Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dark of the moon

A time of creeping statis. I don’t want to do anything. I could happily crawl into bed and stay there all day, basking in sleepiness.

It’s the dark of the moon. At this time it seems to me that everything active, yang, and exterior wants to come to a halt. The energies for change, action and movement are low. It’s a good time for withdrawing, for contemplation.

But I’m feeling things beyond that.

Not depression exactly. Grief, partly. The loss of two extended family members in the space of weeks. One sudden and shocking, the other, sadly anticipated, to some extent for years.

I’m also getting over ten days of extreme editing. (‘Extreme Editing’ might make a good business name – why haven’t I thought about it before?) I was asked to edit a long, complex report on a topic I had some familiarity with.

A cold slowly hatched itself, invading my brain with a sullen, quiet exhaustion. The report came in two parts, the first part unfinished while I was editing the second. I was too cottonballed to stress about it.

I hunkered down for a long stretch of concentrated thinking. I don’t know where I drew the energy from to carry on. I’m a low energy person at the best of times, and here I was with a full-blown cold and a tight deadline.

The cold was a textbook one – not, I kept telling myself, the infamous swine flu. First utter exhaustion without other symptoms, then a violent persistent cough that got worse at night (by the third night I had learned to cough in my sleep). Then a hopelessly runny nose for three days. And the horrific body image problems, looking in the mirror at the red rimmed eyes and nostrils, the swollen cheeks, the unwashed hair, and thinking I had never looked so ugly.

Struggling to finish editing the report, I didn’t get beyond the front and back yards of my flat for six days. Towards the end I was running out of vegetables, meat and fish. The last morning I breakfasted on brown rice.

It wasn’t that drastic in terms of actual hours -- I didn’t slave away till 1 in the morning, as I had on previous jobs in the long ago, enthusiastic days when I still believed I could make it as a full time editor. In fact, I got quite good at intuitively knowing when I had done enough for one day. It’s just that, even resting, I didn’t have enough energy in those last few days to get properly dressed and drive to the supermarket.

At times like this that I am confronted by the reality of not having a partner, and the huge practical difference that makes. Ideally, partners can support each other’s careers at different times in reciprocal ways, leveraging the partnership so that both have a better chance of success. I fantasised during this busy time of someone humming away in the background, cheerfully asking me if I was hungry as I slaved away, and what time would I like dinner? Instead, dinner was often fried eggs or a bowl of cooked chickpeas!

My body and mind are now claiming their payment. They demand rest. I want nothing but to stare into space, even though aimlessness terrifies me.

One thing that struck me was how magical, glossy, and delightful were the simple actions of washing my hair, dressing carefully and putting makeup on to take that much-needed trip to the supermarket after I’d finally uploaded the edited report. Bringing treats back home for lunch, and eating slowly as I read the newspaper. I can’t describe the feeling of freedom of those simple actions.

The next day I spent almost three hours swanning around the Chadstone shopping mall. Happily surrounded by the anonymous crowd. Wonderful to freewheel, to luxuriate in unstructured time.

Until the next big job of course. I like doing lots of small editing jobs but let’s hope the next major project is at least weeks away.

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