It is January 1st and what I have improved most in the last year is my tolerance. More tolerant of complacency and waiting and beer. One month ago, when I left Spain, I set the goals to stay conscious, stay unsettled, and climb a tree. I did climb a tree.
I am trying to write but there is nowhere to begin. There is nowhere to begin because I am trying to write about depression, and I do not write about depression. If I write about depression, it becomes real. It makes me think I should consider my health insurance’s coverage of a therapist. Makes me think I should stop drinking.
It is January 1st and I am throwing away every one of my belongings that has no meaning. Birthday cards, ornaments from Target, magazines I’ll never read, photos that don’t picture my last dog. The ones that do go in a shoebox labeled Maddie. It is the only thing in my room safe from a cleansing. This is how I clean up depression. When it becomes too much like sitting in a ready grave, I try to revive by eliminating things that take up space. As if my letting go of disappointment and shame can occur vicariously through letting go of old sneakers.
I take stock of things that are missing. Beginning with myself.
It is Christmas Eve and the mini fake tree in my room leans to the right on an angle that should mean it is falling. On my run this morning, I tried to block out the assault of screeches coming from blackbirds circling over the cornfields. Still hear them. I should be dressing for dinner. There is a painting in my room of a dancer. It is dark and lovely but the dancer’s fingers are oddly long and pointed. I wonder how artists react when they fuck up during their process, like a dangerous twist to their spinal cord.
Like how to take back a skipped heartbeat, or oxygen missed from holding your breath. Or how to come back each time I leave myself.
These days I grieve often, in sleep and awake. I grieve for roadkill and lost daylight, lost ambition and opportunities I didn’t create. My body carries it like a hospital full of mothers with stillborns.
It is some rainy afternoon, early December, and my dog is eating wet grass. The tree behind her is missing half it’s bark. It is rotting. We both are. I’ve lost half my skin that still absorbed sunlight and replaced it with studs. Don’t get too close; don’t go too near. But when I try to peel the studs away, I forget that my flesh is so raw. The air feels toxic, burns spores bone-deep. My dog is now throwing up. Some animal near the shed makes dying noises, low and half-hearted. Crows are getting on with their war chant and the hawks have descended their monotonous circling from cloud to treetop. Like my dog, I want to release the poison inside.
It is the night before and I am walking from work to the bar. My friend asks if it is seasonal depression. I tell her I don’t think so. It does come in throes like California wildfires and it does ash out. Not the Sylvia Plath kind where I should be kept away from all ovens. Rather, it is the kind that on good days, my head sounds like a helicopter flying low to the ground and on the worst, it sounds like the inside of a closed casket.
And then there are days when it sounds like quiet, small leaps of contentedness. Hearing the strength of my inhale in the last hill of a seven-mile run, the yoga teacher telling the class “you can shed the barbed wire around your heart” as she stands on my mat, my best friend’s laughter while we share Thai curry that is too spicy for me and too mild for her, the unlocking of coffee shop doors on a Sunday morning in Barcelona, my dogs sighing as she sleeps on my bed.
These are healing moments. We have to suck on them for all that they’re worth.
These seconds might transcend into days which might transcend into weeks. They might fleet by. But any ounce of noise they can replace with clarity is one we didn’t have before – one that lightens the heaviness of our barbed wire hearts.
It is someday late September and I am not writing about depression. I am packing for Spain, fearful to go because the weeks have been good. Light on the gravity and steady in the ground and I know this is a place I will not come back to. On my bedroom door, there hangs a long scroll of paper with misplaced thoughts and quotes that need remembering. The last one reads “courage is action in the face of fear.” I think it came from the Dear Sugar podcast but it can probably be found in fortune cookies and those loopy-font wall hangings. I write it in the first page of my journal set aside for Spain. The window is open and the bluebirds are alive. We both are.