All the summer roses are out and the front porch wafts indefinable essence of musk rose, fruity tea roses, deep melancholy rose sweetness. I wake to the humming of bees and flashes of hummingbird brightness.
Wake too to a certain fraught helplessness because friends I love very dearly are suffering and I can do nothing to lessen the burden or comfort them. What has to be endured alone. I would give anything to be able to do something useful or a small act of practical kindness and there is nothing to be done.
There’s a new biography out on one of the great psychoanalysts of post-war Britain, Marion Milner by Emma Letley. I bought a copy of Marion Milner’s book On Not Being Able to Paint when I was in my 20s and found it so wise and compassionate I read everything else Milner had written. Which wasn’t much. There’s a tremendous and inspired review by Michael Pye in The Scotsman:
What she knew was how to write about joy.
She knew about moments when what you sense is suddenly vivid and full of energy: looking out at a tree, perhaps, and in that moment discovering a response in your whole being, in body as well as mind. Travelling, she had a brilliant eye, but it was for the “wide, unfocused stare”, not the “narrow, deliberative concentration”; she goes out after rare orchids and stops in wonder at the white blossoms of a whole hill of wild garlic. Falling in love was her model for such moments, “images with a ‘still glow’”.
She wanted to get past the cant idea that the unconscious mind is a kind of dustbin of the soul where everything is shameful, and to reconnect mind with body. She’s the useful version of fashionable talk about consciousness because she knows writer’s block but she also knows the moments when you put away intellect and let the mind go as it wants; when the block breaks. She thought creativity, whatever its form, was the whole point of being human.
I’ve always believed that everyone is creative, has creativity as a source of bliss and fun and catharsis inside us just waiting for a chance to make music, dance, paint, write. We get into trouble when we forget that we’re really just making little marks on paper or canvas or lose the impulse to sing or play because we feel we might be judged as inadequate or we feel ‘less than’ someone else making their own marks on paper or uttering a different range of sounds.
It isn’t that simple though, is it? Sometimes what stop the creative work can be a mysterious dark stunting force, a chemical imbalance or the paralysis and deadening of addiction, something akin to despair.
Allie Brosh of the brilliant and funny blog Hyperbole and a Half has a book out and talks about her decision to write about struggling with depression:
I thought a lot about this, and I think that putting it out there was sort of my way of owning it. You know, taking this scary thing, the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and just looking at it, and examining how absurd it is, was really liberating.
I’ve been working on [the post] for a very long time. Probably over a year. Once the depression got bad – my way of sorting through things and finding out how to progress during a difficult time in my life is really to think about it. I’m sort of a self-fixer — where if something’s wrong I just go into my head and just think about it and think about it until I find some way to either fix it or deal with it mentally, and in the process of that, I do a lot of writing, just to sort things out. So I’d written part one, and I thought it was over after I’d written that, like, “Oh yeah, that was my experience with depression and it’s done now!” That was not the case. Very much not the case.
What kind of feedback did you get?
I got a lot of feedback – depression is such an isolating experience, and because of that it’s sort of surprising to see how many people sort of feel the same way or identify with this totally isolating experience I went through. And yeah, I like seeing how helpful it was to people; there were some people who didn’t even realize they were depressed, and they got help because of it. People who wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking about it, were coming up and talking to me about it. So it was helpful, it was helpful to me to see – as it would be helpful for a reader to see this and think, I’m not alone, it was helpful for me to get that feedback from people.