I awakened a recent morning and stretched well, squinted at the window to ascertain what the sky was up to, then lay still again, as has been usual. Just coming back into this world. Through half slits of myopic eyes I scanned the soft blur of an inviting, comfortably large space around me. A thick warm dullness weighted me inside and out, and words arrived: stuck in a blue room.
I closed my eyes, drifted, wished for gold, wished for amethyst or vermillion or sage or flamingo pink.
The walls of my bedroom are painted a tender sky-in-lake blue. The quilt is Wedgwood blue. The bedroom light appears a sheer silvered blue early mornings, a soft navy at night. My mind, too, generally seems blue as I lay in bed. This usually reflects a peaceful ease, but it can also emphasize variable sadness or restless worry. Also, this blueness is a celestial dreaming that carries me, or a threshold to cross that reveals a poem or story that arrive unbidden. Then I must write and the blueness morphs into a span of colors–I use the word loosely here, color can be more than actual color– that rise and fade under my pencil.
Stuck in a blue room…
Blue is the way I live when at repose–not engaged in living with greater amounts of physical energy and movement. Those activities are differently colored. Though it may seem odd to others, this is what it is for me. Color means life. There is no such thing as colorlessness to me. White, after all, is all colors that show themselves on earth. Each reflects more, is a vibration of energy, physics made mystical. They can telegraph to me an active emotion, a deeper expectation or a simple state of mind. I accept these with delight –until it bears down, makes me think hard. Color, then, signals clues to life as I know it.
So that morning it meant something other and more. If blueness is a state of being I walk into each time I open the bedroom door, it is familiar and I accept it’s character. It is the color always chosen for my bedrooms. But there are times it can feel oppressive, to close around the edges. It might feel like a density of blue, creating a wide boundary beyond which I feel less able to experience the fullness of life. If I was a long, languid sleeper, this would seem reasonable and I’d gladly succumb, but I am not, by nature. I am used to jumping up and getting going. I prefer to not waste too much time in that state. But lately I more often find myself captive in this blueness, and the room, for more than a little extra time.
I want out of there, faster, more easily. I tell myself this as I lie there, let my eyes drink of this rich tone of palette and see early autumn’s chill light chime its way in.I am not restive, but becalmed.
I remind myself: it is grief, nothing more or less. I have been here before. My days and nights have not shown up the same since my brother got so ill and died late spring after a conversation with him not long before, his gentle kiss on my cheek. Then a sister-in-law. Actually, it has been since four family members total passed in the just three years. As if the world is shrinking. Rooms are emptied even as I can sense presences…just there…then not.
Not that it should be the same. We lose parts of ourselves a little each time someone we love dies. They are not here for us to rebound off, to connect with, to herald similarities. Laugh with and be frustrated by. Those certain familiar meals/conversations stop. That part of my identity–of being a sister and sister-in-law—only as I could be with each of them–has dissipated.
I get it. I don’t generally like it. Nor the tears that rise and spill as I smell a familiar fragrance, hear a piece of loved music. Or see a child reach for an extended hand. Or hear of more sudden deaths in the greater world. The rareness and fragility of life stun me anew; I want to turn away even as I want to wrap my arms about it, hold all close. It is a magnetic thing, human life, but it also can repel us when we have had enough for a bit. When we need a rest from all the goings on.
I thought today, as I power walked and admired green if drier rustling leaves, that if I still drank, if I still harbored that desire, I might be a little drunk by evening. Instead, I drink teas, a bit of coffee with my breakfast and an iced tea or coffee later. But there was a time when I would dose my cup with a dab or two of whiskey. It made the hard, the tedious or even loathsome qualities of living less damaging, I felt. Way back then I couldn’t find the right effective remedy for that stuck state of mind–or perhaps I was too worn out to keep trying. But alcohol was a generous visitor, and soothed my fighting ego/wounded soul/aggravated heart/sleep-hungry body. My housewife boredom, overwhelmed motherhood. Displaced dreams, old wounds. Well, just tamp it down and carry on.
It was the sweet escape discovered later than many (age 27) and when I did it was: Amazing, it’s not illegal, expensive or lethal and also is socially acceptable. Not many years after, I gained the greater, more vicious experience for this drinker. But, meantime, it was quite handy, it worked pretty well on the inner and outer creaks and kinks, scars and blockages I’d wrestled with for so long. Or, rather, the illusion was convincing. One little sip was good, three big drinks or wine glasses were better or finally why not the entire blasted half pint of liquor…and more, who’s even counting. Somehow I carried on with life for a long time, so thought I was fooling everyone. That thinking led me down an escape route from which it took long to safely emerge, blinking like a long-captive creature in the brittle sunlight. Alive by the skin of my teeth.
So I don’t drink–not for decades now. I have far better coping skills, seek spiritual help, pay attention to what feels (as in instinct) best and then actually works. But at times I long for escape just the same. Not with an avarice for oblivion. Just a kindly breather, another trail to traverse, a better vision to replace mine, my daily story redesigned so that I fit it better–or it, me. I want to be happier again, and I want to be more useful to others as well. To feel more worthy of each day’s arrival. To slip these bonds of grief. Mine the rich vein, single out the spark in daily discoveries once more.
Is it so much to hope for? Maybe I was born rather too lucky…I have always felt able to find replenish-able joy despite the gradually heaped miseries that rimmed my life so soon. When tough times hang about I am still shocked like some foolish innocent who finally sees the world as it is. As if I have forgotten that this is part of it, we cannot be safe from it and no one gets off easy even when it appears that way. Every time I ponder how it can get so sorry on earth. And in my own life, which I used to feel was fabulous (not me, simply being alive) despite growing evidence otherwise. I know that heartaches reach as they teach us, and so deepen us at the seams, make us stronger, more aware as we hold on. I long ago created a life motto as Courage, Strength, Tolerance, Determination (“CSTD”)–I was 12 and knew it had to be that or sink. But before each challenge ended I’d experience resistance to being courageous, would rather claim my basic life joy in all its permutations. I suppose it is human nature to shrink from or fight off trials even as we rise to meet the demands.
So I have to root about for it, dig deep and seek far until I can locate it– shining, emanating more possibilities–then bring it close and spread it about to take a look. I have to get out of the bed of waiting/dreaming/perseverating, out of that eternal blueness, the room inside my mind and home which offers a small protection. But not enough of what I realistically need otherwise. And now.
Writing does this for me, as might be obvious. Who–if he or she is a writer or reader– can resist the cure of language that carries one inside other characters’ lives and their landscapes, creates a whole new time and eventful territory? The horizon shimmers, tantalizes– such a force, all those explorer words. Writing for me is a proverbial silver cord that attaches me to God and the great Beyond and to earth all at once.
Any creative pursuit can provide remedial action. I am taking a world music choral workshop once a week for two months. I’ve learned a Zulu song (I haven’t mastered words yet) and a Native American-derived song. I like the people, how easily they sing out and share talk afterwards, though I sing with self-conscious reluctance (I am yet rather too blue) and it will take time to feel more chatty. I intend on taking a drawing or painting class this winter. When the hand moves the mind quiets, focuses, awakens to visualization of ideas that are freeing. I need to dance beyond my living room but also need to choose wisely how to expend such energy. One woman I met at choir noted she’d belly danced for 18 years. I try to imagine it… but am likely to do interpretive dance or Latin styles or perhaps Zumba again. To each our own.
I walk. Every day whether tired out or in poor weather. For my heart to stay better and become stronger. To get out of the blue rooms of mind. To reconnect with nature’s potency. I hike whenever I can in forests and mountains, with or without my husband. Every walk cures something, a surly mood or a medium headache; it realigns my soul. Last Sunday Marc and I spent a couple of hours in Portland’s fine Japanese garden, sauntering, enchanted at every step.
Reading is a favorite way to get me out of a confining head space, such an easy escape. I read several articles and pages of books every day. Recently my landlord had to check a window in my bedroom and I was a bit embarrassed by the two walls covered in full to overflowing bookshelves as well as neat stacks of books near bedside. Also, my dining room table tends to look as if designated for massive paper and print, but it feels like home to see it. I flip a page, am entertained but also instructed, moved, irritated, thrilled, shocked, healed. Given sustenance.
Movies and television serve a prime purpose of escape–last night it was the last of an Agatha Christie mini-series and a baking show. Tonight it may be a house renovation show or a wildlife documentary. Even a reality show, lowest of the low culturally, yet it can grab my attention a bit. I recently attended the fine film “The Wife” with one of my best friends, after which we went out for a great Italian meal. She prefers to escape into movies. I am happy to go along with her. Inhabiting another story, marveling at the artistry of film–a pleasure that broadens horizons.
This week-end we are attending the concert of glorious classical songstress Renee Fleming. Next week-end I am attending a musical based on Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” with another dear gal friend. Escape with intention of gaining intellectual nourishment.
I am fortunate to have these options, I know. It is a good thing I have them. I drank before, yes, and at a younger age also seriously abused drugs. But I have never escaped into gambling and my shopping is not much or pricey. I am far past the sexual hunt mode. No food addictions beyond intense desire for chocolate that visits me suddenly (I will pay well for superior quality). I am not a “techie” who buys lots of gadgets or even a fancy computer. Collecting items other than books or maybe t-shirts (so comfy) is not on my agenda. My love of music is upheld by fairly cheap transmitters such as radio and CD player plus a few concerts each year. Well, I do have a Sirius XM subscription for my car.
I could become a board game addict–a real draw for years, and I still love a competitive Scrabble game. I am as already noted quite enamored of frequent physical movement–hikes and walks, dance, exercise with out without weights, just wiggling about. I could see that taking up ore time. Exciting, aye? My escapes are manageable these days, and that works for me.
Travel has become more attractive though I tend to be reluctant initially. Last night Marc said he is longing for travel soon. Which is interesting as he travels too much for work. But now it needs to be for fun once more. So it seems we are escaping somewhere for a week or so. There is my being lately stuck and so slow to want to leave. Yet as he noted, travel can re-set or refresh the self, the body. It might be a way in which we both benefit after the year’s memorials, tears–and a fresh batch of questions about our family’s future. (We have several children and grandchildren and extended family; we all know there is always another concern now or ahead, no matter how big the family.)
All escapes noted are fleeting, of course. They are still effective coping mechanisms. Far better than nothing. And without a doubt more effective than the drink (or other distraction that is problematic) that leads to greater losses. Healthier entertainment escape routes bring forward the relief desired. Or they are the beginning of small movements inside us, leading to inspiration, a glimpse of new viewpoints, an expansive moment shared.
Other people can steer me away from myself. That is good, mostly. I appreciate being a part of others’ ideas and experiences. People are a wealth of wonders more often than not. And if I can be of assistance, so much the better if I have the energy–and sometimes even when not.
When there are significant concerns about people it can get sticky. That’s a reason for tossing about in bed at night, counting the long list of reasons why life needs to be kinder, and naming names of those whom God must watch over even more, as if God needs my advice. And in the morning I may awaken with residual memory of adrenaline spikes or tears, images of loss wallpapering my mind. Words of discouragement can erupt and tackle me like an adversary; I need them to stand down if I am to have a decent chance at making it a good day. I try to open to clues, to wisdom that floats from Divine Spirit to me. To us all. Because I know we are not left alone, even in blinding darkness of most echoing valleys.
So I get up at last, absorb the blissful blue of the walls, then watch how daylight shifts and illumines books and quilt and drifts over my bare legs, hear birds trill in an old tree and balcony chimes sway and speak into breezes. My heart ratchets up a few beats per minute as I exit through the first door into the new day, released from my haven, that small box of day and night, homey bluest of rooms. As my mind sharpens there are prayers for well-being and guidance, and the power to inhabit life as well as can be done this coming 24 hours –mine and others’. I set out to discover what is good and true, whether in sadness or joy. It’s required, isn’t it, to go on, to hope in the morning. To be readied for what comes this way.