There’s been a lot of heavy recently. (She says as she tosses back 80mg of Prozac and chases it with a 50,000mg vitamin D pill…) I think that no matter how self aware we are, we often let the most obvious pains move in without acknowledging– or even really knowing– that they are subsuming us. As someone who battles demons year round, I often find myself trying to find patterns in my behavior– triggers for joy or sadness, explanations for the way that I feel. In some sad way, I think I’m convinced that my mind alone can calm my mind. One half can befriend the other and teach it to love me. Tell it to be nice to me, even when it doesn’t want to be.
With all this self assessment and charting, it is very easy for me to lose track of the normal things, the things that normal people with regular serotonin are affected by. I won’t realize that I’m heartbroken by a natural disaster, or that the state of the nation is giving me real anxiety about the future. I assume it’s me. Another trick of the brain. Another thing my brain is doing to torture me. “It’s May and I’m anxious. Great. May must be anxiety month.”
No. Actually May was riddled with world-wide horrors, Caroline, and you’ve been reading The Week like Nora Roberts novels so you know EXACTLY what bad things are happening in which countries.
The point is that somewhere between who we are and what we want for ourselves, is a reality of sadness, happiness, disappointment, and boredom that we must learn to let wash over us. Or rather, we must remember to let it wash over us.
It’s not easy being one of the great philosophers of our time, but it seems to be coming naturally to me these last few months. I’ve been thinking a lot about the movement of my friends and family. This time last year I lost my nearest and dearest love to New York. It was the right thing for him. He shines in New York like a gay Christmas tree in the dead of a July night, but it was devastating for me. I didn’t know or realize it at the time, but when he left, I lost a little of my joy. I felt a little less at home in my city and a little lonelier on Saturday mornings. It wasn’t until someone asked me if anything traumatic had happened to me (which I replied “no”) and then followed it up with “no one of import has died or moved? no big life changes?”
Oh shit. That IS traumatizing. I’m not depressed! I’m fucking traumatized!
And so it was that I started trying to focus on what the ups and downs of life actually are. So I could, you know, navigate them. Unfortunately, I only recognized the need for this behavioral change, but haven’t gotten to the part where I implement it. So now that things are flying at my face, all I can think is, “awwww, shit.”
Come August, I’ll lose another of my Boston family. H is heading back to Texas. After four years here, she’s found what she lost and is ready to go lay down some roots. I learned last year that you have no choice but to let people go. Your opinions, your beliefs, your convictions, cannot keep them. Once someone has made up his or her mind, and that decision has made it to their heart, there is nothing left to do but be supportive. (And then, of course, grieve. And by grieve I mean drink unladylike amounts of alcohol.) I’ve learned enough to know that I am sad. Every dinner feels like a march towards something terrible, every weekend away seems like practice for a life I cannot imagine. For four years I have had a sister. She has woken me on weekends, using her key pass and front door key to let herself in, for yoga, jogging, early morning drinking. We’ve shared holidays and birthdays. We found a way to overcome the most crippling sadnesses together. And now she is ready to move on. She came here because she had to. She’s going home because she can.
And I’ll still be here. Fighting the good fight for the last few who dare to make a life away from their roots. Wondering, silently, if I’ve made a terrible mistake.
I’ve begun making new friends. I try to talk to people at parties instead of judge them. And when people ask me to go to lunch, I give them my number, rather than tell them to find me on Facebook. (i.e. fuck off.)
And I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be 27, only 27, and feel like life is very, very long and very, very, short. I think about the book that I haven’t written, the one I’m scared to write. The one I do not have the confidence or determination to write. I think about my job and its path and the children I haven’t had– haven’t even decided to have. But mostly I wonder if being happy is about not being afraid to walk away from a life that looks good for a life that feels good. I wonder if I am sad because I know lack the courage to rise to the occasion that is my life and do the things that I imagined doing “in the beginning.”
Somewhere within me I believe that we all have a great story to tell. The problem is that we lack the strength to be both the author and the narrator. To choose not only the story, but manner in which it is told. When we choose to be the narrator we slowly begin to view our lives as if we have no control. We do not absorb the story like a reader, but relay the story. We do not realize that the things that are happening, the choices that we are making, are being written as we read them aloud. And so we continue along. Believing that the story will unfold before us, orchestrated by an author that we do not know, according to contents we have never seen.
There are times that I want to be full of grace of kindness. I wish to say the thing that is right, not the thing that will make me feel better. I’m embarrassed to say that in those times, I have relinquished any claim to being my author. I have simply been the narrator. Reading the story of girl who could not see past her own anger, or grief, or frustration, long enough to write the story in a way that could have changed everything.
I’ve watched myself hurt others and hurt myself. I’ve prolonged my own pain and the pain of others by simply refusing to make a choice for myself. To chose the life that I want to live.
When my parents divorced the pain hit me so acutely and so severely that it took many, many years for me to even sort through the sensitivity to find the root. Like most anger, when I finally found its very beginning, it was nothing more than sadness. It was a loss of hope. And I was scared.
As I grow older and embark upon the adventures that are to come, I hope I can remember that there is no such thing as anger. There is disappointment and sadness. There is fear. But there is no anger. By that logic there is only one thing that can exist purely for itself, and that is joy.
Because at the bottom of every sadness, there is joy. It may not be tomorrow. It may not be in a year, but eventually we work through our sadness and frustration to find the roots and then we trace them back to the happiness that lies at the center.
And that, one day, will be my book. An exploration, with appropriate humor and sadness, of the roads I’ve traveled to find the root of my darkness and from there find the happiness that exists on the other side.
But for now, I ponder. I’ll watch her go back to Texas and I’ll keep building bridges with my new family and I’ll try to find a way understand what it is that matters, truly. I’ll stop worrying about my job and realize what a dear friend has been telling me for years, “these are all just moments in time.”
Yes, they are. And I need to learn to take them for exactly that: moments. Because it’s only when we let them pile up that they become the burden of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. But for now, they are moments in time.
Let them wash over you. And wait for the next one.