I moved into an old, 1940s-ish, new-to-me house in early February and it is early April and two days ago I finally (almost) finished setting up my writing space. I must admit that this is the first time I have felt completely at home since the move. The clock is ticking, the ink is flowing, the tea is lukewarm at best. It is a work night and it is getting late. My mind just keeps buzzing and I feel all sorts of content and alive. Yes, I am finally home.
My writing room is, perhaps, the most beautiful room in the house. It is a many windowed sunroom with a ficus tree and a desk and a daybed and cheap, groovy curtains. There is my grandmother’s folkartish cat clock with the loud steady tick, the desk lamp with the square shade, the green antique-looking wooden chair, a hardwood floor, and a french-style door that can close the space off from the rest of the house when I really need to get serious.
I have never had a room solely dedicated to my creative work. I used to dream about having a tree house or a cabin or a glorified hut in a backyard in which I could escape to dabble in short story and poetry and memoir. Until I finished unpacking this room and began to furiously scribble and type, I didn’t even realize that a dream has come true for me. I have a space that I can call my own that far surpasses any expectations or fantasies to which I previously succumbed.
I could cry.
But, I won’t cry. I won’t because I am in my little corner of the house and I am writing and this little corner and this writing make me feel truly alive. I am forty this year and, perhaps, this means of conjuring up enthusiasm and inspiration– sitting relatively still in a beautiful space and letting the words spill out– is the only healthy way that I ever achieved any manner of contentment, any inkling that I am truly alive and part of the grand scheme of the Universe.
I also won’t cry because I had a really good, eye-swelling, nose-snotting, can’t-catch-your-breath sob last night. I am, I think, completely cried out at the moment.
I’ve shared here before I’ve spent a large portion of my life living in extremes– running desperately toward anything that would make me feel ecstatic only to be catapulted back into the darkness of my disappointment and depression when the excitement was over. I say “excitement”, but that is not accurate. What I experienced was more of a bitter thrill that, sadly, I only ever came to through self-destructive means. Now, I am trying to recover from years of chasing some false sense of jouissance, after creating a false sense of self whose identity was all tied up in a mirage of bliss, and after experiencing a great deal of suffering when the looking glass of my life would shatter and then shatter again.
And, now, I have my writing room.
Still, despite this wonderful space, despite the steps I am taking toward healing, despite all the beauty and love in my life, I am, lately, yet again, squaring up against my shadow sides. I have been up in my damned head again– setting up camp in the grayer corners of my gray matter– and I am disappointed. It seems that everytime I think I’ve forever broken the surface of my own melancholia some personal flaw or circumstance or just the direction of the wind thrusts me back down into that dark pool again and I have to struggle to swim up for air.
Yet, as much as I do not like this pattern, as much as I do not like it at all, I recognize it (when I am not brooding) as a critical part of my journey. It is, I am starting to think, the only way that I will ever grow.
I saw a Carl Jung quote on someone’s FaceBook page today that stated: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
This quote, this very night, the night after the eye-swelling sobbery, was a Godsend for me. That is what I do, imagine figures of light, and get frustrated when I cannot hold onto them. It’s true, I no longer engage in the self-destructive behaviors of my past, but I still want to be rid of the darkness. I still do absurd things, absurdities of a more mild variety perhaps but still absurd, to avoid facing my own soul. Sometimes facing myself is just painful. But, I suppose, I must. I must without wallowing in it, however.
My partner, whom I admire beyond admire, often says “get where your feet are” and “find the good and praise it.” Sometimes, I let these phrases float past me, desensitized and rebellious. Sometimes, like this very time, when I am in my cozy writing studio practicing meditative breath between sentences and paragraphs, I can fully embrace these words of wisdom. While bringing the darkness to my consciousness, I can also catch that glimmer of light that resides within everything, including me, and I am able to see it and to hold it.
Gratitude, they say, is an action word. You must practice gratitude to benefit from it. You must practice gratitude to hold on to that light and to appreciate the darkness. Having this physical space in which I can both relax and push myself to reach my creative potential is a great place to strengthen that practice. As I said, a dream has come to truth for me. And that, my friends, is something.
If I find the good and really acknowledge it and share it and roll around in it, if I can recognize that my feet are on the floor right now and my fingers are grazing the keyboard and my life is just wonderful the way it is, I do not have to chase ecstasy nor do I have to struggle to feel. I am here. My heart is beating. I must have more to give.
I am learning to appreciate the darkness and the light and am realizing that these currents that drag me back under are not trying to drown me. They are trying to teach me a lesson. They are trying to show me that the water isn’t truly murky, that one can always see the light just above the surface. They are trying to tell me, to swim toward that light. To find the good. To praise it.