“Hell is other people” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Depression or introverted cave-dwelling?

Either, both. Distinguishing between the two can be tricky.

The promise of solitude is so inviting. Grand plans are made with giddy anticipation for the productivity that will surely ensue once free of the bothersome distractions of other people. The clutter of thoughts swirling in a snow globe mind will cease in their torrents, see-saw lazily down to rest, and casually await processing. But reality always falls disappointingly short of this expectation, at least at first. Limp thoughts are as appealing as anything else proceeded by the word ‘limp’. Aspirations of creative brilliance get dashed. Ideas become shrouded in a cloak of banality.

Torpor sets in like quick-drying cement. Wits dull and absurd distractions take hold. Is absurd too strong a word? Is eight hours to many to give up to a Jedi marathon that only reconfirms the obvious and exhaustively discussed point that even men in galaxies far, far away are embedded in the patriarchy, justifying their villainy with complaints that the universe isn’t fair while the women step up to do the badass shit and sacrifice themselves for humanity? Beware of getting your feelings hurt as this clearly leads to the dark side.

What was that bit about absurd distractions?

It’s amazing how quickly the routines of daily norms and the expectations of basic human behavior break down when there are no witnesses to judge that behavior. Suddenly normal is spending the whole day in pajamas and eating cereal over the sink. Boredom compounds, folding in on itself like a collapsing star, sucking up time and distorting reality. The idle mind takes on the characteristics of a library abandoned. The noises of life happening just outside its walls is muted and distant capitulating to the rule of quiet. The card catalogs have been ransacked. Its index cards have been pulled haphazardly and discarded. Their clutter covers the floor.

Shuffling through the debris, slipper-clad feet kick up random notions of half-made plans, dates to remember, old lists of things needed, song lyrics, a sketch of a man on a motorcycle staring at an event poster sponsored by Taco Del Mar. So the clutter is attacked with a sense of purpose. The sketch gets tacked to the bulletin board. Song lyrics are filed according to their genre and era and annotated with specific associations of strong feelings, angst being the most popular. Grocery lists are consolidated and added to a calendar reminder. The mundane act of bringing order is empowering. The shroud that colors every thought useless and unworthy is lifting. A new light shines on raw ideas. Potential is discovered and imagination begins to rekindle.

A new energy fills the air. It’s electric. An idea stirs in the current, finds lift and rises into the air then blossoms like a paper flower, each pedal an elaboration. Another thought arises from the clutter strewn floor. This one doesn’t bloom. Instead, it draws other thoughts to it, capturing them in its gravitational orbit creating a model solar system. Soon the place is alive with swirling, dancing bits of paper, index cards, Post-It notes of every color, sketches and doodles. This is no torrent of haphazard chaos. There is no tempest to take cover from. This is a ballet viewed from the cheap seats where the trappings of executing stage direction in a physical world fall away leaving only the magic of the characters floating and flitting through the air with the music. It is beautiful.

This is not depression.

This is a process. Torpor and lethargy can certainly be symptoms of depression but characterizing these behaviors as solely negative and indicative of an emotional state that requires fixing is misguided. An obsessive need to associate looking busy with productivity attaches unnecessary judgment to behaviors that can otherwise be restorative. Little value is given to mindful contemplation, quietness, isolation, decluttering of the mind, in short, the pursuit of peace.

I need to remember this for next time and learn a little patience in the meantime.

2 thoughts on “Torpor

  1. Bravo Jen! That was a wonderful depiction of an intelligent and reflective mind . Yours, of course. In our busy lives we don’t get down or in far enough to understand this cycle you describe.
    My mom used to say “ patience is a virtue that I don’t have. “ I believe that it’s a courageous goal to pursue in ourselves.
    Go Jen go!

    Liked by 1 person

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