Creative potential of mud…

emerging from mud…

I give up!

Going back to sleep after letting the cats out is impossible. My mind is too busy and the trajectory of my thinking warrants better attention. There’s thinking and there’s thinking, you see. There is the usual predawn sleep-disturbing litany of things undone, uncleaned, unfiled and generally unattended to, compounded by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and impotence with regard to matters on the world stage, which is all very well and probably pretty average. But then there’s that question that demands an answer – how can I think differently about all this? And why is it that I can have enlightening pre-dawn revelations that never amount to anything, that correspond with my walk over the bridge from my parked car to work, when I consider how intentional I want to be about my work only to have the intention vanish the minute I cross the hospital threshold?

One thing I have learnt is that shifting how one thinks about things takes practice, and that over time the difference becomes apparent. It’s not a lost cause.

Since the lockdown for COVID-19 began, I have lost my sense of direction. I imagine this is a very common thing. The abrupt shift in focus took all my mental and emotional energy, given that being a nurse suddenly became a potentially life-threatening occupation. All the things I had been paying attention to – my health through a new gym membership, learning archery, preparing to learn to give talks on health and sustainability for nurses, and so forth – came to a halt, not just physically due to restrictions, but mentally, as I studied the threat and learnt how to contend with it. This was a major mental uprooting from the better part of a decade of sustained focus on matters of the environment, climate change and healthcare intertwined from a more theoretical and philosophical perspective.

The result: a measure of depression, not insurmountable, but definitely there.

The morning unfolds…I let the cats out cursing them for their 4.40 am demands, and plan to go back to sleep. However, instead I find myself mulling over the dream I have woken from which featured a Scottie dog (I had one named Bonnie Black Bess as a child). In my dream, I am aware that I don’t have the things I need for the dog and proceed to journey out to find her a decent dog basket to sleep in. There is an immediate sense of taking steps to care for something, improve the situation. From there I contemplate the matters the house – it’s general untidiness, too many things needing to be sorted, disposed of, dishes to be done, paperwork… I should have everything in a folder for my youngest son’s school leaver transition programme; I must email documents to a coordinator before Thursday, the car needs to be serviced before the end of the month, I asked the other members of the household for a meeting about creating the space we are in and it never materialised…and…everything settles on me like a cloying layer of mud and judgement. Overwhelm.

Like mud or clay…I can’t take total credit for the imagery. It comes from a friend’s shared dream, and this is perhaps the interesting thing about how shared dreams can work socially, where common images or themes travel and take on personal and collective meaning. The thing about mud or clay, is that while it can weight one down, it is also chock full of creative potential. It can be moulded and it can grow things. I view my depressed feeling though this lens. All the mixed-up weight of undone things is like clay. They aren’t sorted out. They are fragments inextricably blended together and they are full of potential. What I want is to be able to approach my life with mindful awareness and curious enquiry.

The idea of living with better intentional awareness has a magical effect. It takes the sense of judgement away. I realise that most, if not all of my feelings of depression seem to be attached to that self-judgment. Now I can consider the dust on my carpet and ask myself clearly how strongly I feel about it. Do I feel the need to do something about it now, or is there something else more pressing? Now I can question the possibilities and options around filing and untidiness – what do the mean to me – not you or anyone who might want to judge it, but me – without judgement? Is it important now? Is it something that will have it’s time and place? Is there a sense of the flow of my life and its priorities in the way things are scattered? What does it express? Oh this is interesting! How quickly my mind is concerned with what other people think it expresses and the limiting narrative of “clean and dirty”! What about complexity, interwovenness, interaction between living and nonliving things and forces that push and pull between everything?

When I think about practising mindfulness and coming into the present, I am aware that I want the “present” to be full of intention. I want something that is generative: Creating space for unfolding and change. Can this be something I focus on and explore? Can it be an idea to pivot on, a project or theme that will hold my attention long enough to help me shift my thinking from self-judging patterns that leave me feeling weight down in mud instead of holding the mud or clay that is so full of creative potential?

If I am serious about shifting how I think and how I choose to act, I shall have to give this some serious thought to shape an document the process. Perhaps this will be a beginning…

~ by Dragonwyst on June 15, 2020.

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