Over the past two weeks, I feel like I’ve entered a “perfect storm” of sorts, or at least a perfect reading storm, if such a thing exists. It took me far too long to finish reading my latest LibraryThing Early Reviewer book, entitled Manage Your Depression through Exercise, but very near the end, I found a section that strongly resonated for me, about anger. There was a checklist of signs and symptoms that can indicate “hidden anger.” Out of 33 items, I checked off 11, and truthfully, there were a few more that I pondered over. (There’s also “high blood pressure,” which shouldn’t apply to me as my BP has run low all my life, but the last few times I’ve had it taken, the past year or two, it has seemed higher than ever before. But, I haven’t had it taken in quite a while, so I didn’t think I should check that one off.) This section in the book, and especially the checklist, got me thinking about anger, and about things in my life that make me angry…when really, I know in the logical part of my mind that I have it pretty good.
That Saturday, within a couple hours of finishing what I’d been calling “the depression exercise book,” I’d fallen into true depression. It derailed much of my weekend, requiring me to take a long nap that afternoon. I don’t recall much of that Sunday (Feb. 19); I think I did some housecleaning and listened to podcasts. Ryan had a basketball game Sunday evening, during which my mood became black and tears filled my eyes more than once. I had a small headache too, which didn’t help.
I was between books, and reluctant to start reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone in the mood I’d been in. I eventually started the novel The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. My mood recovered, and the book was an excellent companion for several days. Late in the book, the main character, Virginia, talks with her doctor about being angry at her mother. The doctor says, “Anger is a healthy emotion…as long as you can find ways to channel it where you don’t hurt yourself in the process.” And then he asks her, “Have you ever tried kickboxing?”
A light went on in my own mind, as I thought about the anger checklist, and how much I’d love to kick things and punch someone, and how such an activity could be both therapeutic and great exercise for me. I’ve since checked out a kickboxing DVD from the library, and although I’ve only watched it once so far, it was kind of fun and I’ll definitely try it again.
This brings me to my latest audiobook, which has moved me so deeply that I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday and bought the hardcover (and with my member’s discount and the last $5.00 on a gift card, I didn’t spend much at all). It’s called Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I could praise this book all day, so I hardly know where to begin, but at the most basic level, it discusses the strengths of the kinds of people who like to spend time in solitary pursuits and/or inside their own heads — people who are usually shy, but also likely to be sensitive, creative, artistic, and thoughtful. In short, there’s a lot of stuff in there that reminds me of me, and helps me to feel more normal. Introverts really need time away from others, and the time and space to engage in projects that interest them, and to do work that truly matters to them.
For me, it often comes back to writing. Oh, if only I had the time and space and energy to WRITE, then the non-writing hours, the hours in which my regular everyday life happens, would be more bearable. I don’t know if this is true, but on some level, I believe it to be true, and of all the things that make me angry, it’s the sense that my life now — remember, it’s not a bad life, I have a lot of things to be grateful for — is so very far from the life on the page that I imagined I’d have, back when I was a teenager, when I wrote poem after poem, and kept a journal. I didn’t see myself becoming a wife or mother, and for a while I didn’t even see myself becoming a librarian. In my heart, I was a writer. Virginia Woolf put forward the argument that a woman needs a room of her own if she is to write. This is echoed in Susan Cain’s book: many times, writers require quiet. Time, space, mental energy, and quiet — a recipe for writing, with ingredients nearly impossible for me to come by.