Entering the Attic

This week, truth be told, I have very little to say. Most of the squares on my patchwork have been grey. I have got up, got dressed and drifted through my days, but I have very rarely done the things I wanted to do.

That said, there have been moments when, even if I haven’t managed to leave my library I have at least looked up from my book. I finished the first prototype for the ragdoll faery I have been wanting to make for months now. Today I fully intend to at least make a start on the second. I made two collages inspired by a fictional character of mine in the hope that they will inspire me to try writing a little more. Small steps. Moments not days. It’s a lesson I’ve been learning for years, to try to see the good moments rather than focusing on the gaps in-between. To see the things done not the things still left undone. I think if I could do that then perhaps leaving the library would be less frightening. It would be less frightening because it wouldn’t matter how many times I stumbled, fell or did things imperfectly, what would matter would be the times I got up, the times I tried, the times I did well.

When I am sewing, I’m not in the library. My needle and thread live alongside my writing desk and ink, in the attic. In essence the attic is the housing place of my imagination. It is filled with props, strewn papers and so many oddly shaped boxes. At the moment when I’m there I sew by candle light and stay in one small safe place close to the trapdoor. One day I’ll have the courage to explore. 

Seat of Obsession

I am once again in my corner of the library within my snow globe cottage. That is not to say that I haven’t put a toe over the threshold this week, or made a half-hearted attempt to lift my eyes from my book, but it is here that I’ve ended up. Time after time. So this week the blog post is less of an exploration and more of an explanation.

If we were to unfurl this sprawling metaphor of mine, the snow globe represents me. All of me. My emotions, my conscious thoughts, my dreams, every piece of my psyche, contained within this bubble separate from all other existence. The outside of the snow globe then represents my relationship to the outside world. The outside of the snow globe is where my relationships are housed, my feelings towards other people and my attempts at engaging in the world beyond the snow globe. Note that I’ve spent very little time discussing anything outside of my cottage. The cottage itself is, very loosely, my psyche. Each room has a purpose, in the way that the sitting room is that part of myself that wants. That part of myself that looks into the future, that part of myself that is allowed to dream. Of course it is a flexible metaphor because I can’t isolate parts of myself from other parts, hence fear is interwoven within the very bricks of the cottage.

Following that analogy, the library is my safe space. Noting here that safe does not mean happy. In terms of its location in the snow globe cottage, the library is beneath the level of the living room, but above the lowest floor. That is because when I am in the library I am drifting. I am conscious, but not present. The library is not an inherently bad place. The fact that it is rather pleasant is precisely the problem. It is labyrinthine and easy to get lost in. Getting out of it requires patience and effort so, when confronted at every turn with cushions, blankets and stories, it is easier to simply stay put. The library does its job too well. It keeps me safe, but it also keeps me trapped. I love it as much as I hate it.

It is the seat of my obsessions. As I meander my way through shelves of books, eventually some character or theme or place will capture my attention and ensnare me until it becomes my single pointed focus. With each shelf piled with books and shelves extending up to the ceiling, I can remain in the same part of the library for weeks finding fuel for the obsession until eventually it burns itself out. It is that, as much as hiding from fear, that ties me to the library.

Somehow I need to find a way of severing the obsessions that serve me no purpose while they are still in their prime. Even as I read them, I know these books don’t interest me, I need to find a way of putting them down rather than reading to the end and reaching mindlessly for the next. 

Retouching Fear’s Artwork

Well I’m in the living room and I’m out from under my blanket. I’ve set my book down on the coffee table and looked up. There are papers on the table. The subject of those papers being university, given that recent happenings have brought that particular subject to the forefront of my mind. I am scared. I can feel this fear and anxiety thrumming through my body, so intense that I am trembling. I haven’t let myself feel like this in so long. A part of me wants to pull the blanket up around my shoulders and go back to hiding in a story and letting life pass me by.

I won’t do that though, not yet. Instead I draw the fear out and let it take shape as a series of pictures on the wall across from me. As it unfurls and unpacks itself, I can see what is inside it. It begins in the past; fear of trying only to fall back down into darkness and depression again. Fear that I have forgotten too much. It stretches out across a misty future canvas, it’ll take me three years to finish the degree. I’ll be twenty five. If I do a PHD I’ll be approaching thirty. Rationally I know it doesn’t matter. Mum was thirty before she even started her degree. Even so I wish I could turn back the hands of the clock and put myself as I am now into the body of my eighteen year old self and do the past years over. The canvas this is splashed across is misty, it’s lonely. It’s so full of education and learning that there isn’t space for love or a family of my own. Maybe that matters more to me than I thought it did.

The fear has left my body, it is now splashed across the canvases and the pictures it paints are uncomfortable and awkward to look at. I stand up and take up the paints and paintbrushes myself. The years of university I have missed have not been wasted. I add colours, bonds of friendship, splashes of confidence and a deeper understanding of myself, to the first canvas. As to the images fear painted of the future, yes I will be in education, but what better place to meet people? It doesn’t have to close the door to a family or falling in love. Many, many people juggle the two. There is no hurry. My life doesn’t have to end at thirty. Sitting back down, the canvases still have their dark elements, but they are also fuller, more complete and far less awkward to look at. 

Leaving the Library

Much of this week has once again been spent lurking in my corner of the library. Occasionally I’ll venture to the living room. When I do it is typically to curl up on the sofa and merely sit, aware that there are things to look at around me whilst being too afraid to lift my eyes and look. Once I raised my head long enough to recognise the reality that Arlo isn’t likely to be going to university with me come September. With that in mind I managed, with my eyes averted, to send out an email to the mental health coordinator asking for help finding someone to live with next year. That done, I returned my gaze to my book rather than look at the pictures on the walls or the objects on the coffee table, I looked away rather than pausing to consider how I feel.

I am frustrated with myself. For as much as I gather myself together and move determinedly from library to living room, once there I still hide in my books. I still keep my head down, my vision blinkered by my hood. That is not to say that I have done nothing, there have been moments of pushing myself, most notably going to Jado Kuin Do on Wednesday. I very much enjoyed it and I was glad that I pushed through my nerves in order to go. When left to my own devices however, I am finding it hard to get back the energy of a few weeks ago. I am finding it hard not to brush things off until tomorrow.

I set myself deadlines then watch them pass me by. Tomorrow I will….tomorrow. I spend so much time not only being checked out of reality but being checked out of myself, as though I am waiting for the perfect moment to engage once more. In the meantime the present becomes the past becomes more time I’ll consider wasted. I need to let go of the library and its stories. Not forever, but until I can learn to balance hiding with living.