Well, this past weekend was interesting. Call it a wash. Call it an excellent use of time. I did things, this past weekend, that I haven’t done in years — read a bit of fiction and a bit of essay, explored various countries online, and wrote in my journal. A lot.
I haven’t really written journal-type stuff (outside of this blog) for a pretty long time. It’s been fits and starts, on and off, without much commitment. I’ve also been a bit wary of the whole journaling thing, because it tends to pull me into a self-consumed state of mine where I hash over the same stuff over and over and over again. And then when I look back, it really bothers me that I couldn’t get out off that loop.
This weekend, though, I did a lot of writing. I just didn’t care about the danger of “looping”. I was sick. I was feeling bad. And it gave me some relief.
So, that’s good.
What was really good about it, was that I was writing in a different way than I used to, when I kept those “loop journals”. This time, I was writing for the specific purpose of getting my brain online. See, I believe that the ways we use our brains determine how they are shaped, and I believe that writing is an excellent way of reshaping our brains. Keeping up this blog has been a huge part of my recovery — both because it helps me, and because it seems to help others. There are just no downsides (so long as I don’t let the blogging interfere with my daily routines).
What I did this weekend, was spend a lot of time really paying attention to my life and the world around me. I paid really close attention to the qualities and characteristics of the things around me — the minor parts of life that are so full of rich details that if we stopped to pay real attention to them, our lives would be as full and as wonderful as any action movie. I do believe that. The reason it doesn’t happen is, we just don’t try. We don’t realize that’s possible. And we don’t do it, so we don’t have practice, so it’s hard for us to do — and things that are hard are really no fun, so we don’t do them. And we get even more out of practice.
So, this past weekend, while I was fighting off my ear/sinus infection, I practiced. I looked at the patterns of raindrops on the roof of my car sitting down in the driveway. I examined the movements of clouds and the colors of leaves turning for autumn. I really felt the textures of the things in my house – the uneven surface of the bannister, the roughness of the walls, the weight and rumble of the sliding glass door. And even though I felt really, really sick, it woke me up in ways that I haven’t been awake, in quite some time.
And I realize that the big reason that my journaling didn’t help me — and got stuck in a loop — in the past, is that I was too much inside my head, too consumed by the confused thoughts and conflicts raging inside of me. I wasn’t journaling about the world around me, I was trying to “pin down” what was going on inside of me, and that — frankly — was a lost cause, because it was all a swiftly moving target that was constantly changing and morphing and flying from one extreme to the other, and it could never be pinned down.
But this different kind of writing — the “outside-in” writing, which is about what’s going on beyond my brain — is a whole other way of sorting through things. It’s like I’m exercising parts of my brain that don’t get any exercise in the course of my everyday logistics life. It’s like I’m
“airing out” the musty corners that don’t get much sunlight when I am so very intent on just getting something done that’s a problem for me. Focusing intently on doing things like making breakfast or doing my morning warm-up is good for the attention, but it doesn’t do much for my imagination. And the imagination part is what really rounds out my life and makes it enjoyable and worth living. Imagination is what I need help with, and this sort of writing — even just a few sentences about the shape of raindrops on the roof of my car — fires up that part of my brain like nothing else. It jump-starts my ability to experience life around me, in small pieces that don’t overwhelm me. And that’s good.
So, today I am awake with a very different perspective on things. I have finished my antibiotics, and I have another appointment with my doctor tomorrow to make sure my ears are alright. I still don’t feel well, and I have a ton of things to take care of at work today. I also have more things I need to do for my own life, because my spouse has been very, very sick and I am a bit more functional than they are, so someone needs to pick up the slack.
I feel, in a way, like I’ve turned the corner on something. I’ve had a pretty rough couple of months, with my job change and all the craziness going on inside my head. But I’m settled, now. I am settling in. I have a really good understanding of the physiological basics of keeping my life on track. I have a pretty good understanding of how to keep stress from wrecking me. I am determined to stick with those things and make my life better. And I have this new way of writing and exploring and improving how I think, how I feel, how my brain works — how I experience my life.
And it’s good. I can get back to work again. It’s going to take time, but I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy the process.