I realized recently that I’ve allowed myself to stagnate. I felt somehow I had finished developing as a person–I knew I would never stop growing, but I assumed there were things I had figured out, things that were finally fixed.
Like perhaps I’m a paint by numbers, and while there were still a lot of spaces waiting to be filled in, I had the core of the picture complete. I knew who I was.
For the past week I’ve been in Mexico with my fiance Harel. It’s been delightful spending time with him, but also stressful since money issues always tend to creep up on us (making it even more important that we reach our GoFundMe goals).
Today I’m not talking about money, though, but rather language.
Part of our financial strains are due to Harel’s recently transitioning from one job to another. He’s completed his TKT English certification course, and while he takes the certification test on August 8, in his new job he’ll be teaching English to business professionals. So on Tuesday, I was able to join Harel in a workshop his new job provided on the proper place for a native language when teaching a second language. While I’m not a teacher of language, I am a student of Spanish, and listening to a dozen teachers discuss differences between Spanish and English, my mind tried to take these challenges and generalize them.
Black clouds. Rain clouds. Grey clouds. Large black dogs with floppy ears and wobbly feet. Shadowy hands holding you back. Globs of dark fur, drenched in the rain, peering at you through an alleyway as deep as dreadful. All these things, and I’m sure many more, have been ways that people have tried to visualize depression.
For me, I’ve always considered it a bit more comically, more commercially even. Do you remember that little guy from the Zoloft commercials? It’s so cute, but so sad, so small yet so poignant, altogether insignificant.
It’s a frown, a sigh, an expression of anguish or uncertainty as the weather darkens, but you look outside and it’s still sunny and warm.
Perhaps it helps to visualize depression. Perhaps it helps to make it human. Or perhaps putting a face to these feelings isn’t at all what we need.
Sometimes I want and sometimes I need and sometimes all I can do is smolder. I once wrote a poem (and it later became the first I’d ever perform) called “Waiting for Exposition“:
It’s like watching fireworks being / launched into the sky / on the Fourth of July. / I know well enough to expect / explosions // … // I know I’m no firework / no explosive / no lightshow / yet I still feel the fuse / burning down my crown like kundalini / I can feel the altitudes fall around me / as I soar higher from this drug that / sane people call oxygen and / psychiatrists call life.
Polarity is an interesting animal. We think we know opposites–day and night, sun and moon, light and shadow–but then we’re faced with nuanced categories that defy perfect dualism–male and female, black and white, good and bad. Here there isn’t so much a binary system as much as a continuum, and it’s easy to get lost in the grey matter.
So lately I’ve been longing, lingering, languishing…and I’ve been fighting against it, feeling frothy and shameful, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. So I’ve been perusing TED Talks, because they’re awesome, and sometimes a little awesome makes you awesome, too.
And in a way, somewhere in this mess of chaos, a new story began.
The dog days of summer are upon me, but instead of howling at the moon, I’m lying curled up in my bed without the energy or motivation to get to all these things I want to do. I’m making steady yet slow progress, but I can’t seem to get into what’s most important.
I watched a brief video the other day by Josh Davis, talking about “When to Skip Something On Your To-Do List,” and his advice is simple: If your mental energy doesn’t match the task, then stop. Put that energy where it’ll be most effective and come back to the other tasks when you’re mentally prepared to efficiently work on them.
But, see, this is where my mind starts to malfunction.
One year ago, as I walked the brick path around its first bend on my way to class, I saw the trees in crystal clarity. Every leaf was outlined in high-resolution detail. I felt excited. Thankful that I was alive. That I was negative.
But just as quickly all that happiness turned to hatred.
What had I done? How could I have been so stupid? So reckless?
My hands are cold
My body’s numb
I’m still in shock
What have you done
My head is pounding
My vision’s blurred
Your mouth is moving
I don’t hear a word
Sometimes I feel like this. I call it confusion. When I need to take a walk somewhere and wait it out–or suffocate trying to find answers that don’t exist. I wrote again in my journal the other day. I wrote two pages. Two pages outlining all the fears that have kept me away, all the questions that keep nagging me every day. I haven’t written a word since then. I haven’t touched pen to paper.