I am not a hopeless case. Of course, no one really wants to read about someone who is depressed, except those who think telling that person how to not be depressed is actually helpful. It isn’t, but I don’t blame them. They want to be of service. But I’ve gone through a long stint in which I haven’t been creating and, worse still, I have held my tongue because I had nothing nice to say, creatively speaking. Today’s little scrawl isn’t nice, but it’s not exactly not nice, either. It’s human. And, like me, it’s progressing–slowly, but moving forward.
The Moment Realization Dawns
We’ve all gone through periods in our lives in which we get a bit stuck, travel the same path over and over again until it becomes a rut. The problem with being depressed and broke at the same time is that this putative rut often becomes a crevasse quite without our recognition. Then, one day, you look around and realize this. It can sometimes take a bit longer for the understanding that you’ve done it to yourself to sink in, but when it does, it really does.
I don’t know how you might proceed once you reach this point, but in my case, what followed was a lengthy period of beating myself up and feeling like a failure. Some days, I still do, but I’m getting better about that. After I finished the bulk of my self-recrimination and abuse, which I realized was just a warped version of self-pity in a lot of ways, I got a job. Not that my freelance writing isn’t also a job, but it doesn’t require me to go outside or engage with actual human beings who can see me.
No, I got an actual job teaching college kids the basics of anthropology. And in the past year, it’s done a fair bit to lift me up. It’s a shovel, in a manner of speaking, with which I am determined to dig myself out of this deep ass hole. It is, more or less, the path that led to more creativity. I feel the writing inside my head, have felt it for months now. The words have dripped slowly in phrases and images, filling the cavernous darkness behind my eyes until I feel certain something will give and all of me will be washed away on a torrent of sounds, sensory images, and tangential ruminations.
Taking My Own Advice
I tell my students to get out and experience the world in every way they can–locally or through more extensive travel. In fact, it’s my custom to award extra credit, known as Brownie Points, if they attend a cultural event and bring evidence of it. This could be a concert or a trip to the museum, a weekend with Habitat for Humanity or a special church event. I’m not choosy. Then, I realized in October that I no longer do this myself. I don’t go to things, don’t meet up with friends to experience life, and avoid spending money whenever possible.
This necessary parsimony translates to not leaving my house when I’m not teaching, walking the dog, or going to the grocery store. So, once I saw this mild hypocrisy in my behavior, I decided I would change it. It was some time before I stumbled on an announcement somewhere–Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Somewhere on Social Media–about Second Sundays at the High Museum.
I’ve been before, but years ago. Since I moved back to the South, I’ve avoided venturing so far into the City of Atlanta. The thing that came piggybacked on my depression was the monster of Anxiety. Perhaps others experience it differently, and I’m sure it’s not a disorder or anything so real on my part. It seems to be simply a magnification of a tendency to be risk averse coupled with deeply sown ideas that I am never enough–smart enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, rich enough, name your poison.
Whatever its origins, I see that this is also a beast of my own making. That means that no one can tell me how to destroy it–I have to do it in my own way. So, I hitched up my metaphorical jeans, put on my Caring Face, and decided I was going to go to the museum for Second Sunday. Admission was free, so the only cost I would bear would be gas to get to the transit station and a round-trip fare on MARTA. At $6, it’s cheaper than driving the whole way and parking in a parking garage. Plus, I love to ride the train. I don’t have to pay full attention and can focus on other things.
Courage and Adventure of a Sort
I’ve been two months in a row, now. The brief journeys have done incredible things for my self-esteem, oddly enough. It was never the direct intent, but looking out the smeary glass train window, being cradled ungently by the very real sense of motion, and spending a few hours each month wandering through three floors worth of art galleries with only my thoughts for company cleared away a lot of bullshit that was smothering my Me-ness.
Years of accretion of negative self-talk and abuse, the constant burden of never having enough money to actually pay my debts in a substantive way, the crushing knowledge that I haven’t done anything with my life worth talking about, at least in my estimation–all this is being kicked and dragged away, and I can almost feel sunlight again. In archaeology, sometimes you excavate with a pick and a paintbrush. Sometimes, you rent a backhoe and remove an entire level of subsoil from the site. There’s a time and place for both approaches in the realm of metaphor and self-recovery, too.
What I realize now, is that I am no longer where I was. It still feels the same in many ways, because I haven’t changed many features of my life. But this one thing has brought me to a different place, conceptually. I have moved forward! I am remaking things and reaching for what I want—and I’m not going to ask anyone’s permission, this time (so there)!
All this has offered a new project idea focused on my little mini-adventures to the High Museum each month. I’ve done some draft work about the journey and experiences, taken some pictures, thought some new thoughts. Since I’ve already droned on long enough in this entry, I won’t excerpt you to death. But below is a selection of images I took while wandering among centuries’ worth of art, and I’d love to share them with you.
“Bad Decisions Make Good Stories.” That’s the truest thing I’ve read all month…