I have been struggling through “the change” for several years now without any medicinal or therapeutic assistance. Just like in that wonderful movie about John Nash – who learned to live with his demons’ constant companionship – I was determined to survive “mentalpause” simply by exercising “mind over matter”. In Nash’s case, his beautiful mind got him through; in my case it has been mostly my powers of denial unintelligently applied.
When my hormonal cacophony caused me to panic at every on-ramp, I simply stopped driving on the highway and switched to the train. When I found myself stuck in a cycle of morbid thoughts, I dove deeper into my projects and professional life to distract me, spent cigarette breaks hatching plans for the next attempt to quit smoking, transferred the words “doctor appt!” from one To-Do list to the next, and made a daily routine of resolving to start living in a more healthy way “tomorrow”. I did everything I could to alternately ignore or shrug off the revolution going on inside my body and to escape the confines of my own head.
I just spent the past five days at home in silence and solitude with the family off skiing. I piddled and putzed and surfed and ordered – all without really accomplishing anything. I de-piled a few of my papers, putting them in plastic covers, then binders, then shelves. I delved into some computer archives, using the “delete” button liberally – that is, until it got boring. I read and wrote and took long walks with the dogs through falling snow. I ate sparingly, but drank lots of water in preparation for my upcoming blood tests. Each successive night I slept deeper and longer. My body seems to have declared a ceasefire. And, slowly, I’m finding my own head an increasingly comfortable place to spend some time in.
My family is returning home in about an hour. I originally had this plan – a mental image of the house in a state of perfect order for them to come home to and promptly mess up again. I didn’t even come close to achieving my goals. The Christmas deco is still up and the ironing pile is still huge. There are still clothes on my bedroom floor. My office space has yet to be rearranged and the basement is . . . well, I won’t go there. (And neither would you.) But I have also stopped obsessing about it. Three days ago, I would have felt guilt and failure at not bringing about this state of perfection, of squandering the time I had to achieve it. Now, oddly enough, it doesn’t really matter to me.
It seems I used the time to bring some order to a different place.