Usually when I am at some sort of crossroads, when I am struggling or hurting, the words are everywhere. I can write and write, no matter how tired or busy or how little time I have. But, that hasn’t been the case for the last four months. It has been almost physically painful to write, and I haven't been able to find my way out of whatever writer's block or obstacle I am up against. I have worried that I am too far gone this time. But really, I can’t be any more far gone than I have been before, can I? There are too many good things in my life now that I never thought I would have. Too many right things. Too many things that should make everything easier.
This time of year always sneaks up on me. Even though fall is my favorite season, this time of year – heading into the holidays, has always been hard. Even though I have a husband who loves Christmas with such passion that he reverts back to a six year old’s excitement over every ornament, decoration and Christmas movie on television, it can’t erase over 30 years of this being a really horrible time of year for me. I honestly love this time now, as we have our own traditions, and I don’t have to make excuses to avoid going home (and feel guilty for it) or feel like the most single person in the world (as the holidays can really make you feel). But I think there is something to the fact that my body, soul, and spirit learned to start preparing for hard times around September, and somehow I haven’t “unlearned” that yet. I get more emotional over everything, and think too much about everything, and in general, feel a little more of the weight of the world on me.
It started in September, when everything I read and heard on the news and from my friends just started weighing on me. Just the unfairness of life. Just hard stories and hard times and sadness that seemed to be outnumbering the goodness and kindness in the world. I kept telling myself I was just seeing things that way, and I was honestly getting scared for myself. We have been under so much financial stress for such a long time it seems. That will wear on a person. That, and family stress and every day stress, and just life has seemed, well, so heavy. I worried that, like addiction and other life-long battles people have to fight even once they are recovered, my depression was always going to be something that I had to keenly be aware of, sitting in the corner beckoning for me when I feel this way. At times, it felt as if I was fighting not to be taken in. I think we all have low moments, and I know I have had enough on me to justify feeling overwhelmed.
A few key moments stopped me in my tracks. The first was on the drive into work a month or so ago. I was already emotional that morning, and traffic was backed up on my regular route, and I had to take some back roads as I neared my office. I got a little turned around, as I always do with my lack of direction, and as I pulled up to a stop sign, trying to figure out which way to turn, a homeless man sat on a tiny patch of pavement between me and the oncoming lane of traffic. He held a small cardboard sign, with messy letters in black magic marker that read: Dreaming of Tacos and a Clean Pair of Socks. He was looking off in the distance and the pain on his face and that sign…well, I lost it. I was sobbing in my car, soon serenaded by multiple car horns pleading with me to move on. It just broke my heart that someone wanted such simple things and didn’t have them. The next morning, I tucked a pair of my husband’s socks into my purse, and went the same route to the office, but the man was no longer there. I cried again. I see so many homeless people here. Every day. And my heart is torn every time, and especially when I see elderly people or when I know someone is mentally ill and lost in a world that has discarded them. But this man’s simple sign has stayed with me. I have tried to remember that and be so thankful for all that I have. I have punished myself for feeling down when I am NOT by the side of the road begging, and I will sleep in a warm bed and have food tonight.
The other key moment came just a week ago. I was at work, and got a call on my cell phone from a sales person, trying to sell a conference sponsorship. She was trying to reach me, but in connection with the company I last worked for. When I explained that I no longer worked there, she responded, “Oh, Kim, I hope you are doing something you love to do, something you’ve always dreamed of doing.” I sat silent. She and I had worked together briefly at my last company, and she let me know she had enjoyed working with me so much, and was glad to see I had moved on (my last working environment was not a very positive place to work). And while my new job is much better, much more geared to my work strengths, and while I make a good salary, what she said made my stomach drop. It was such hard timing when I have been struggling to write a single sentence for months and at times have given up on my dream of ever publishing a book. I want so badly to finish my novel and just try to get it published, and to just really feel that first and foremost, I am a writer. I know that can’t happen all at once, but I have always felt I was working my way there. Lately, I have felt like it just isn’t going to happen, like I am losing something, a part of me, a key core of who I am. I know I am so lucky to have a job in a time when people don’t. I know we are lucky to be paying our bills when others can’t. It is just so frustrating to be working so hard and turning over what feels like every cent to just cover our asses—barely—and it’s not even doing what I love- what I really want to do. But, that’s life. I know it. This is no surprise. It is just harder right now for some reason.
I feel time ticking by right now, it feels like the clock is speeding up. I had to check my age on a form recently, and I have a birthday coming up in a few short weeks. I will be 44. FORTY FOUR. How in the hell did that happen? And how did I LET that happen, without going after some of these dreams sooner? How did I let depression rob me of so many years? I know I didn’t “let” that happen, and that second question kind of answers the first, but it hurts my heart all the same. I know I still have time. I am constantly telling people that it is never too late. And it isn’t. It just feels that way right now. I just want to make up for lost time, and go grab everything I want to do, and do anything and everything that makes me feel better, and worthy, and hopeful about the world, and most of all, myself.
One thing that helps, so much, is this.
This is the end of my day every day. My dog Bear. This face in the window. There are no questions or worries here from this sweet boy, just love. It amazes both me and my husband just how much love you can feel for a dog and how loved you feel in return. On my way home from work, when I honestly have cried a few tears for reasons I can’t explain, when I need to feel needed and worth more, and need to know that I am making my mark and a difference in the world somehow, I pull into my driveway, and Bear somehow knew five minutes before that I was turning on our street, even though I never arrive home at the same exact time. He looks out the window and waits. He sees me walking up to the door and explodes into a happy dance and pulls to get to me so much that my husband cannot hold him back until I have put my bags and purse on the kitchen table to turn to him. There is such joy in me just being there, just arriving, after only hours away. It seems small, and maybe even silly to those of you who aren’t dog lovers, but I can tell you that there are days when that moment is everything.
It's a small sign that in a world of weight and sadness and lost and forgotten dreams, that there is boundless love waiting for me, just behind my front door, and somehow, I am doing something right.
The beautiful painting featured in this post is called "The Fisherman's Wife" by Scott McLachlan. More of his work can be viewed here.