Start in the Corner


In the late afternoon, well into the first day of my weekend, I feel overwhelmed and melancholy. My kitchen needs some serious cleaning. A pile of folded laundry hovers on my bed, needing to be put away before tonight’s sleep. I need to apply for a couple of jobs, as second jobs, this weekend. There is a writer’s residency that I want to apply for and the deadline is looming. An article that I want to write is due tomorrow. I made a list of things I want to accomplish and do over the next three months or so, and the list weighs me down. I sent too many texts to someone yesterday and I can’t take them back. My car is dirty and full of things I need to drop off for donation and recycling. The app on my phone shows my bank account balance and I want to throw up, because rent is due. This morning, I weighed myself on the scale, and well, it’s what I thought and not what I wanted. Currently, I am just as far away from becoming a licensed massage therapist as I was a few months ago, and I am heartbroken and frustrated at the prospect. I haven’t taught, one of my favorite things and something I am really good at, in months, and I miss it. I am jealous of the seemingly free-wheeling vagabond people on a few “vanlife” accounts that I follow on Instagram. I feel far away from friends and family today. I feel tired of doing things on my own; as much as I usually love being solo, today, I don’t love it very much. I went running and basically gave up after a block, because I just wasn’t feeling it. A skim of headlines and news stories on my phone, and I feel grumpy and unsure. I feel a bit directionless and not sure what to do next professionally. I read a very sad story about a woman who killed herself and in her suicide note, she referred to her depression as “first world problems.” I am devastated for her family and friends and feel a deep sadness for her, even though I never met the woman.

I am overwhelmed and even sad. I can see that now. I realize that the feeling of overwhelm is a precursor to anxiousness. It’s important to realize that I’m not living in the moment. I am worried about completing all the things, doing all the things, feeling all the things.

I recognize the symptoms. I am in a funk.

I take a breath. A few more breaths, as I count to ten, no, twenty. Already I feel better, grounded. I remember the age old advice. Start with one thing. In cleaning house, it helps to start in the corner of a room. So, I begin.

I fold clothes and put them away in my bedroom. A quick vacuum and my bedroom is ready. That wasn’t so bad. Ten more deep breaths.

Start with something small. Start in the corner. Move in that moment. Take a breath.

I delete yesterday’s texts. I can’t unsend them, but I don’t need to read them again.

I take out the trash. I load more recycling in my car. I fill the sink with hot water, soap, and some coated dishes. I sweep the floor. I put away dishes and pans from the drainer. I water the overlooked cacti near the sink. I straighten the pantry. I scrub the dishes and place them in the dish drainer. I put a new load of dishes into the sink to soak. I wipe off the stove. I return the cast iron skillet to rest in the cold oven. I wipe down light switches and cabinet doors and the refrigerator.

I put on one of my favorite movies on DVD with the director’s commentary, so I can listen and yet, not pay attention. I vacuum the living room and hall. I scrub the bathtub and bathroom sink. I set up a new corner in the living room. I stack up the pillows, making a cozy reading corner in the midst of the bookshelves.

I brew a pot of coffee. The dishes soak. I run down to the mailbox. I find an unexpected check and bonus of $17.50. I scan the check and make a mobile deposit via my phone and the app. I call the bank about a different deposit being held.

I realize it’s all about the moment. What you can do, what you can think, what you can be. Part of the anxiousness and blues have to do with not being in the moment. You can plan for the future, you can reconcile the past, but you still have to be in the moment, the present.

I pull out my journal and I write a letter to the woman and her family, those people I do not know. I share my empathy and sadness. I explain why her story strikes a chord, because I remember a woman her age who committed suicide years ago. Depression and mental illness are not “first world problems.” I can’t send the letter without some crazy online stalking to find her family, and that doesn’t feel right. Writing the letter helped me to connect with my feelings, though, and it helped me to identify what bothered me so much about that story. I’ll say it again, depression and mental illness are not first world problems. My funk isn’t depression, but I do think there are degrees. I can see how someone can slip down a slippery slope of despair. I feel lucky. I have tools and health. This woman couldn’t see the corner and a place to begin. Depression is very different than a bad mood, or a funk, or sadness.

Start with something small. Start in the corner. Move in that moment. Take a breath.

I wash the second sink full of dishes and drink a cup of coffee. I change back into running tights, a long-sleeved training shirt, ankle socks, and running shoes. I go back outside and run. This time I start at the corner. I am not fast, but the cool air in my lungs feels like a fresh breath of life. The sun on my shoulders feels like a kiss. The run ends and I am back at the street corner. I walk back to my apartment. I feel invigorated. I pull out a yoga DVD and I move my tired body through the poses. I am still new to yoga, but it feels good to try it and move. I can feel the corners, the angles my body makes in poses. I take deep breaths.

I reach for a clean towel and peel off my clothes. I step into the shower and turn on the water. I let the hot water run over me. It’s a cleansing of the body, but also for my mind and soul. It feels like a baptism, a rebirth. I finally get out of the shower and wrap myself in the towel. I toss the sweaty running clothes into the hamper in the closet. I put on a soft t-shirt and a loose pair of flannel pajama pants. I feel tired and delighted at my afternoon “do-over.” In a matter of three hours or so, the funk has disappeared.

I pull out the little notebook that I have recently designated as my “gratitude journal.” I write the date and make a list of seven things. It’s a fairly new tradition for me, but I really like it.

I curl up on the couch and plug in my laptop. It’s time to settle in for writing and job applications and the residency application.

Start with something small. Start in the corner. Move in that moment. Take a breath.

I fill out one job application online. I check the residency deadline and see that I still have a week to apply. I send an e-mail to a new massage school to set up an appointment to visit. I silence my phone and plug it in to charge in the bedroom, getting rid of distraction, and return to the living room and laptop.

I put on a CD and face the blank screen for the article. Start in the corner. I type in my name and the title in the top right corner. Take a breath. The words begin to flow. They feel honest, real. I finish. I read it aloud. I find a few typos and fix a couple of verb tenses. I read it again. I like it. I attach the article to an email and send it off with a quick note to my editor.

There are still a few things that hover. There is still the residue of the texts sent, another job application to be sent, the residency to apply for, the recycling in my car to haul. Those chores remain for another day. I put the laptop back on my desk in the bedroom. I reach for a match and some sage. I strike the match and light the sage, the smoke fills my hands. I walk around the apartment, into the corners and wave the sage around, up and down around the whole house. I spend a little extra time with the sage near my phone and surround it in a little cloud of cleansing. I take deep breaths and say a prayer.

I curl up in my newly created corner in the living room with a book. I smile, relax, sink into the pillows, and fall into the words.

This day I learned. I remembered what I knew. I didn’t chase out the negativity. We can’t feel happy and positive all the time. Sometimes, we have to sit with it, the negativity, the sadness. We need to bring ourselves to that moment, the present. We can move and maybe the negativity moves away. Feelings are like clouds and we can remember that they will pass. We have to take the big things and break them down. We have to realize that we can’t accomplish everything on a never-ending list. We can get to the essentials, though. We can adjust our lists to be realistic for the day, the time. It’s not always about productivity, but about self-care. Cleaning house, though, and doing the things on the list can be part of self-care.

Start with something small. Start in the corner. Move in that moment. Take a breath.

2 comments

  1. I am impressed. You have the discipline to stand-up and accomplish tasks when you do not want to do them. Based on the photograph, you are a well read individual. Keep-up the good effort.

    • Well, sometimes I get overwhelmed and I wanted to acknowledge that feeling, because I think we all have it. And that sometimes, you just have to work through it and pick up the little pieces and begin. Thank you, again, for reading and commenting and connecting. Hope all is well with you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s