It’s still morning, but two hours have slipped out of use. It’s Parkinson’s law. The tasks I have to do will expand to fill the time I have to do them in. Except with this rare free day, I am sure that the tasks I have to do will expand exponentially and I will get less done than I otherwise would.
Like the morning writing and painting. Running. Yoga. These things that used to click into the routine – a habit chain. One can only blame Covid restrictions for so much. One can only blame menopause for so much. One can only blame grief for so much.
I was complaining about an imposition on my class schedule at work and a colleague said that it was “possible to be more flexible”. I nearly took aim and cast my pencil at her heart. After two years of taking every day as it comes, tossing out curriculums and calendars, teaching to a quarter-class whatever I can justify – on the fly – I am keenly aware that there is a point at which being flexible transitions into an amorphous existence.
Goo. And not the good kind. The kind that doesn’t provide a steady perspective for investing emotionally. For caring.
It is the definition of demoralizing.
Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilmentThe New Internationalist
Is it any wonder I am desperate to find my way back to a routine? To find a new focus, unrelated to my employment? To students?
I laughed yesterday. It took me so by surprise I was concerned for a second that I may have “clicked”. The setting wasn’t comfortable. The people I was with were students with whom I have a tense relationship.
It was a silly translation mistake that stuck illogically in my head. “Mus” is mouse, but pronounced “moose”, but I will spare you the rest. The images that I just couldn’t shake, couldn’t make sense of for a full minute or two, brought on a wave of sincere, spontaneous laughter. My whole body felt it. It was a release of tension that I could compare to so many other bodily functions, but won’t.
How rare a moment.
Last night I googled how to put more laughter in your life and found silly lists of suggestions: follow funny people on Twitter, etc. But as important as thoughts are, thinking “that’s funny” is not laughter. Laughter isn’t a thought, it is a physical activity. And like so many other physical activities, maybe it really is best when done with other people. Laughter is a weirdly contagious activity. Like crying.
Maybe part of the problem is that I spend most of my physical time in the company of teenagers who are far more inclined to share their tears than their laughter with me?
Or – you know – maybe it’s just me.
A few years ago I took private lessons from the yoga instructor I still go to. The problem was, I could lower my body into chaturanga, but then my brain couldn’t seem to connect to the muscles that would push me up into upward dog. I repeatedly fell on my chin. It was like someone had cut the necessary wires. I had to re-map my nervous system. And there was no way to “think it” into being. I had to move.
For Christmas this year, I gave E. a scratch-the-peaks map of Norwegian hiking routes. The thing is, the map isn’t the hike.
And I’m thinking: here, I have this map for a better life – one with more laughter, with meaning – but I can’t seem to connect my brain to my foot to take the first step. It’s all just theory at this point. Theory and some falling on my chin.
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Ah, you’ve found the head of a nail here, and this is something I need to share with the children, because I think all of us are suffering from a breakdown of our cognitive maps. To know we’re not alone is the first step to some kind of healing.