Hi, I'm Annalee and I'm an Opossum
or: how to deal with not being able to deal.
These days, I've been feeling a little bit like the image to the right: bogged down and boxed in by all of the judgements, opinions and fears I've accumulated. At times like this, my subconscious tries to turn every uncomfortable thing I've experienced into a lesson I can learn and a rule I can follow so that I never have to feel that way again. That's kind, really. My brain loves me and wants me to live. How sweet.
The thing is, I end up with so many rules and strategies of avoidance that everything I do seems to trigger a response of discomfort. I end up paralyzed and playing dead, an emotional opossum, if you will. (which, in my case, looks like wayyyyy too many episodes of ANYTHING I can stream online, really, anything. I have no standards in 'possum mode).
It's not all bad, though. Recovery time is normal. Non-creative days are actually part of the creative process. The way to deal with those insidious thoughts and trauma patterns is actually to not deal with them.
Sounds irresponsible right? Well, from my experience, any decision I make from this place is going to be reactionary and exaggerated. Emotions change constantly, so anything I build as a response to my emotional reaction to ever-changing outside circumstances (such as someone else's opinion) is doomed to failure. I'm not advocating denial here. Awareness is really important, but only when paired with compassion. Understand why you react the way you do. Know that you had a perfectly good reason to make every rule, try to avoid each discomfort. Your reaction was natural and understandable (hint: every reaction is). Clean up any mess that needs cleaning (I sometimes lash out when I'm hurt, so occasionally making amends is in order) then, leave it alone.
Instead of entering an endless cycle of guilt, reaction, judgement, and resolutions to do better may I suggest:
How I Make Opossum Days Work for Me
1. I stop everything. Seriously.
This sounds counter intuitive, because you probably feel pretty stopped already. But, trust me, often the most lethargic and apathetic indulgence is a front for a panicked flight from discomfort. I won't know what I actually need until I stop and let myself out of the hamster wheel. I might need to rest, I might need to take action, but I can't tell when I'm in reaction.
2. I set the stage
If rest isn't required, opossum days are an excellent time for me to get organized: stock up on supplies, update my software, my to do list, check the call boards and prep canvas. By doing this, I'm taking the pressure off (no need to be brilliant or original), and I'm declaring my intention to be creative again... eventually.
3. Change lanes
To quote Taylor Ashton of Fish and Bird "when the well runs dry: you dig a new well somewhere else." This can be as simple as switching mediums, or switching activities. However, after a big bump in the road, you might need more. I've noticed that the dull, uninspired feeling is usually a clever opossum tactic to protect things that are really important to me from all of that internalized judgement and oppression. Solution: make something unimportant as a sort of creative sacrificial offering. Something silly is usually a good choice to beak through the gloom of pressure and expectation.
In the last three weeks, I've hardly painted, but I've taken a ton of photos and laughed my face off while making silly stop motion vines. When I change lanes, chances are that I'll realize the threat of shame and judgement that was keeping me so stuck in the first place never materializes. A foray into unknown territory can give me back my courage and curiosity, and remind my over-active reptile brain that art is not a matter of life and death, only life and life.
So there you have it. The opossum is out of the bag. That's what I've been up to for the last few weeks. I'm back on schedule and so is this sketch blog. I'll be back to posting new content every Monday. Hurray!
If you want to know more about the awesome, life changing, how-did-I-ever-live-without-this organizational tools I've been using (as seen above in my massive chalkboard command center) check out the wonderful Brandy Agerbeck at Loosetooth.
Here's hoping your opossum days are kind and restorative.