Except for when they don’t.
TWENTY THINGS I DID LAST MONTH INSTEAD OF WRITING
I’ve often said that even when I’m not writing things on paper or online, I’m still actively a writer because I am concocting stories in my head. It’s always been part of my process to mull things over for a while (sometimes a very long while) in the safety of my mind before I birth them fully-formed onto the page.
But in June I didn’t write. Not even in secrecy behind the shroud of my subconscious. I was a blank slate. And my feelings about this alternated between apathy and frustration. But mostly apathy, if I’m honest. I became rather resigned to it.
What I did instead:
1. I moved downtown. I made a bit of a disastrous decision to move out of town last year, for all the right reasons. It didn’t stick. Luckily it was fixable, but not without considerable upheaval for my loved ones. It helps that we moved to one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods ever.
2. I unpacked. In like, 48 hours. I really like our new place and I couldn’t wait to feel settled after feeling out-of-place for so long.
Leading up to our move, I had rapidly devolved into a useless lump who crawled into bed and refused to come out. I barely packed. I barely did anything. Some of this was due to physical pain, but I think it was mostly emotional. The stress of having to move and pack became this insurmountable challenge and each time I tried to fight inertia, I had a meltdown. If this infuriated my husband, he didn’t show it. I think he was just really, really concerned I was having (another) nervous breakdown. Or possibly was too busy packing to properly have time to deal with his own feelings of frustration. Either way, it wasn’t exactly a good time for either of us.
But then, with moving done, I unpacked everything. My stuff, everyone else’s stuff, all the stuff. And it was a relief. I still don’t feel perfectly settled, because there remains some art at our old house that needs to come over, but I feel more… me.
3. I stopped taking my bipolar meds.
4. I bought fresh produce. One of the best parts of living less than 10 minutes’ walk to a historic marketplace. Truly. I don’t even know whether the quality of the food is better… but the experience is lovely. I like strolling along outside in the open air and the fact that there are different choices every week. Grocery shopping usually bores me. This doesn’t.5. I thought about drinking.
6. I baked a lot of bread. I’ve owned a breadmaker for many years, but it had been stored away, unused for a long while. I dug it out and tried to get back in the groove of things, with initially disastrous results. First I used the wrong kind of yeast (which was a rookie mistake, and made me feel pretty stupid). Then I followed my old favourite recipe and the bread didn’t mix properly. Then I followed the same recipe, but added some water to the mix and mixed it by hand. That worked, but the bread was edible but not amazing and I was still frustrated at having to hand mix something that was supposed to be an automated process. I then tried adding a bit more water from the beginning and bingo! It finally worked. And was delicious.
The whole process annoyed the hell out of me, because my memories of making bread previously were that I was flawless at it, and I had very little tolerance for my newly discovered failures. It probably helped that my husband insisted that it was all delicious, and kept eating it… even the bits that I wanted to throw out.
7. I argued with people on Facebook. And Huffington Post. And the Ottawa Citizen. Less so face-to face.
8. I struggled with arthritis pain.
9. I bought a bench for the shower so a) I can sit down when I’m too weak to stand, and b) I don’t fall over and break my bones.
9. I craved tequila and Coke.
10. I made compote. I cannot explain the unreasonably huge feeling of accomplishment I experienced over this mundane achievement. Maybe it’s because it is the closest I have ever come to making jam on my own. Maybe it’s because I discovered a jam substitute which I can make without added sugar (something I’m supposed to care about as a diabetic, but usually fail at). Husband and child also loved it, which probably had something to do with said feeling. I mean, I would have gladly eaten it all myself, but I am a recognition junkie. Apparently.11. I started losing vision in my left eye. First I started seeing a lot of spots in both eyes. Then one night after being out with friends, I came home and suddenly found myself with a blurry splotch in my field of vision on the left side of my left eye. It would make sense, given my various immune disorders, that this was optic neuritis, or retinal detachment, or any number of things. I have since been to the ER and to an ophthalmologist, but they can’t find anything physically wrong. I have been referred for more tests.
12. I shaved my head. Not the whole thing, just the sides. Arthritis in my shoulders is making it harder to deal with styling my hair and I am rapidly getting more and more impatient with hair brushing against my face and neck. I also made the decision a while back to stop dyeing my hair and the whole process of ‘waiting’ for my grey to come in is going entirely too slowly.
13. Two weeks later, I cut most of the rest of my hair off, too.
15. I saw a bunch of plays at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. No acting for me this year, but I volunteered for a few shifts with my husband. With my physical health being so unpredictable, this was a scary commitment, but having him do it with me helped make it go fairly smoothly. I had to use my cane a lot, which always makes me feel self-conscious, but ultimately I enjoyed myself and it was good to be doing something theatre-related, (especially when my own acting future seems somewhat uncertain right now). Volunteering has its perqs (besides free theatre) and we also got free pizza from ZaZaZa and free poutine from Smoke’s Poutinerie. By the end of 10 days, I was exhausted, but well-fed.
16. I wondered if my eye problems were in my mind. The spots haven’t gone away. But they get better and worse. Maybe they’re in my imagination. Maybe they’re bipolar hallucinations. I don’t know what to do with that information.
17. I bought some brightly-coloured pillows for our black couch. I like them. They please me.
18. I cooked a lot. I think I’ve always been a pretty good cook. But in the last few years my energy and ability to cook has been pretty erratic. Somehow the combination of fresh local ingredients and a gorgeous new kitchen has spurred me on to create. And perhaps create is the key word here — ever since my illness has made acting next-to-impossible (and with my ability to write on hiatus), I have really felt a rather excruciating loss of identity. Food has become my canvas. Which is great, really. I’m eating better. I’m feeding my family. I just worry that like most of my obsessions, this one will only last a few months before I completely lose interest again.
Or maybe it won’t. There is a constant stream of new and interesting ingredients flooding the market. At least until winter. Maybe then we’ll be back to tv dinners and takeout. I hope not.
19. I felt guilty for making everyone move. They’re happy to be here. They’ve said so. It’s a fantastic neighbourhood. We have had beautiful walks, eaten at great restaurants, met some lovely neighbours, watched fireworks on Canada Day (a 10 minute walk from the house!), and played games at the local board game lounge. But I still feel guilty.
20. I broke my toe. It hurt like hell. It still hurts on-and-off and is swollen and a sort of grey colour. Walking on it causes a purple bruise to spread on the underside of the toe and the top of my foot. It is remarkable how much one little toe can cause discomfort while walking. So I’ve been mostly stuck at home for the last few days. Whenever I venture out, it makes it worse. I try to sit with my feet up on the coffee table, but then it aches. I try to sit with it on the floor, but it aches.
So I gave up and crawled into bed.
And started writing.
(originally posted at http://medium.com/human-parts/a-writer-writes-except-for-when-they-dont-76a82f6c3331)