So Much Pressure

cx4-150x150So much pressure, so much stress…so much to do. My ‘to do’ list is pages long, But I can feel the life forces draining from my being. I am without the energy to even begin the work. Each morning I make that penultimate list in my mind, frequently write it all down in my omnipresent notebook hoping to cross off completed projects as they happen, like the old days. Can’t even get started these days. Even when I do, get started, I don’t last very long, fade quickly, need to take a rest. So much to do. Series of old paintings to complete. Dishes to smash, mosaics to glue and grout…assemblages to glue and more and more. Is the reason I cannot seem to get to work in the studio, that now that the books are complete and I am free of my past, have no more history haunting my memory, there is no longer a reason to escape?

What about that list I need to make for Lynnie, of things to take care of after I am gone. This could happen at any moment, I have no illusions. I am seventy four years old. I can feel my body shutting down. Is it a kind of death wish? If you wash the car, it will rain. If you complete the list, you will not die. Maybe I am hoping… Life has such a different feel to it these days, sad and meaningless, without ambition, empty and redundant. Groundhog Day. Get up, get washed, brush teeth and hair. Breakfast and laundry. Check email and Facebook. Water plants. Ho hum. Time for lunch. Read by the pool and feel guilty because the list is sitting their untouched. Roses are not deadheaded, sculptures are not glued together, closets remain disorganized, necessary files are here and there in all parts of the house. This will not do. I am not doing anything. Reading cheesy murder mysteries and spy thrillers out by the pool. A quick swim. Guilt. Recrimination. Hasn’t there been enough of that? And yet, it sometimes, piling up, gunny sacking, feeding on itself, a giant monster getting ever larger, suffocating me with galloping depression.

Yes. My friends, advisors, counselors, Facebook memes, magazine essays, television reports all tell me to lay off. Stop demanding so much of myself, relax. Don’t worry, be happy. Yet, I cannot. It is too much a part of me, a necessary part of my modus operandi. Work is best accomplished under pressure, there is no excuse for sloth, there must be something to show for each and every day, a completed work of art, garden, writing. But no, guilt takes over and exacerbates that incipient depression, where will it end?

The pressure continues to build, and even less is happening. One day bleeds into the other, morning into night, night into morning. It is necessary to hold onto the minutes for dear life, as they race to get away. Guilt overwhelms and thoughts of ending life become more and more prescient. NO. That cannot be. It is too final, even that, even given the pressure of omnipresent ennui and hopelessness. NO. Don’t give me platitudes and aphorisms, inspirational quotations, Timeline photos of charming places, flowers, kittens and puppies, it is not the answer.

But there is always a revelation if you manage to survive to find it. I awaken one morning with the realization that I no longer need to struggle, to fight that good fight, to do battle with achievement and goals. I have earned my rest, I can just stop and rest and smell roses and read by the pool and not worry if I no longer compete anything at all. I need no longer make demands on myself, administer demerits; wallow in guilt for my failings. I am not just saying it, I am feeling it, and I also feel a great sensation of peace come over me. Who knew?
Trees and garden, revelation: no more pressure, peace…

Lying on my back in the pool watching the sky…white clouds that look like dogs of yore…beware the dogs of yore…hahaha

The Italian cook, garden, pungent plants, tomatoes, oregano, and basil; inhale the fragrance, an aroma diet. Tiny plants, eight in one giant pot, they told me at the nursery not to do it, one pot per plant, but I am stubborn. Eight plants to encompass eight varieties from grape and cherry to beefsteak… a couple of a\heirlooms. I watch them grow, day by day, rapidly, touch the stems and leaves…the aroma lingers on my fingers. I build a bamboo cage from pruned dead stems, crisscross, tied with tie wraps, attach the errant strands of plants each say as they grow so enthusiastically. Soon, I have a tomato tree, five, then six, then seven feet high covered with those tiny yellow blossoms. Now as I check daily, rubbing my fingers against the leaves again to loosen that pungent tomato smell, I am seeing tiny green tomatoes. Excitement is palpable, expectation tantalizes. Every morning I check them water them feed them, my newest babies. Soon, you can see the differentiations, clusters of tiny marble like fruit, branches of groups, medium size. Puckered tops of giant beefsteaks. Some are early, others later. It is a surprise every day. Meanwhile, Basil is growing and growing, huge pungent leaves, shiny and bright. I pick the first red tomatoes tentatively, hoping I am not being precipitous, tear off some basil leaves, race inside and make tomato basil salad with mozzarella cheese. Then the sorcerer’s apprentice takes over once again as he ever has in my life, and I am picking tomatoes, big ones, small ones, giant ones…arranging them in bowls, wracking my brain for recipes … how many things can you do with tomatoes? What have I done? There are more and more ripe tomatoes, ripening faster than I can fix them, eat them. Salads and sauces, they are all over the place…