Friday, April 23, 2010

Progress vs. Poetry

I've been thinking about Thoreau lately. Rather odd, as I don't live my life by poetry. My life is more of a limerick, truth be told.

Maybe it's because Earth Day just came and went, or maybe it's simply the banging hammer of "progress" outside my window with new homes coming to be and old trees being tossed away, but one quote of Henry David Thoreau's keeps swimming through my thoughts as I go about my day.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

I don't live in the woods per se, but they are mere steps from my home. Mostly I love it here amongst the trees, besides the pollen that rears its ugly head about twice a year. I've discovered the joy of peacefulness in the evening, listening for the owls and (I could swear) a lone whippoorwill as the majestic moon rises. By day I watch blue birds flutter along the fences and a hawk who keeps an eye on us all from the clear skies above. There are a even a pair of tiny downy woodpeckers of whom have danced before me each morning for a week during my daily sojourns.

All of us seem confused of late by the pounding and drilling and mowing going on, though. Each in our own way seem to be asking for answers and I am at a loss for words. At first I was angry. How dare my life be mowed under by more people. Then I realized that I am part of that progress that is attacking the wild's way of life. I moved here. I take up space. I am not free of blame. It saddens me and makes me wonder how hypocritical am I to claim to love Mother Earth and want to help conserve when I too am part of the problem and not the solution.

I could tie myself to a tree. But what good would that do as all the laws have been abided by and the building legal and just? I could scream and yell, but who would hear or care?

What I can do is simply be more aware. What I buy. How I live. Not just talk a good game, but play like I mean it. Learn from my surroundings and live with no regrets. I am hoping that's what Thoreau meant.

Maybe I should just get back to the limericks, they are way more upbeat than I..."There once was a woman named Bright, whose speed was much faster than light...."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taking a mental health day cures what ails

The first time I heard the phrase "Take a mental health day," I thought it was crazy. The words came from one of my newspaper mentors, a woman who'd been in the journalism game when it was run mainly by men. I idolized this woman. She was everything I wanted to be, strong minded, strong willed, with a strong sense of what made a good story tick. But when she mentioned to me that I needed to give myself a break and take a "mental health day" I thought she'd lost her mind.

At the time I was working a lot of 12-hour days as a newspaper section editor with a small child who spent a lot of time curled up under my desk (after day care hours). My day started a 5:30 a.m. and ended later than I would rather admit. I had everything planned, every moment of every day. I even made a special time grid (talk about crazy). And to have this woman I admired telling me I needed a mental health day (when I didn't even have time to breath without scheduling it) pretty much pissed me off.

She was right, of course. And by the end of that week I had an asthma attack and was stuck in bed missing deadlines and awaiting the "I told you so" from my editor mentor upon my return.

You'd think I'd have learned from that experience. But sometimes, you have to learn the same lessons over and over and over again. I've spent a lifetime learning this one. My personality is such that even working from home I only sit down when I am writing. I don't think about recharging my batteries or taking a time out. I go and go because, well, stopping seems so wrong.

But it's the taking a breath time that reminds me what I want. And yesterday is a perfect example. I was overtaken by a 24-hour bug that wasn't bad, but it kept me laid up on the couch. It turned into a wonderfully unproductive day. I finished a book. I watched "The Three Faces of Eve" with my movie buff son. I thought about the next step in my quest to get my latest stories published. I breathed.

I know it's easy for me to say that we all need to take a mental health day once in a while. I'm at home now with the dog, cat and kid. But I still have that drive we all have to make the most of the day and get as much done on the 'to do' list as I can.

All it takes is one day to cure what ails you, though. Turn off the cell. Don't rev up the laptop. Sit around and be a couch potato for once. I dare you.