“The truth is, I am free, I am happy, I am healthy and I am utterly miserable.”
George Bernard Shaw wrote this in a little play called Too True to be Good, and I have no trouble at all relating to it. The statement seems like a conundrum, two opposites of reality. How can I be all that great stuff and miserable at the same time? But it has been my emotional state for the last month.
I have been without a pile of things to do, an endless list of pressurized obligations that must be accomplished by a certain time. I have this lovely, darling, comfortable home in the Berkshires for a few months, no place to be, and you would think that I would be over-the-moon excited all the time. But no, I am happy and delighted and so self-judgmental about how I spend each moment. I am not able to enjoy my freedom without guilt. I judge myself constantly about what I SHOULD or COULD be doing so that I can’t just sit and read and write without guilt unless I have put in some productive time exercising, hiking, or meeting with staff for my future work. What is this?
Even writing, which was a joy when I was driving through the country with every moment filled, typing late into the night in order to finish a post before I move on to the next town, has become a chore now that I have copious amounts of time. I put it off, judge it harshly, and wonder who in the hell would want to read my dribble? I just read a poem this morning by Billy Collins in which the devil told him to think of writing more as an exercise, “think of writing as a process, a never-ending, infernal process...” the word “infernal” struck a chord.
I should be doing Linklater voice everyday
I should be exercising everyday
I should be reading Shakespeare everyday
I should be finding new monologues and working them everyday
I should be writing everyday
I should be getting out into the woods everyday
I should be eating less everyday and losing weight
I should be studying a manual on how to be a better teacher
I should be getting out and being a tourist and enjoying the Berkshires
I should be getting into NYC and seeing plays
I should be making huge life decisions like WHERE am I going to live
I should be settling somewhere and getting my stuff out of storage
I should be completely happy because there’s no reason not to be
This pace is what I have dreamed of right? All the years of being strapped for time, rushing to find moments for study and dreaming of the day that I could have endless hours to read Shakespeare and work on my craft. Well, here I am with this dream come true and I’m beating myself up for it, trying to justify my existence and the gift of this couple of months. I know, and can assure you, that in a few months I will be LONGING for these indulgent days of rest from the rat race. Why then can’t I enjoy it while it’s here?
Part of it is the time of year. It’s dreary, cold, and gray here and snowing all the time. I was expecting more sunshine. I don’t mind cold, but I do miss blue sky. This is very like what I escaped from Seattle, only whiter with snow and freezing. I think I am being afflicted by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I looked it up and sure enough the signs are all there.
“…a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you’re like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” -mayoclinic.com
I’ve upped my vitamin D, and my exercise regimen, such as it is, has become more of a priority because it seems to help the most.
I’ve never struggled with depression before. Many people in my world do and I have never been able to empathize from personal experience, but now I can. Maybe that’s why it is happening, so that I can be a better friend and teacher, able to understand the gripping inability to feel useful. At least it helps to think there is a purpose to it all even if there isn’t.
When will I get over the self judgment curse? That seems to be what it boils down to. The looking and evaluating and picking apart of my existence. No matter what I do, it is never good enough for my inner critic. This critic is constantly in motion, like a computer virus scanner sweeping though my files looking for malicious software. Only my inner critic always finds something that needs purging, I don’t get the sweet notification “no viruses were found.”
Is it shame? Not feeling worthy or deserving of such goodness in my life? If I look at my days without the veil of self-judgment, they look much better. In the last few weeks I have been on three beautiful hikes, I have read 6 plays (one Shakespeare), watched some great dvd’s about Mr. Shakespeare, got a school to commit to a 6 week residency this Apr and May, posted two blogs and wrote almost everyday, went to an audition and enjoyed myself, danced at least every other day if only in my living room, wrote letters to more schools for interest in a Spring Festival in 2014, made and delivered dinner to a sick friend, enjoyed karaoke and singing again.
It’s amazing as I write all these things how at the beginning of this page I didn’t even realize how much I have accomplished in a few weeks. Some hugely wonderful things have happened, which is why the happy and miserable at the same time is so appallingly apropos. There’s always more I can do to be a better person. Even when I am at my most productive, I judge there to be ways of being more loving, more present, more useful like Ms. So-and-So. But isn’t this all just proving that I have issues with not being good enough? Yep, true confessions. I am not enough. Which I thought I had figured out this year and come to accept that I AM enough! But obviously there is still some work to be done. “Work?” No, resting, in acceptance and allowing my life to be ok where it is. I’ve come full circle from the first post I ever wrote about resting almost a year ago…
“Here’s where the “rest” in meandeREST comes into play. My voice teacher wisely reminded me that rests in music are blank moments that are completely necessary for the beautiful notes to be set apart. If we didn’t have these times of blankness, absence of sound, or in my case work, the beauty of the whole would be compromised. So I am going to embrace the rest, the empty measures and embark on a journey of discovery.” (see meander )
It is time to take my own advice and get back to the adventure of the quiet places in my musical score, not holding my breath waiting for the next notes, but breathing in anticipation for when beautiful sound penetrates my eardrums again.