.

While I was working, though, my brain kept digging at the problem. And I think I figured it out. First, I'm not depressed. I know depression, and this isn't it. The trigger, instead, was that one little observational comment, made in passing:
You're one of those women who always needs to be on the go.
Why would an innocent comment like that drive me to tears?

Because that's not who I am. I'm one of those women who hates to be on the go, who hates to have a full schedule. Who hates to be that dreaded word, busy.

But that is who I am, these days. My calendar for the next few months is chock-full of stuff: Girl Scouts, physical therapy appointments immediately after or before work, trips, multiple nights per week that Dan is gone and I get all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, childcare, etc., to myself. Just normal stuff, but still stuff.

I was sick last week, stuck at home and not feeling good enough to go anywhere. Still, the weather was beautiful, so I dragged my butt out to the Blue Ridge Parkway a few times and hiked a quarter-mile or so on the Shut-In Trail. I didn't see any animals; I'm sure my cough scared them away. But because I was alone, I could sit on a rock for ten or fifteen minutes and just watch. Notice bugs skittering over dead leaves and follow them with my eyes until they disappeared under another leaf, or rock. Catch sight of a mushroom that I didn't notice the first few times I looked. Find a late-summer wildflower and take the time to look it up in my wildflower ID book, even though I already knew what it was. Stop to look at a spider web. Pick up a fallen leaf that's just starting to change color and marvel at the veiny network that no longer carries the green chlorophyll to the leaf's extremities.


That's what I love to do. That's not being "on-the-go."

If I'm not outside, I want to be practicing a couple of measures of a piano piece, playing them dozens of time in different rhythms, "laying the tracks" so they're sturdy and dependable the next time I get to practice--which may be a month or more from now.

Or I want to be working on a story, preferably one I've already written so I can focus on the sentence flow, and on picking out the perfect word to express, perfectly, what I mean.

Or I want to be on a long run, covering eight or ten miles on a quiet road, enjoying the sound of my own feet hitting the ground. Perhaps the closest to "on the go" that I ever want to be.

Lately, I haven't had much time for any of that. I flit this way and that, cleaning house, picking up stuff, running errands, working out schedules, taking my kid to birthday parties and play dates and school functions, resenting my husband for working so much and not being home more to help, and going to work myself, eight hours a day, plus an hour or so of commuting.

I love being a mom, and I love my job, and I love so much about my life ... but I'm bone-tired from all the running around. So when someone saw my life from afar, someone who doesn't know me well but can only speak from what little she's seen, she understandably thought I was "a woman who always needs to be on the go." And that stung--not because she was being insensitive, but because she had every reason to make that assumption.

I don't know what the answer is at this point. I know I have a pretty good life if my biggest complaint is that I don't have more time for leisure activities. And I'm happy right now that I got to grab a few minutes in the early morning to write this little blog post. But I do wish I had more time--to exercise, to read, to think, to work on some "real" writing. The "quiet time," the exercise, the time spent in nature--those are what keep me from falling back into depression.

I'm not sure how to slow down. I want to slow down. I want more time in the woods. I want more time at the piano. I want more time to make up stories and read poems. So for now, I'll take a deep breath, close my laptop, and start my day. And maybe, just maybe I'll get up a little earlier tomorrow morning for a walk outside or a few minutes of reading or writing. Or perhaps I'll take some time at lunch to practice Chopin. A few minutes of here and there of focused quiet time--that's the goal for now.

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