Ebb and Flow

It is, perhaps, the Tao of Gemini, the Fate of Twins, the Destiny of Castor and Pollux, or Cain and Abel, Fred and George… that as one rises, the other falls, and within oneself, the rise and fall is constant.

Or perhaps it is yin and yang, thesis/antithesis, Shin and Bet, fire and water, heaven and earth… Duality seems an inextricable part of our universe: Even our bodies bifurcate into left and right, two hands, two feet, two ears, two eyes, two lungs holding our breath (which is, in Kabbalah, the force that passes between fire and water, the Aleph between Shin and Bet, and yet, inside us, even the lungs are broken in two).

For me, at least, the rise and fall seems a symptom of chronic depression: Even while treated and generally manageable, sometimes the cup overflows and it is not abundance but tears that pour down the edges and flood where it stands. Alas. Such is fate.

But what to do with fate? Is the last duality only action and inaction?

The irony of introversion: Action often implies others, which is exhausting, while inaction is solitary and rejuvenating. And work this semester has been particularly trying because I have barely any time to myself during the day: I took on some additional responsibilities at the beginning of the semester, and this resulted in my prep time being decreased from five hours (already down from the usual ten, given my overloaded teaching schedule since the start of the year) to only one. It’s no wonder I need to take an additional five or six hours each weekend just to stay on top of basic lesson planning.

But the past few weeks have been strangely busy: Snow days in February demanded multiple curriculum changes that required additional planning time, establishing dual enrollment for my Precalculus class took additional time and further limited the time we have to teach content, and my role as school librarian has been more substantial as well. All this extra work has meant extra pressure from deadlines and supervisors, and the result has been sheer exhaustion. Not to mention, at home, spaying my puppy cost more than twice what I had anticipated and the change in care for her while she recovered also added to the demands on my time and attention. And then, because nothing is ever complete without a cherry on top, tax season led to increased financial strain due to owing taxes (long story) and I’ve been fighting a sinus infection for over a week.

I’m complaining. But I’m also reminding myself that there’s been a lot on my plate lately, even more if you also factor in trying to stay atop my Kickstarter project’s fulfillment timeline and some big diet changes I’ve incorporated since the end of January (which I’ll eventually talk about, I suppose), and just writing it all out for a moment, seeing in a big block of text the reasons why I’ve felt so overwhelmed and yes, even depressed lately, helps me be more compassionate toward myself and feel less ashamed about how I feel.

That’s another thing about my form of depression: When I feel down, when I slip into another depressive episode (which can last for days or weeks), I feel crippling shame because you have no right to feel this way. Life is good. You have a job you love going to, you have students and coworkers you love being around, you have a really comfortable home, a lovely little exuberant puppy that adores your company, good friends you see regularly, new opportunities and endeavors that you’re pursuing constantly, more material possessions than you really need, and sure, sometimes you wish the money would go further, or the bills would be smaller, but you’re doing great.

So why do you feel this way?

And rationalizing the diagnosis of depression to eradicate the shame of the symptoms doesn’t work. If simply being rational were all it took, it wouldn’t be depression. So sometimes, “complaining,” putting it all out there, it helps illuminate some of the small changes (that add up to big consequences) that trigger depressive episodes.

I was managing the reduced prep time. Hell, I was even making good progress with Kickstarter. Then puppy spaying. And it was overwhelming, but I pressed through; it’s hard to believe it’s been nearly three weeks since the surgery (and she’s doing great). But then preparation for parent conferences quadrupled my work responsibilities, which ate into all of my weekend planning time, and it just so happened that this last weekend also overlapped with some community involvement and fundraising I’m a part of, and on top of that, the head cold has made me feel more tired and sluggish than I normally am.

It’s rumored that Einstein once said time exists to prevent things from happening all at once. To him I say: it’s relative. Things do happen all at once. Things are happening continuously all the time and nothing ever stops. The only part that changes any of this is our frame of reference: Time constricts me, binds my hands and demands that I can only do one thing at a time–but the universe has no withholdings with time and can do to me anything and as much as it wants to do. To which I repeat: it’s relative.

Thus brings another duality: passive and active. Inaction and action at least imply choice: either I choose to do or I choose not to do. Passive and active is the choice between choosing: either I choose or I don’t. Consent or refusal. Victim / aggressor.

On the one hand, I am a victim of depression. On the other, my decisions (whether intentional or not) resulted in this depressive episode: I am the aggressor. So begins another round of self-induced shaming. And fighting against depression (refusal) can itself worsen the depression, but accepting it often eases its passage (consent).

I am, at once, a contraction, internal / external, a juxtaposition of opposing forces vying for attention, two sides of a single coin that can never stop spinning.

There is no heads or tails: only confusion.

It is, perhaps, the Tao of Gemini. Yin and Yang. Ebb and flow.

1 thought on “Ebb and Flow

  1. Perhaps this duality is not just limited to the Gemini born. I think it can describe a lot of people, including myself. Such fine words give hope where there may be none. A hand to hold even when miles apart.

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