Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interior Redesign

I thought maybe I could trick myself out of this mushy spot by spreading the Benjamin Moore color  fan deck on the bathroom floor.  My bathroom is painted an entirely unflattering pastel celery that has no idea what it means to be pastel (hint: soft and complimentary).  I was worried that I looked like an 85 year old smoker/tanner/drinker and I told my friend; she thought I was nuts.  Then she visited my loo and came out of there laughing: It's the color in your bathroom! I've never looked that horrible in my life.  And also, the paint is wearing thin and chipping.  I used to have a bunch of ideas that would look adorable and flattering with the bold checkered floor tiles, but I had no money nor time, nor energy to do it these last 15 months. Maybe now was the time.  So I spread the out the fat fan deck of Benjamin Moores like a smug dealer, house always wins.  This would do it, wouldn't it? This would make me want something.  This would make me the way I was.  This would lure me out of where ever I've gone.  It was supposed to be color-yer-house porn, meant to titillate and excite me in to being me again.

I walked by it for days, stepped over it, around it.  I felt nothing. And eventually I put it away in my top drawer again, along with my ancient and long ignored marijuana pipe and the vibrator I no longer use.

How could this happen? I've always loved house colors.  It was the number one draw of home-ownership for me: no more beige, cream, and white!  I grew up in beige and cream.  As my mother explained it to my very frustrated little self: you don't want to pick too bold a color or you'll get sick of it, so you pick an inoffensive standard like beige or cream.  And so the house was a flurry of beige and cream and wood paneling, aside from the gold flowered kitchen floor linoleum and the avocado counter tops, of course.

I longed to do lots of things to that old house.  I would tape pieces of paper together and draw redesigns of the house with turrets and bay windows, specifying the colors of each room and picking out the furnishings from the JCPenney catalog.  I was really really in to houses and colors.  And the only way I could understand my mother's take on color was this: she felt it was better to start out bored to tears rather than go through the painful process of becoming bored to tears. Her idea of inoffensive colors was my idea of totally offensive. Maybe I don't have the boldest schemes or the feistiest matches, but what I like makes me feel rich and buttery in my soul. 

My head injury has made colors even more intense.  They illicit outsized emotional responses: weeping at the blue, ecstasy with fushia.  Colors, like drugs.  It was one of the first things I noticed.

Our burgundy dining room needed repainting around the time of my head injury and we were discussing a change. And then I got bonked, bonked, and bonked.  And the dining room became a very harsh place for me, the contrast with the white was too intense, the color was too overpowering.  And the whole thing needed to go, fast.  I picked up peach from the hardware store and by the time I got to the check out, I realized this would be my last trip out of my house for a while.  The harsh lights, echoing announcements, standing up... I couldn't do it any more.  I came home and settled in to my bathrobe for the next year.  For the next few weeks I painted my dining room, 5 minutes a day.  I really could not handle the red.  Huck came home from his out of town work, shook his head at my pathetic attempts and finished it off for me.

Now that I can handle most of the colors life throws at me, the urgency is gone.  And now that I could probably paint for 15-20 minutes at a go, I just don't give a shit.  Something I've loved since childhood and I don't care about it any more.

And you know what else is missing?  I don't care about my garden.  I can't bring myself to even pop open a seed catalog. I gardened a little last year, but I now view that as my body executing my brain's final wishes after it died, like fingernails and hair growing after death.  The only things calling to me are flowers. And raspberries.

It seems I could now actually be happy in what was once my worst nightmare: a beige yard-less apartment.
Manito Greenhouse

This all looks suspiciously like depression, doesn't it?  It's February and every thing sucks, so maybe it could be.  But you could give me all the anti-depressants in the world and it wouldn't make me ABLE to do any of these things in any way that wasn't totally pathetic. Or has my personality changed that much? In which case, all the anti-depressants in the world won't make me love these things I no longer love. Is my brain protecting me from unrealistic goals? to prevent desire burn-out?

Blue wanted to go to see a Steam-Punk Tempest production and Huck encouraged me to go with her (he ended up going and happily so).  But I couldn't see myself in 2.5 hours of Shakespeare.
What the worse the could happen? He said.  He wants to see me alive again, loving Shakespeare again.
I'll get exhausted is what will happen.
So you get tired. You come home. You sleep.
But no, it's not just "tired."  It's bone-crushing exhaustion.  It's panic-inducing, kill-me-now, exhaustion.  And it's always staring me in the face.  Yes, yes, I could do that, go there, try this. And then I could also dive in to a giant pool stuffed full of exhaustion-pirhanas who will tear at me, ripping flesh from my bones and I'll be devoured alive by toothy, tearing exhaustion.

And it's non-negotiable.  It's not like I can do a little of that or this, if I REALLY wanted to. I can a little more now, but the cut off point is still non-negotiable. I don't even get to negotiate with it. It seems difficult for some to understand, so let me explain: Imagine you love running marathons and your friends like running marathons with you.  And then one day you crush your leg and you can't run marathons anymore and half the people in your life get that.  But the other half are like: But you promised you would run this one with me! Why can't you just do half of it?  Maybe you could walk it? You could if you really wanted to!  You just don't like me and your being a stubborn jerk! And you say: Listen, maybe I could walk on my shattered leg for a few yards, but it won't ever get better if I keep doing that.  And some people, some parts of my own shattered brain even, will just never understand this.  

And the limitation is always there.  And it bores me and annoys me and upsets me and stifles me so that I no longer know who I am, or what I want because after every activity known to man gets pushed through the exhaustion strainer, the only thing I get in my applesauce is a few 15 minutes of chores that should've been done a year ago.  This isn't life.  This isn't living. But it IS. That's the maddening part.  This IS my life.  It's not able-bodied good ol' American Road Trip Livin' It Up life.  No,this is it's shadow, it's evil twin, it secret smegma-filled underbelly-button.  This is the barren desert of life. I suppose I have a bee in my bonnet about this because I recently read that "It's so easy to be only half-alive."  And I don't know what they meant, but I know that's what my life seems; even as I am daily living at the edge of my capacity.

I thought if you lost something, something else had to come in to replace it. Those are the rules, right? But I've just got nothing.  The chrysalis of my head injury wrapped tight around me.  My little caterpillar self is totally dissolved and at this point the molecules need to pull themselves together and get going on the next thing, the butterfly or the moth or, hell, even a redo of the wrinkly wave of a caterpillar would be fine.  But this, this painfully conscious goo of me, what the hell?  Forget the inside of my house, the inside of ME needs interior decorating.  Where are the pretty colors inside me?  Where is the place that CAN feel buttery and rich? 

I'm tired of talking about it. And you're tire of reading about it. I'm impatient.  And I feel crappy about that too.  But then, I hear someone complain about having a killer head cold for 10 days and I feel bad for them.  That stinks; 10 DAYS!  So... maybe I can feel a little less angsty about my feelings at 15 months of having a bad head. It would drive anyone nuts, right?

And there's something else here.  There's some peace about not having a million desires pulling at me, not having the painting, the gardening, the cows, the storytelling, the canning, the herbs and all of those passions pulling at me.  I came across my to-do list from a month before my head injury and it's basically completely insane.  No one could accomplish all of that in 10 years, much less the one day I had given it.  And there's some quietness, some companionable solitude here: there's not much but what it is, is simple and sweetly peaceful, when I let it.  It's a desert, not a rich teaming jungle.  It's a desert and each grain of sand becomes something here, a jewel traveling across the land, reshaping it.  The grains of sand I do have, the things I do love, sparkle in my hand and feel less ordinary than they would in some place with more fascinating distractions. I am in a place without competing demands.  I am in a place where what matters, earth and sky, are all I see. For now, perhaps my life can be beautiful in its two-toned simplicity, beige and blue. The desert is part of the living earth too.  Life is there too. It's just not so obvious; it has its own peculiar ways and rhythms.  But all the nature shows are clear: life is here too, and you can find it if you learn how to look for it. Man, oh man, I sure hope so.

And as I think about it this way, things settle within.  I don't have to be the old me. I don't have to be anything at all. I can let myself go, the kite untethered to what was, to history, to time. What's fun and "living" to the people around me, isn't going to be my fun, my living, but my definition of this will be just as real. Their colors are not mine; their rich and buttery is not my rich and buttery. Maybe it looks dull to you, but this simplicity, the more I think about it, has become, must become evermore, gorgeous to me. As household maintenance, the bathroom should be repainted but it doesn't have to be a passion project.  It can just be whatever it is.

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