Cleaning the bookshelves and finding more
The house was packed with people, all of them family and waiting on Thanksgiving dinner. The tables stretched from the dining room to the foyer, the elbows had no room to move. Every window in the house was fogged with the steam of the food, and the constant talking coming from every corner. A silence was found when the woman cooking, the Mother of most that were there, their Mother in Law, or their Grandmother, raised her voice to announce that dinner was ready. A clamour of chairs followed, and the grunts of discomfort coming from those siblings not wanting to sit next to someone else. That was the adults, the children were fine. A prayer would be said by my Father, and the rest was a flurry of food, and more talking, and Pinochle games that broke out when the feasting was done.
That of course is just a memory, a part of those thoughts, and days of the past that I keep on the shelf with all the others. There are a multitude of them sitting around, some on shelves, some still wide open, and some just laying around mismanaged and forgotten. In this time of extended solace, the mental health pathways have either been shoved to the side, or put on hold altogether. The desire for some to go back to that unmanageable life, and fill up on hopelessness, too great to defend alone. The ways to joy, happiness, coping, and contemplation, all engaging in definitive change. The social connections moving on, and leaving holes in our psyches at times. The connotations of pains being personal too powerful to deflect. Even the creative outlets closing up in places, narrowing for lack of growth. All of the above and more is happening across the world, not just here at home.
The manner in which we find our outlets, our destressors, our managing of the little things has been turned on its head, and into ours. Some of the simplest functions at times not finding the other parts it needs to be effective. The original challenges were obvious, the isolation, the managing of the outer world while dealing with the inner ones. The bits and pieces adding up to something, but at this time it’s still unknown what it all means? For those in recovery, it means a lot more work to find the balance, a lot of work to continue to turn the ship from the rocks we know of much too well. As much as it is a more difficult endeavor during this time, it can also be a well rewarded time to begin the process, to continue to practice. Finding those positive emotions, the relief sought, and even the joy, is within reach if we know what to look for. It begins with those memories, and life that are laying around, or put away nicely on the shelf. A cleaning of sorts, with a treasure hunt motif.
We carry within us an abundance of thought, of memories, and simultaneously, a bunch of nonsense. It doesn’t help that a number of other things are making less sense than before. So with the increased availability for introspect, those old things sitting around either cluttered or nicely placed on the shelf are tools within themselves. An internal fourth step, a viewing room that’s self created, the old adage of sitting in your own pile of life. If needed, write down a long list, review those parts of life again with what you know now. Find the happiness, the sorrows, and the pains, while remembering the excitement, the enthusiasm, and the joy. Allow the steamroller to flatten out the crunchy, the broken, and the unfilled sections of that road of life. The unfulfilled amends, the thoughts of spite and resentments. Open the pieces that were all closed up and find the leftover bits of anger, unpleasantness, frustration, and let them go. It is a practice in acceptance, a discovery of more tolerance, and a space clearing exercise that helps in these confined times.
The brain is a muscle, we have heard that a thousand times, and in this state of confinement, that muscle has a tendency for atrophy. That is why I have found in practicing the very routines, and whatnot of recovery, it has helped me change up the mental routines needed for a better long term health. Researchers at UC Irvine have begun research into just how this isolation is affecting our memories. The routines are often missing bits and pieces, things forgotten, or thought challenged. Even trying to find the right words to place down here, regrettably deficient. That is why the exercises, the thinking and ruminating about the past, about thoughts, and about all of that stuff cluttering up the interior is indeed a healthy choice. This isn’t about finding the bad times, or just the good, but just mulling it over again to keep the chemistry that is missing at the moment balance out. Those memories, and thoughts, old resentments, and childhood stories are rife with meaning, and they deserve their place, complete and whole on the shelves. As immense dreams, and recall has come to me during this time, that is the recipe that I have used to keep it all in place. As life still unfolds around me, around the people I love, I use this tool of acceptance, this looking for the tolerance. I have come to be a listener of stories, instead of the provider of them. Because it is not what I know that is important, but what others wish me to know, that speaks truth to the soul. I find those meanings even in the memories, in their stories, whether living or not.
The world is changing, the pieces of life remain, and in the silhouettes of life we can find ourselves lost. The clarity of hope can get misplaced, purpose and value can be misapplied by desires. This is by and far a difficult time, filled by a prolonged effect on our memories and mental health. In the end, whether it be soon or long into the future, this replay of life can deliver immeasurable rewards, and a lifting of the weight we carry. We may find sorrow, and struggle, wonder, and laughter, and a new pathway to joy.