Being Overwhelmed

My index finger is sticky with spray-paint.

I know that I haven’t been posting regularly. Here’s what happened. First, the book came out and I had the publicity to do. And then I was given an important project that I had to finish by last week. And in the midst of all that, I had my regular schedule of teaching.

As a result? I was overwhelmed. It was too much: stress, worry, late nights. Too much sensory input, both external and internal. I’m not sure I can describe what that’s like, for anyone who doesn’t already know. What you end up feeling is a sense of complete exhaustion, and yet you can’t settle down to anything. I recognized it in a blog started recently by a friend of mine: Girl Unlocked. It’s not exactly what I experience, because we’re different people, but it’s similar. And it leads to a similar impulse to clean up one’s life, to make things better.

This was the first weekend for two months that I have not been drowning in deadlines, so although I have plenty of work to do, I knew that I had to get out and do something. Oscar Wilde (I think through Lord Henry) says that “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul,” and I have always taken that as sound medical advice. When your problems are existential, you have to act. So I acted.

I started by vacuuming the rug, which needed it rather badly, then sorting through all the clean clothes and deciding where they went. (Some in the closet, some into storage, some to be mended.) And then I worked on some things I had bought at my favorite thrift and antiques stores but had not had a chance to repair, repaint, whatever they needed. Would you like to see?

The first thing I did was spray-paint a wicker chair I had bought some time ago, as well as a birdcage I bought last week. What will I do with a birdcage? I haven’t the faintest idea, although certainly not put birds in it, since I don’t believe in keeping things with wings in cages. Or as pets.  But there was something magical about the birdcage.  It has fine lines, good proportions.  I’m sure I can find a use for it.

That’s why I have spray-paint on my index finger. The spray-paint color is Blossom White, in case you were wondering. I hate the standard gloss white people seem to use on furniture, particularly wicker.

I also washed and dried an embroidered linen runner I had found.

It needs ironing, but it’s quite pretty, and I thought it belonged with me rather than in a thrift store. And one can never have too much linen. (Although I have a closet full of antique linen and silver. But that’s what happens when you inherit quite a lot of it.)

There were some things that didn’t need fixing, like the wicker basket I found. Here you can see it on a sewing cabinet I picked up several weeks ago, in front of an engraving I bought at Boskone. The engraving needs to be reframed. (A green engraving in a green mat in a green frame? Seriously? If anything in your house looks “decorative,” you’re doing it wrong.)

The sewing cabinet is not going to be a sewing cabinet, of course. It’s going to be a place to keep jewelry. A jewelry cabinet. The legs are a little water-damaged. I’m not sure what I’ll do about that yet.

If you open the top drawer, you can see places where spools used to be kept. I think I’ll leave that as is, although it does need cleaning, and fixing because there are stray wires and the like.  And the stubs of old broken dowels that need to be removed. (The small painted box comes from Poland, and it’s where I keep my rings.)

So I spray-painted and washed, and then I went out and visited my favorite antiques store to see if something I had seen last time was still there. And it was. I’ll write about that another time. It’s just a small thing, a wire basket for holding letters, but I haven’t decided yet whether to paint it or leave it as is.

This was the sort of day on which I wore my oldest jeans, a black t-shirt and cardigan, and beat-up Keds with no shoelaces. And pearls. Why the pearls? I have no idea, they just seemed appropriate. It looked something like this, although this is an old picture I never posted and does not include the pearls:

I have a lot of work ahead of me this week, and I’m very tired. But I’m going to start trying to post again regularly. It’s better for me to do so, I think. It allows me to talk through things, even when they’re simply what I did that day, like spray-painting birdcages and wicker chairs.

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3 Responses to Being Overwhelmed

  1. Margaret Fisher Squires says:

    Welcome back.
    You are so right about the healing effects of engagement with the physical world.
    Wishing you plenty of nourishment of all kinds, and energy….

  2. I know the feeling well. I was at Boskone, too, and all I had to do was listen, and by the end of things I couldn’t listen to another human voice and spent the train ride home and much of the next day feeling like a peeled orange. Buzzing. Unkempt inside. I am just now beginning to recover. And strangely enough, also being helped and soothed by Girl Unlocked.

  3. emily says:

    Some music to get you through the week.

    Violinist Lindsey Stirling’s LOTR medley:

    Her other stuff is also great!

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