Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Anticipation and Mental Health

My friend Lu often says that everyone needs to have something to look forward to doing. Whether it’s a monthly girls’ night out (which I have to start scheduling) or a vacation, being able to look ahead to something we enjoy will get us through the tedium of daily living.

Last spring, around the time that I was filing for divorce, I made sure I planned some fun things to keep myself busy. I went for an overnight visit to see one of my college roommates and take in a night of good music, planned to see Hamlet in town, signed up for a poetry writing workshop in the spring and bought tickets for a summer music festival. To some extent, I was planning distractions, to keep me in motion during the process of divorce and to keep me from brooding on my losses. It did make a difference to have my sights constantly set on something that was not too far away and that promised to be fun.

Lately, even when I’ve had something on the calendar, I haven’t quite been able to feel that sense of anticipated joy. Sometimes I have been just too busy to think ahead, or social outings still feel like they’re too much effort. There is a significant portion of life, especially a mom’s life, that seems to be dedicated to overcoming inertia. Just getting us all up in the morning was wearing me out. The separation and divorce left me mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Mental health, like dandruff, crops up when you least expect it. - Robin Worthington
I’m beginning to come around. I enjoyed talking with other parents at the school’s “Welcome Back BBQ” on Friday. While typically overwhelming, spending time with several of my siblings and our various children on Saturday was good, too (as we celebrated my mom’s 72nd birthday). I even took my boys from mom’s house to a Green Living Festival at a farm near where I grew up. The kids went through the Corn Maze, and I got to sit and enjoy a performance by Hoots and Hellmouth. (It is only in the past few years that I have remembered how much I love music, and have realized how much I enjoy seeing and hearing it performed live.)

In less than two weeks, I have plans to go out with one of my girlfriends to see the Avett Brothers perform at the Electric Factory. I have a great babysitter confirmed for the evening. I am usually pretty happy to spend short bits of free time with my notebook under a tree or in a coffee shop, but there is something exciting about definite plans to get out once in a while, to do something different. I find that it is key to purchase tickets in advance, which is a promise to myself that I really will expend the effort to engage a babysitter and really will go out.

The Lantern Theater Company is performing one of Moliere’s plays this winter, and the Screwtape Letters in the spring, and in May, the Opera Company of Philadelphia will offer La Traviata and I have at least one friend who is willing to see opera with me. Funding my cultural excursions is always an issue, but I hope to take in at least two of these shows. The kids and I may be receiving tickets to see Oliver! as a Christmas gift, adding the joy of sharing the arts with my boys.

In the long term, I have my sights set on a Master's in Fine Arts for writing. I am looking at a few different low-residency programs, brainstorming on child care options for the 7-10 day residencies that occur twice in the academic year. Financial Aid will be a huge factor, as will deciding whether to pursue a focus on poetry or fiction or creative non-fiction, or some combination. The nearer occasions of fun, as long as I keep working in between them, will keep carrying me closer to the days when I am actually preparing for the future goals, when (I hope) I will be amazed to get there, already.

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