There’s a difference between sadness and depression. I have the latter – a clinical condition that I manage with meds, exercise, and sometimes, soft blankets. But what I’m feeling these days is not that. Currently, I find myself sunk nearly to the chest in ordinary sadness.
This is supposed to be a meditation on joy, but bear with me: it is possible to feel both. Something happened, I think, since last week. I unscrewed the cap on some memories and feelings, which is always a messy and inconvenient business. Also, my dad’s birthday was last week. He’s been gone almost 10 years, and yes, I tell my friends who lose people that sorrow is unpredictable and that it doesn’t move in linear ways and you just have to roll with it and be kind to yourself and blah blah blah. It’s all true, of course. I’m not spitting out platitudes. But when you think you’re long healed, you think you can speak these truths from a certain safe distance. Until the truth hits you like a rogue wave, knocks you down, and takes you under.
For whatever reason – unintended emotional excavation while writing, my father’s birthday, hormones, Mercury in retrograde, I don’t know – I’ve been a disaster. I wrote in my notebook: “There’s something in my body that is trying to come out. A bone deep grief that wants to rip itself from my side, breathe, take on life. I can feel it reproducing in my marrow – cellular sadness, dividing and dividing.”
Naturally, all of this made me a colossal bitch. One night, after snapping and arguing with my husband and feeling miserably sorry for myself, I lay next to him in bed. We were both trying to find our way to some kind of peace, except I knew I was unfixable. I said out loud, for the first time in years, “I miss my father. I miss him so fucking much.” My voice was a tight, pinched whine. I could barely get the air out, my whole body was clenched so hard. I was angry and desolate. I said it again: “I miss him. My life would be different if he were still here. I could talk to him, you know? He saw me. He saw me.” And then, finally, I was sobbing. Howling, almost. I haven’t cried like that in forever.
The next morning, I woke with a headache. I felt dehydrated, as if I’d cried out every drop of moisture. But I also felt lighter, the way you do after a brooding storm has finally broken into a deluge and then passed. Ever since – that was just a couple of days ago – I’ve been walking around feeling pleasantly empty. That sounds sad, but it isn’t. It’s the kind of empty that’s ready to be filled: clear and expectant. I’ve been crying a LOT, and it annoys the hell out of me, because I have shit to do, you know? I’ve also been laughing a lot and feeling grounded to the earth like those hippie dippy types who think you need to take your shoes off and walk around on the grass to recharge your spiritual batteries or something. I’m moving through the sadness, and as I do, I keep finding these pockets of joy that bubble up out of nowhere.
3 Things That Were Good:
1. I got these in the mail. If you grew up in the 80s, you probably recognize them.
You know how nowadays McDonald’s Happy Meal toys are these annoying plastic things that you end up scooping off the bedroom floor and donating to Goodwill? Yes, bite me, I let my kids eat McDonald’s and so do I, sometimes, because there are days when nothing but French fries laden with fat and nitrates will do, and they fill me with calories and HAPPINESS, SO THERE. Where was I? Ok. These days, Happy Meal toys kinda suck. But back in the day, they used to give out these little classic novels. It was magical to me. After school, I’d slip across the street to McD’s and with a buck ten in coins, I could get a Happy Meal with a burger, fries, drink and cookies, bitches! None of this apple slice crap. And best of all: a book. I’d sit in a corner booth and devour The Three Musketeers or Black Beauty along with my delicious, delicious fast food, and I was in heaven. I happened across these the other day on eBay and decided that they needed to come live with me. February is Love Of Reading Month, in case you didn’t know, and oh, how I remember the tingly bliss of these McNovels. I wish they’d do something like this again.
2. Mr. Busy Buttons, the squirrel who lives in our backyard and scampers back and forth on the fence outside my Tiny Office Pod, is back. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of weeks and I thought maybe a cat got him, but he’s here and he is busy. I love to watch him darting around frantically and then pausing every once in a while as if to say, “What did I come out here for again?” I feel like he is my spirit animal.
3. We’re not really “go places and do things” kind of people, this family. On the weekends, we want to chill the heck out. We love our unstructured time and the fact that changing out of pajamas is optional. However, we’ve recently instituted family movie night. It’s the sort of activity we can really get behind because it doesn’t involve leaving the house or putting on pants. I busted out the fondue set and we gathered round the communal pot, much as I imagine our ancestors did, filling our bellies with bread and cheese and chocolate while Harry Potter battled Voldemort in HD. As traditions go, this one kicks ass.
2 Things I Did Well:
1. I allowed myself to unravel. It’s scary, this unspooling of emotions and fears and old wounds. Because, what if I can’t pack them away neatly again? But I’m also experiencing deeper levels of happiness, so it seems to be worth it. As my dad used to say, “Honey, you’ve got to take the shit with the sugar.”
2. Fondue. See above. The key is to get really good quality Gruyere and Emmentaler, which my husband insisted on. “We’re not buying any of that frozen crap!” he declared emphatically. For the record, I don’t even think there is frozen cheese, but he felt very strongly about it, so I let it go. It was a good call getting the imported stuff. Also, dry white wine and way more garlic than you think you need.
1 Thing I'm Looking Forward To:
Writing more terrible first draft sentences in a story that may never see the light of day. Also using my new veggie spiraler to make zucchini noodles. That’s two things, but whatever! They could both be awful, but they might turn out to be great.