This is something new for me but it sounds like something I desperately need, so I'm going to dip my toes in and see if I like the water.
Elephant's Child posted some writing prompts for this week and I selected the following words from her lists to do with as I please:
The groundskeepers beneath my condo balcony give a rundown of the property's vegetation to the new guy. They're not sure why the hedge at the back has so much grass in it or why 401 has so many lawn sculptures-just don't break them.
It is early fall and the leaves are still changing; not yet descending to the ground in such hoards as to become a ubiquitous presence in our lawns and gutters but still perched high above, pondering their faltering chlorophyll and what glorious hue they will soon adopt. They've lived the lives were meant to live. A batch of leaves bonded by the record breaking heat of the summer like a wartime generation. This fall a VE day of sorts. They can die happy leaves.
I wonder how the landscapers perceive the shift. If the leaves falling from the trees blend seamlessly into the piles of leaves chopped from hedges with their gas powered trimmers or if the season's leaves will pounce upon them like a coup.
I sit above the hums and buzzes of their tools, feeling like an intruder. Unsure if my presence is perceived I carefully set my coffee mug on the empty cardboard box that once contained my son's high chair, as if the motion might give my position away to the crew below. Amidst the work noise I read, sip, and scribble, my toes clenched deep in my purple velvet slippers. I'm trying to relax. I think I am relaxed then I find yet more tension in my body, my jaw clenching, my shoulders knotted. The landscapers don't stress me, the noisy work that upsets my equanimity is all in my head.
My mind is whizzing with to-do lists, criticisms, lessons, and memories all while I reread a paragraph for the third time in a workbook designed to teach me a better way to cope with life as someone "who struggles with overwhelming feelings." This hapless blundering has been my mode of mental transportation for months. I had managed to maintain appearances of calm, collected parenthood for a while but beneath the cynical smiles my brain was flagging.
It started in spring with an epic game of mental Frogger as I darted between caustic self-criticism and panic inducing anxiety. My sanity was faltering. Slowly at first, sneakily shifting my perceptions while my body drummed up a continual dull ache. My worries turned irrational. The fears my mind adopted were strange: carjackers, stray bullets, child snatchers, home invaders bent on killing my child. I knew I wasn't getting enough sleep, I knew my addled brain was losing the balancing act of new motherhood, but I soldiered on. "When he starts sleeping through the night, everything will settle down. At six months everything gets easier, just wait."
Just before I reached the promised land of six months post womb my fearful anxiety transformed into thoughts of scratching my forearms until they were raw, red, and burning with broken skin, specks of blood but not a single drop. Oh no, that would be too messy. My brain formulated wicked plots to quiet my baby "for good." My mind compelled into dark imaginings of shaking him until his neck snapped, setting him in the diaper pail and shutting the lid until his cries faded away, dropping him across my knee like some dramatized wrestling villain breaking his tiny body over my jiggling thigh, drowning him in our tub. The thoughts kept coming. The peace of my sleeping child overlain with violent impulses, hatred, and tears. Even my quiet moments were torment.
The despondent aches of spring had a warmth like nostalgia compared to the searing of summer's pain. Early summer brought the harming impulses and dark thoughts. Not normal but I thought I could handle it, resist the thoughts, function nonetheless. High summer I couldn't handle shit. High summer had me with a plastic bag in my hand ready to make my husband a widower, leave my child motherless, abandon my life as a failed project, relinquish myself to the deep rest that I so desperately needed.
Rest came, but not how I expected. Rest came with a hospital wristband and a QR code just for me. Pills in those tiny paper cups I dreaded. Stigma folded in deep with every pleat. I was afraid of inpatient but in the end I was afraid to leave. The fearful epitome of "bottoming out" became my sweet retreat. I found myself feeling like a person again, not just a milk cow with Social Security number. I graduated, so they said, but two days home and my mind was hatching murder plots.
Off to outpatient I went. Two weeks tumbling out of the house at dawn to drive south with streams of employable people. My office a conference room full of high functioning broken hearts. I began again from the bottom and found myself graduating with a spark of my old self back. Again, the hope and again the crushing disappointment as my dark thoughts churned fourth within a few days back at home.
Now the weeks have piled on. The summer is behind us and I sit on my balcony watching the groundskeepers and their leaves. Their fall leaves and my fallen mind. I've lost count of how many times my mind has shed itself, left me standing barren at the beginning of yet another Reconstruction, shivering from shock or cold. How many times more will my mind turn on itself? How many times more will I have to fumigate my festering brain? How many times more will I shed myself and being again?
I wonder if those groundskeepers ever wish for just one autumn without the a torrent of leaves. Maybe they like the annual battle, their annual victory nearly guaranteed. Perhaps they don't suffer from my crippling fear of failure.
I sip my tea and resume my reading. Laying out a new grid, a new foundation in my mind is hard, harder still when my skewed mind wonders, "Why bother? It'll all fall to pieces soon enough." but I look to the groundskeepers, with all their perennial battles, and know that this is simply life. I hope that someday soon I will shed those tarnished leaves of fear and worry, leave my pain behind and clear space for verdant buds of hope and maybe, just maybe blossoms of peace.
Hmmm. I think I got all my words in.... that went places I didn't expect to go and I feel like it was a good exercise although I did get to edit it up as well as I would like, but ya know what? I think it's good for me to leave something not quite right. I need to embrace "not quite right" a bit more. So, I am leaving it at that.
Time for a hot cuppa. :)