Instead of Television
ZOELAB DAY 51
For almost two weeks, I have been suffering from a lower intestinal infection of some variety of bacteria or protozoa. Don’t worry, I won’t give the intimate details, but the point is I haven’t been feeling well. I have been powering through it, trying to keep on living as always. The last few days I have tried to changing my eating habits (eating only simple foods and absolutely no sugar) hoping not to encourage the beasts inside, which has alleviated the pain and urgency, but has brought on a different sensation that I am not fond of: hunger. I don’t do well with hunger, I become testy, unfunny, and spacey. It is very hard to write, let alone think, in such conditions.
Through much of this I have been trying to write this seemingly endless manifesto on my relationship with television, which I am taking a break from for a moment, but plan to continue later today. I was unable to write last night (and every day I am catching up on the post from the day before.) Yes, I recognize that in the big picture, if I break my commitment to make a post one day there will be no real consequences. I have a very small readership, and most of my readers don’t read every day. But still, I am a woman of my word. And if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. However, my health is adversely affecting my ability to keep up with ZOELAB at the level that I would like. Additionally, the organization of the household, my job, my parenting, my physical self-care—all are faltering. In other words, I feel pressured and overwhelmed. And the worst part is, the pressure is self-generated, so I can’t blame anyone but myself.
This morning I wanted to spend some quality time with Emilio before Lucas whisked him off for the day so that I can spend some time catching up and unwinding myself. I told Emilio we could do anything he wanted (except watch a show, which was the thing he most wanted). He chose to make watercolors together. After we got our paper out, he asked, as he often does, what I was going to paint.
[I was just interrupted by our neighbor who wanted to find out if we knew of anyone interested in buying the land he has for sale. See post in reference to this land. He told me if someone is interested, he will knock 15,000 pesos off the price. About $1,200 dollars]
I told him I didn’t know. Usually my desire is to paint something abstract, with no plan at all. But pressured myself into painting something figurative so I painted a picture of a woman with my hairstyle. It was flat and lifeless. Then I let myself paint the painting I really wanted to make. This is improvisational painting, when I get to have fun with paint, experimenting with different layers of translucency and colors and forms. I layered and layered and layered and then I looked at my painting and I knew what I had painted. It was an image of the infestation of single celled organisms living in my intestine. This is a great example of accidental expressive arts therapy. My unconscious gave me this image as a reminder to go easy on myself, to not push myself beyond what I can reasonably do. To write this post instead of pushing ahead with what I woke up at 6:30 to write this morning about--The Office. Instead of writing last night, I fell asleep while doing “research” (watching episodes of The Office). Once again, I am reminded: Start from where you are. That which hinders your task is your task.
This reminds me of what was more present with me last month, if you are a parent, and want to be creatively productive and happy, organization is key. I find that I sometimes get ahead of myself, wanting to “do” before I am ready, before I am organized. I often find myself struggling in the balance between organization and creation. Creation is usually the messy, expressive side of the duality. Organization is the mental, linear part. Both are necessary if you are trying to achieve something difficult. I have so many things I want to do, and sometimes I jump into them before I am ready. During those times what I really need is to take a breath first, and actually plan and organize first. Hence, I become a listmaker. But a list is not always enough. Because the lists pile up and then the lists need to be categorized, prioritized. Then the list becomes creation in itself, and I get lost. It becomes a vicious cycle. Listmaking can sometimes increase the overwhelming feelings, and the only way to feel better is to take a deep breath, and just start doing something. Anything. What helps to ward off the overwhelm is to stay present in the doing. If I’m washing dishes, for example, I focus my attention to the senses: the feeling of the water and soap on my hands, the view out the window. And try to ignore the grumbling monologue in my head “I hate washing dishes. I just washed all the dishes yesterday. It’s endless. Just endless. I can never get ahead. I can never get ahead with everything. Really what I need to be doing right now is make that phone call for work. But I don’t have the phone number…” That monologue is always there, but we don’t always have to give it attention. We can put our attention in the physical realm, the realm of the senses. This is a way of focusing my attention. Another way of saying it is, presence. Being in the present moment. Slowing down enough to feel the floor under my feet and the breeze on my skin. This creates space in me and around me. So the task before today is to breathe, slow down, and focus on one thing at a time. I’ll let you know how it goes.