Mental Health

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It’s difficult to tell in this snap, but it’s really quite nice out for March in Massachusetts.  Not exceptionally nice like it was on Wednesday, but nice enough.  A bit of a cool breeze, temperatures in the high fifties at 9:30 in the morning, clouds, and a bit of sun.  It’s the sort of weather that makes me feel like all hope is not lost.  Winter will end, the Earth is not dead, and I don’t have to be a crazy shut-in who only talks to her cats.  A change is blowing in with the wind and I feel good.

But, for as good as I feel when Spring is knocking on the door, there are still things that bother me: Americans, for example, work too much.  I think we’re pretty much insane for working such long hours.  I say this despite being a bit of a workaholic: I’ve been known to only take breaks during the work day because someone placed a sandwich in front of me and said ‘Bex, you need to eat something.’ (Not too often, but it’s happened more than once.)  Regardless, people work too much.

A few years ago I had a temp job that got me up before the sun, and didn’t let me out until after it had set.  It was winter, so this wasn’t all that difficult, but, still, it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever experienced.  Except when I looked around the office at the people who actually worked there: there were employees who where already in the office when I arrived.  As the sun was rising over the Atlantic, they were already on calls with clients and customers.  These same people were still on calls when I left an hour after the sun had set way beyond the Berkshires.  Another temp and I rode the elevator together at the end of one day and we asked each other “How the fuck do they do this?”  This life was for neither she nor I.

Now, I’m not trying to be insulting or make anyone feel badly about their job.  If I have, I apologize.  A person is allowed to love their job, or choose to be at work before the sun’s up and stay until after it’s down. This is not a criticism of individuals, but of the system.  America seems to value working long hours and not taking breaks; and we are conditioned to expect to be punished for taking breaks while trapped indoors during prime tanning hours.  It starts in school when we can see the beautiful weather but are forced to stay inside.  Therefore, as adults we accept being trapped in cubicles, chained to desks, stuck in windowless rooms with bad lighting and poorly regulated air conditioning.  That’s why I was pleasantly surprised yesterday.

I’ve picked up some hours tagging and folding shirts in a warehouse.  It’s a pain, literally, to stand at a table and fold tee shirts all day, but it’s not the least exciting work I’ve ever done (that would be that temp job in the sales office).  Nor is it the most difficult.  It is physically taxing, but so was environmental ed. and summer camp.  It might be a bit more physically taxing because I’m older now and I’ve already put my body through years of environmental ed. and summer camp, but it’s nothing I’m not familiar with.  The other people who work there are pleasant, and there’s a window so we can see if it’s sunny or rainy.  In the afternoons, the older ladies who work there are replaced by a group of teenagers coming off their school day.

Yesterday, two of the boys were talking at the table behind me.  One asked the other why he wasn’t in school or at work the day before, the extremely nice day for March in Massachusetts.  The boy said simply that he had stayed home.  He told school he was “sick”, but in reality it was just that it was nice out and he spent his day outdoors.  The other teens were amazed and surprised.  One girl couldn’t believe his audacity.  I, however, couldn’t help being extremely proud.  This kid, all of sixteen or seventeen, understood that Wednesday was a Beautiful Day, and that Beautiful Days are meant to be enjoyed.  He’d even decided that this Beautiful Day was meant to be enjoyed out of doors.  The other teens went on and on about how crazy he was, but I couldn’t help but be impressed this kid chose his mental health over his attendance record, his grades, and a paycheck.  This kid has his priorities in order.

Take care of your mental health people, it’s more important than we Americans realize.

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“Advice” :: written 4/26/2013

Potential Text for a Sketchbook Project.  Or something else entirely.  Read, comment, enjoy.  <3 Bex

ADVICE

At twenty eight my mother had four children, a husband in the Navy, and a house she wasn’t expecting to live in for the next thirty four years. My life took a very different path. Even though we think alike and share similarly simple life goals, my life at twenty eight is very different from hers at twenty eight. She in Suburbia with a station wagon; I in the country, childless, my only transportation my own two feet. (What is it about the youngest child that she always seems to insist on taking a very different route from her family?) I have no spouse, no steady work, no car, no children of my own, and no desire for any of the above.

No advice, neither, for others searching for their path. Because, just like when hiking, I walked right off mine and don’t plan to stop bushwhacking until I find my place beside the shimmering sea. I’m so deep in the wood now I couldn’t find a path if I tried; I’ve got to just keep on walking until I can walk no more.

I love my life, surrounded by white pine, white, black, and yellow birch, mountain laurel, and musclewood; eastern hemlock, oaks, maple trees, shagbark hickory, apple, spruce, and fir. I like stepping between the skunk cabbage, across the moss covered rocks that litter the streams I come across. There are frogs, insects, and salamanders hiding underfoot; red headed woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, tufted titmice, and chickadees overhead; while rabbits, deer, coyote, squirrels, and foxes share the middle spaces.

Sometimes there are snakes and other creatures that seem a whole lot scarier than they actually are. Eventually, though, you live amongst the unfamiliar long enough you come to understand them and how to coexist in apprehensive peace. But the sunlight filters through the glossy green leaves, their ancestors crunching beneath my feet as dirt and humus cake the hardened callouses of my soles.

And I know there is going to come a time I stumble upon a path so attractive I won’t be able to turn my feet from it and it will lead me through well lit floral archways and into deep, dark, ominous passages but eventually will end at the wide, vast, ocean. Until then I am barefoot in the woods, roasting hickory nuts over open flames and drinking water from the streams.

You, my friend, like so many before, are standing at a crossways, the signposts pointing in all directions, complete with compelling reasons why you should take each one. And the only way you know you can’t go is back. As to which trail you ought to take, I could not say.

My advice will be inadequate from my position so deep in the woods I can only tell direction by the angle of the sun, but here’s what I’ve got to say to you:

  • Don’t forget to laugh; this is very important, laugh everyday: it’ll keep you sane.
  • Do what brings you joy. Know the things that make you happy and make time for these.
  • 90% of the time if it feels wrong it probably is. The other 10% of the time it’ll feel wrong because it’s something new and unfamiliar. If that’s the case, it might be worth it to push through the discomfort if for not other reason than growth and experience.
  • Sometimes up is down; but if you keep going the world will righten itself again.
  • Feel free to make mistakes just so long as you learn from them and live without regrets; because while life is short, it doesn’t move as fast as a 200 page novel or a two hour romantic comedy.
  • “This above all: to thine ownself be true”. If it doesn’t feel like you, if you don’t feel like you, it might be time to leave the path behind altogether.

The land is meant to be explored. So much is missed by sitting in one spot, or worse, holed up indoors. Get out there, my friend, and explore the woods. The journey might bring you to a desert, or the mountains, or the snow. Wherever you’ll end up, you’ll end up exactly where you are meant to go. We won’t follow the same paths as our mothers, or even as each other, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We’d never be happy on someone else’s path and we shouldn’t settle for one that isn’t us. I love you, friend, let me know where you end up.

<3 B

Oh, p.s., also it’s important to remember the aquatic manatee is more vicious than the land manatee; but both should be avoided at all costs.

Dreams

I have been having all sorts of crazy dreams that I want so much to hold onto and write up as stories.  Last nights was something along the lines of stopping a bad guy who now owns a majority of my family’s land that serves as some sort of camp that groups can rent for functions.  There was some sort of Festival going on and we knew, for some reason, that he was plotting something and I had to sneak off (because I knew the property intimately) and unplug something so bad shit wouldn’t go down.

Then I lounged in a tree that was just over the property line into what is actually my parents’ yard next to the drive way (where there isn’t really a tree like this at all) so he couldn’t “get me” there because I wasn’t on his property anymore…. cause that’s how it works, I was “on base”.

The other weird thing was the family that lived on the property, that we hired as caretakers, were a friend of mine from high school and her husband and their kid.  Except it wasn’t their kid.  In the dream she was and she was about ten and she looked exactly like her mother only smaller.  In real life they have a two year old son.

So weird.