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 isĀ 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 fulfilment

The 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.

On my second cup of coffee and my first sentence. Another night of poor sleep. 4 hours. I figure at some point something has to give. I have no choice but to accept the long nights right now. At least my mind isn’t racing, nor am I ruminating.

E. says that when I do sleep, I snore. Which can’t be true. I tell him that he is the one snoring, really, and that he is incorporating that sound into his own dream. Because we do that

– in the same way that our brains take in visual information in the half-dark and make sense of it. A pile of laundry on the chair becomes an old woman sitting very still… but breathing.

I would love to understand the connection between creativity and depression. Why my dreams become more vivid, why in my waking hours I can see faces in the asphalt and – out of the corner of my eye – catch tree trunks dancing in the orange glow of the greenhouse spill.

But when I have the energy to try to harness it all on paper, with paper or paint, it all stops.

This is my version of the Black Dog. When I turn to look at it directly, it is gone. And then you wonder if it was ever really there to begin with.

I had an idea. A brilliant idea. Now it’s gone. Like that nearly-finished novel you outlined while falling asleep, only to find two half sentences on a scrap of paper on the nightstand in the morning. It kills you. If you look it in the eye – the Black Dog – it kills you.

I’ve stopped jotting notes on scraps of paper on the nightstand in the dark hours.

Sometimes for no particular reason, a season turns and something new begins. A fog lifts, but so slowly that even watching it you can’t pinpoint the moment that has passed. I sometimes slip into thinking that this is the way of the world, but I think the fault is in me: the not-noticing.

I read a book once on quantum mechanics. And while reading it, with each paragraph, with each page, I understood it. I could hold the concept in my head and it made sense. But when I finished the book, all of the ideas were lost to me. It is when I understood my own limitations with regard to that kind of abstract conceptualization. In some ways, I was disappointed in myself. But there was also a kind of satisfaction in finding this one way to delineate my own abilities. Here, but no further. It was a step closer to discovering the shape of me. Now a new direction – running into a new limitation. I wonder if someday I will step back to see an outline of who I am.

There is a kind of security, knowing where the edges of myself lie. It is something I can point to and claim to know.

My point was what I remember from the quantum mechanics book is that things don’t happen gradually and they don’t ease into our awareness. There are sudden jumps. Babies really do grow suddenly overnight. It’s not our imaginations. So it is actually likely that the fog just lifts and we just think we missed it because we are searching for a process. Almost like searching for an explanation. If we can’t explain it we can’t predict it next time – we can’t pretend to control it. The doctors tell us things happen gradually. So gradually that we don’t notice. They reassurance things are “happening” outside of our awareness. But what if they are wrong. What if things are stagnant until they just – inexplicably – change?

Even a metaphorical fog lifting can simultaneously make me feel better and make me feel inadequate. I can’t find a reason for this thinning of the world. For this easing in the atmosphere. I try to track down the causes, but I am rationalizing. A dinner with friends. A morning on the porch without gloves. Who knows. But if I knew, I could squirrel the information away for next time and use it as a treatment. All very scientific.

But here I sit with incantations. But also wonder.

an interruption
a detour from linear
growth – unexpected