I am accustomed to being behind in task and topic. I have elevated “getting behind” into an art form. It encompasses several components:
- That uncomfortable feeling of swirling uncertainty, doubt, and fear in my chest that translates into a tight throat and churning stomach is the precursor.
- Procrastination and avoidance followed by last-minute frenzy sees the mission accomplished. I still get things done.
- Then the beating up myself starts with negative self-talk. The result of the procrastinated task could have been accomplished in a better fashion if only I would not have been like I am and done a half-assed job.
This is not a funny topic. But, learning to laugh has saved me from completing this swirly carnival ride into depression many times in the last ten years.
I still ride it occasionally. I sometimes wake up realizing I have been transported to the ride’s destination overnight: the desolate void of an abandoned midway with garish booth lights flashing through a muted drizzle and reflecting off the light-absorbing slick of pavement. Carnival of depression, I know you well.
I have learned over the years, through talking, writing, and reading to get out of bed and not to pull the covers over my head. I stumble off to get a cup of coffee and take my Zoloft.
Thank heavens for addiction. Without the threat of caffeine withdrawal, I might never get out of bed. Once out of bed, I just have to remember to take the damn pill from the prescription I will have to take every morning for the rest of my life.
Caffeinated and medicated, I can mentally zap the Killer Clowns from the Outer Midway (intentional homage to Killer Klowns from Outer Space) off the planet for the rest of my day as the ludicrous abomination they are.
Sometimes it helps to actually form the mental image of Marvin the Martin zapping my nemesis. Daffy Duck without a beak always makes me laugh. Two things that are always good are laughter and giving myself a break. Then, I look around my disheveled house and quote the Talking Heads, “This is not my beautiful house…” and I move on to ignore the piles of laundry, dirty dishes, stacks of mail, and pet play detritus, and begin to write.
Writing takes me to a rational place where words tumble on to the page like a conversation with an old friend. Writing comforts me, soothes me, makes me feel whole. I excel at writing when I cannot find a path to excellence in housekeeping, or holding down a full-time, or stressful job, or even staying current with the social media that substitutes for writing on days when the muse takes a vacation. Then when I have said something worthwhile on the digital page, I can move on to other tasks. This is okay.
The tasks might include scrubbing some pots and pans, or it might include attending a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting and calling Rumsfeld a liar, or cradling granddaughters in my arms. I have done such things. I will do such things. It all depends on how I feel.
I have learned how to navigate with my depression as compass. It is not bad. I just try to avoid those vortexes where the needle spins out of control. Writing every day grounds me, allows me to succeed, and in these days of blog networks allows me to connect with other people. I’m not alone anymore. Through my bloggy connections I have connected with my peers, a fabulous generation, as we walk down this boulevard of midlife and beyond, with a clarity of purpose: to change everything.
Breathe. It is okay. I am not alone.
I walk with sister writers who really don’t care if yesterday’s hashtag was #dayoflight and I am only now writing about it. There are things they have not yet gotten to, too. “Getting behind” doesn’t bother me, I no longer worry about “getting ahead,” well, not much anyway. Women, and writers who write about being women, realize that things come around again. Blood, life, death, community, they are all experienced as part of a cycle. Cycles are real. Monthly cycles are real. Life cycles are real. Generational cycles are real.
Breathe. It is okay. You are not alone.