Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Dry Drunk

In stark contrast to yesterday, the sun is shining, and there are very few clouds in the sky. Yesterday, cloudy and cool, mimicked my mood. I felt down, unnerved, like I was on the verge of courting depression. Today, the bright sun and warm, gentle breeze soothe my restless heart.

What I realized today was that, for some time now, I’ve been on a dry drunk. Although I wasn’t aware of it, I’ve been intoxicated by thoughts, relentless thoughts, of self-criticism. I’ve been raking myself over the coals because, lately, it has felt like I’ve been writing uphill. I’ve been chiding myself for not spending more time in front of the easel. I’ve been disappointed in myself for not putting more time in at the piano. Yesterday, at the piano, I fumbled my way through Bach’s Fugue in C Minor that three weeks ago I played with ease.

Sometimes I forget that, as in any career, there are ups and downs. As a writer, there are seasons when my writing flourishes, and my writing is accepted for publication. Then there are the seasons of rejection, and that’s when the self-criticism snuggles up close to my heart. What am I thinking, calling myself a writer? I wonder. Despite a novel and more than a dozen short stories and essays published, a rejection letter still has the power to wound, to send me reeling to make me question who I am.

But when I’m feeling down, uncertain as to the way forward, I’m thankful for my believing mirrors (Heather-Anne, Myrtle, Adrienne to name a few) who encourage me, help me through my dry drunk, sober me up. I’m thankful, too, that when I’m slogging through the writing, I can turn to my other pursuits. I can pour my disappointment onto the canvas or take it out at the piano.

While it hasn’t felt like there have been many doors opening in terms of my writing, I am reminded of what Helen Keller said: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” The doors that have been opening for me have had a lot to do with my painting. I was part of a group exhibition this summer at the Galerie Courant in Richmond (QC). I’m one of five artists whose works are being used to inspire the Funky Glam Fashion Show that will take place later this month. My painting, Night Falls VIII (Quand la nuit tombe VIII) was selected for Automn’Art 2012, a silent auction that will benefit the Foundation of the CEGEP de Sherbrooke. My solo exhibition, originally scheduled for February 2013, has been moved up to December 2012. When I pause and reflect, doors of happiness have been opening up all around me.

The challenge today is to not be discouraged by rejection, and to not let the dark night of misery rule the day. I must simply show up daily at the page and write. When I binge on self-criticism, I know that I risk falling off the wagon. That can trigger insomnia, which in turn will affect my concentration and, more damagingly, my mood. Prone to depression, it’s a risk I cannot afford.

So I’m trying to remain sober, emotionally sober that is. When I focus on the work at hand, good things always seem to happen, and doors will open. I must have faith. Today, when the day draws to a close, I will pray for courage and strength to continue to do what it is I feel compelled to do. Just for today, I will keep on keeping on.

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