fifteen

because here’s the thing about depression…

it’s fucked up.

it’s fucked up in many, many ways.  tonight in particular, it’s because it tells you you’re not entitled to call yourself depressed because you’ve never been diagnosed or medicated for it.  it adds to the fuckery by telling you to get your shit together, because you’re not depressed.  you’re just a whiny little shit with no friends who needs to be less like how she is and more like a likable human.  and yeah, maybe there’s some truth to that.

but… no. no, there’s no truth to that.  there is nothing wrong with who i am or how i live.  i’m a good person.  i don’t litter, i pay my taxes, i use turn signals.  i drop my change in the little red buckets are christmastime, and i don’t push my political or religious agendas on strangers.  i’m not a burden to my family or friends or society at large.  i am valid.  i am a person.  i belong here.

social media upsets me.  it shows me a huge, active world that i don’t feel entitled to.  but it’s my only outlet.  i can see without being seen, the introvert’s dream.  so i open each app and close it almost immediately, because it’s the same stuff i saw 10 minutes ago.  it’s the same world, still living and breathing without me.

i am not entitled to this feeling.  there is nothing wrong with me.  this misery, temporary as it may be, is my own doing.  i’m not entitled to ask for help, because what help could someone possibly give me?

you should get out more.

put yourself forward.

be more social.

maybe if you actually, ya know, TRIED to be sociable, people would like you.

it doesn’t fucking work that way, but you don’t care.  you feel down sometimes, but you call up a friend and get out of the house and everything’s fine, and you’re sure that if i just did exactly what you do, i’ll be fixed, too.

i am not you, and that is your problem with me.

i went to a movie by myself this weekend.  it was a freak impulse, and i don’t have freak impulses.  i don’t regret it.  the theater was empty, the film wasn’t terrible, and i didn’t have to share my contraband junk food with anyone.  but as i’m driving home, that asshole who lives in my brain starts talking.  i hate it when this particular asshole starts talking, because he doesn’t know when to shut up, and i don’t know when to stop listening.

glad you had fun, kid.  this is good practice for that life of loneliness you’re making such a fine build-up to.  next week, we’ll try eating at a restaurant alone.

and that was it.  a perfectly good day, a perfectly good weekend ruined.

i’m not suicidal; let’s just get that out of the way now.  life scares me, but death scares me more, and even in my darkest days, i know i’m not done here.  i’m still optimistic enough to think there’s some great good in the world still left to be done, and that it’s up to me to do it.  but how the fuck am i supposed to save the world when i can’t manage to get out of bed?  seriously, i’m asking.

i feel better having written this.  nothing is fixed, but the words are out of me.  it’s a good start.  there is every chance i’ll wake up in a few hours and the world will make sense again.  it’s happened before.  there’s an equally good chance that i’ll wake up in a few hours discouraged, with a raging headache, and more tired than i was before i went to sleep.  that’s happened before, too.

the point is that i will wake up.  i will see another sunrise and another sunset and i will endure the thousand little annoyances and miracles that make up my everyday life.  i will love and hate everything in its turn.  i will be loved and hated, and usually by the same people.

i am better than this.

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eleven

What can you tell the second little girl that will help her change the course of her life?

trust that the universe has a plan for you. trust that you have purpose. trust that you have been given the means, directly or indirectly, to find that purpose. trust that you have the sense and the strength to act on that purpose. 

remember, please remember, that your journey is yours and yours alone. comparing your path to someone else’s will not help you.

you have value. you have a place on this planet and in this course of events. own it. protect it. share it, but know when to employ a bit of self-preserving selfishness.

play as hard as you work, and don’t begrudge yourself a moment of either.

six: paper or plastic

“paper or plastic, ma’am?”

how many times in a human life are those words uttered or heard?  too many, antiquated now as they may be.  the environmentally conscious among us carry an ever growing supply of reusable shopping bags.  it’s not hard to see how we acquire so many.  we pick a few up in line at WalMart or Target, only a few dollars, a small price to save the planet.  we promise ourselves to keep them with us, in the car or pantry or wherever, and to use them religiously on weekly grocery runs.  we never do, though.  life happens, as it always does.  the weekly grocery run is replaced by near daily pop in/pop outs for necessities, and the sturdy and occasionally stylish bags are left to languish in the car or the pantry or wherever.  we’ll find them after a few weeks or months and make the same empty promise to ourselves, knowing full well we’ve only begun another cycle of good intentions and poor planning.

but she didn’t think about this as the check-out boy on the other side of the conveyor belt waited for her answer.  her first thought was irritation that he called her ma’am.  she was not a ma’am.  no unmarried woman under the age of 35 is a ma’am, didn’t this little shit know that?  she allowed herself a few minutes to bemoan the ignorance of today’s youth, only to realize that simply having these kinds of thoughts about “today’s youth” granted her ma’am status regardless of her age and (lack of) marital status.

the second thought was about her grandmother.  grandma took paper and plastic.  that was a long time ago, before the modern miracle of self-checkout.  a pimply high school boy at the end of the checkout lane would pick through the items as they were scanned and passed down the line, packing everything into the structured paper bags like tetris pieces, not a space wasted.  the whole package was then carefully fitted into a plastic sack.  it was the best of both worlds.  the paper bags kept everything organized and upright in the trunk on the way home.  the plastic bags with the handles made it easy to get the stuff from the car to the house.

once the groceries were put away, the paper bags were carefully folded up and tucked into a cabinet over the washer in the kitchen for later use.  their uses were innumerable.  they’d tote garden produce, line wastepaper baskets, or be handed to the grandkids for art projects and to carry toys about the house.  that’s what she remembers.  a couple of paper grocery bags, a little battery-powered toy cash register, and a store of hard, plastic fruit.

she never knew what happened to the plastic bags.

she wondered what happened to all that stuff, all the toys and books and the things she always associated with grandma and grandpa and their house.  it was conceivable that it had all been thrown away, or maybe donated, but it was unlikely.  her grandparents were children of the depression; they never threw anything away.  she remembered the things they found in the house after grandma had died, just over a year after grandpa.  it had been… what?  twelve years now?  she marveled at that.  it didn’t seem possible.

yes, even with its owners in the ground the house gave up treasures interesting only to a curious granddaughter. certificates of insurance for policies that had long since lapsed or paid their last dollar, relics of her father’s and uncle’s childhoods still carefully arranged in their attic bedrooms, as thought the boys had just dashed downstairs for dinner, but had transformed into men after dessert, and never came back.  whole shelves’ worth of canned produce, some even from the year she had been born.  they had thrown those out; in theory, they may still have been good, but no one could bring themselves to sample 16 year old stewed tomatoes.  she wished briefly she’d had the forethought to at least save the mason jars.

they had found paper bags, too, full of old pictures grandma had probably intended to catalog, but never got around to.  or clothes she had gathered up to throw away or donate, but int he end were left sitting on the floor of the closet.  her brother found the jackpot, though, stashed in the back corner of the coat closet in the dining room: a paper bag so weighted down with rolled coins that it threatened to burst the moment it was picked up.

but that was always the way of things, it seemed.  her brother placed more value in practical treasures; cash is always handy.  she was more sentimental, always had been.  she’d take a houseful of vintage mementos and assorted junk any day of the week.  it was her incurable weakness.  she fancied she could still sense the former owners, as if these people long gone had left a bit of themselves with the stuff they collected, and they would remain with their possessions no matter how many times they may change hands.

she had come by it honestly, her inability-or at least her reluctance-to get rid of anything.  it was the family opinion that she had inherited her father’s and her grandmother’s sentimentality; that was all they could attribute it to, this strange compulsion to keep things.  age and half a dozen moves between various homes and college dorm rooms had brought out her more practical side, but she still caught herself sometimes when making the twice yearly purge of her belongings.  some things could be tossed into the purge pile without a second thought.  some things never even came off the shelves or out of the closet; parting with these things was unthinkable.  but a fair few things lived in that in-between.  they may start on one side of the keep/purge line, but would inevitably make countless trips back and forth before settling somewhere.

it had been grandma’s way to take paper and plastic, and it was her way to do what has always been done, because it had always been done.

so she smiled at the checkout boy’s irritation as he packed away her groceries in the sturdy, coarse paper bag and then carefully lowered it into the flimsy plastic sack.