The kids have been gone over a week now. They’ll be back in three short days. I made it through mostly okay. In fact, I kept so busy the first seven days that – by Friday – I was longing to crash and have some mental re-grouping time at home.
I still don’t fully understand the exhaustion that overtakes me sometimes. Do I feel like hiding away and becoming a sloth because I don’t get enough sleep for me? Is it my iron? Maybe it’s too low again. Or is it more of a disease of the spirit – needing time to cocoon because I’m a secret introvert and need that away time to recharge the creative batteries as well as to sincerely enjoy being around other people again? Sometimes I wonder if I “get low” if I simply go too long between journaling or blogging it all out.
If that last possibility also resonates with you, you may like the following link: The Psychological Benefits of Writing Regularly, by Gregory Ciotti. It’s an article that really spoke to me recently. :)
In any case – after a week that included kayaking, dragon boating, a couple of walks (with Alice, including a downtown day and a day at Ottawa’s totally fascinating Mer Bleue Bog, post to follow..), some great music at Bluesfest, and dog-sitting a lovely little poodle that has certainly done more than her share to keep loneliness at bay – by Friday all I wanted was to lie on my bed and think about my own projects and lists once more.
The only problem with that is, at home, there is nothing but the lovely numbness of Netflix to keep me from checking out my own belly button lint somehow mentally, no matter what other chores I find to busy my body with. In other words, I start to stew. Things that more social forms of busy-ness keep at bay start gnawing at the back of my brain when I take my alone time. So – even as I binge on Orange is the New Black and assemble the new drawers I picked up at Ikea on my way home from volunteering at ORCC – reflection somehow sneaks back in. Even though, honestly, the dog does help (She somehow really does help me).
I love my lists. There are lots of projects I want to do right now. I started reading True Wealth (Juliet Schor) and had scarcely begun before becoming obsessively interested in one point. Her observations about the changes in perceived value of textiles in the past 100 years or so resonated with me deeply. I too have noticed that the price of a new shirt or pair of pants has remained unchanged for the last twenty plus years. When I (in the past) needed retail therapy, I tended to take it out on my closet. It was a place BG neither looked nor cared, a tiny island of autonomy in an otherwise constricted life.
The consequence of that I live with still. Clothing litters my closet shelf and floor. Packing boxes still sit, full of things I haven’t dealt with yet, even though I’m now the proud owner of a 9-drawer dresser and a separate lingerie tower (both filled) that are “mine all mine.” Not to mention my ample closet space.
I have too much clothing. I forget what I own and buy more. When I remember something I would, in particular, really like to wear on any given occasion, I typically cannot find it. More than once a rainbow avalanche of knit sweaters has rained down on my head as I’ve searched for something on that high shelf, with tears and frustration. Instead of making my bedroom look tailored and classy, the ottoman at the foot of the bed, always strewn with discarded “half-dirty” items, makes my space resemble a dump.
Clothing is an area in which the feeling of plenitude has eluded me, despite the bulk of my possessions. And I’ve realized I want my life back, bedroom floor included.
I won’t shoplift from Juliet Schor by paraphrasing too much from the book, but I do tend to agree that all this needing and shopping and going out of style and discarding and “so around we go again” is a self-inflicted social illness that has negative consequences for the planet, as well as for (obviously) my own home, which is swimming in cloth while I still continue to believe I have nothing to wear. I am sick sick SICK of that and really want to change it. Beginning to read True Wealth crystallized that for me personally and made me realize it’s something that the time has come for me to deal with. I shelved the book (which I think is great) for the time being, to be continued once I deal with my demons.
On Thursday – while I was out downtown with Alice – I picked up another book: The Upcycled T-Shirt by Jenelle Montilone. Another book that spoke, again, directly to this waste of domestic resources that’s now sticking so badly in my craw. I decided to take my current batch of (necessary!) discards out of the cycle. I’m going to re-use these textiles MYSELF.
Yesterday I assembled an Ikea drawer unit in half of my massive bedroom closet. I pulled out the cardboard boxes of unprocessed clothing and dumped them out on my bed. Then I sorted the contents.
I made three piles:
- Stuff I want (going to live in the new drawer unit)
- Stuff I don’t want but shouldn’t dismantle (off to Goodwill with this!)
- Stuff I’m going to pull apart and re-use the material from (my Upcycled Shirt pile)
I successfully cleaned up my room, leaving only a tidy pile in one corner: the cloth to be processed. This pile consists of overly tight t-shirts, old gym pants, excess fleecy pj pants, and a few nice pieces of fabric too (mainly consisting of badly tailored blouses I should never have bought but did because I couldn’t resist the piece of cloth they were made of). Last night I settled down in front of Orange is the New Black with a small pile.
I cut off the binding around the necks of my shirts. I cut off the cap sleeves at the shoulder seams. Then I consult my new bible for how to reduce what remained to “yardage” for all the fun projects in the book. I can’t go any farther. I need a rotary cutter and a self-healing mat. A seam ripper too.
Mentally, I add these items to a list that is – once again – growing. I need an iron to make a straight edge before I hem the Ikea fabric for Lou’s new curtains. I no longer own a decent glue gun (my go-to tool for so many great projects in the past). And I still need some equipment for camping on my coming vacation with the kids (even though I already spent over $300 to purchase my own pots, pans, plates, bowls, and campstove).
This is the way of it still. Even something as mundane as tearing up an old pair of pajamas serves as a reminder that the infrastructure of my life has been completely dismantled. First when I left the prospect of replacing everything and starting over was an exciting one. As it goes on and on and on it has become depressing.
I drifted to sleep last night trying to remember the details of the backyard at my old house; the location and appearance of stairs, railings, patio stones, the feel of pea gravel, grass, water being thrown from the sprinkler. Are my kids and husband there now, back from vacation? How did I become this outcast – the only member of my band not present when the rest take trips we always planned, and postponed, doing together? Has anyone missed me this past number of days? Has anyone felt a twinge of remorse, or regret?
Somehow it’s hard, it’s bitter, to accept that I was unloved and unwanted by the other person to that extreme. That he’s chosen the life of being a stranger, even to the extreme of denying me the knowledge of where they’ve gone or when they’ll be coming back. I don’t know how to reach my children if I miss them and just want to hear them say “Hi Mumma, I’m okay.”
Grief is like malaria. It strikes again – a relapse – just when you think you are better. You mustn’t get overtired, over-exert yourself, or wait too long between meals. Grief will find you again, and leave you too weak to so much as raise your arm. You will find yourself, again, sitting in the driveway in the driver’s seat, unable to get up and go into the house.
Separation has been like a cancer diagnosis and chemo for me. It’s been my battle, my triumph and defeat, the thing that – some days – lays me to waste. I surprise myself by finding the mental energy and self-sufficiency to track down and change the water filter in my fridge today. These are the little victories that keep my confidence up. Somehow, I continue to exist.
My mother always told me “God only gives you what you can handle.” I’ve handled so much now, so many things that – once upon a time – were the stuff of my worst nightmares (separation, loneliness, trusting the world with my children when I am not able to keep them safe here with me). The thought that God might throw at me anything I can handle is a terrifying thought. I’m not sure what I couldn’t handle at this point.
All for now,