These pages have been silent for longer than I imagined, or hoped. I'm not exactly sure what's responsible for the protracted caesura. Once these pages were a place for me to detail thoughts, interests, obsessions, trivia...whatever was on my younger and somewhat more playful mind.
Somewhere along the way my introspection turned quiet. It began because coming up with something new every day became a chore, and any chore will inevitably lead to fatigue. In work days already full of chores, it became one more damn thing. Yet I can't help wondering if what ensued may be related, in some way, to not taking advantage of this venue to give some release.
The last 18 months or so have been a wringer. From a domestic standpoint, things are fine; ours remains a happy household, vocationally stable, a strong marriage, and two goofy cats who continue to boss us around. We have been reasonably healthy. There is much to be glad about. There has been plenty of fun and laughter. There have been moments of happiness and good fortune. There have been adventures, big and small. (One of those adventures, which I'll detail in an upcoming post, was one of the most awesome things I'll ever do in my life, something I still can't quite believe I actually got to do.)
And yet I can think of few periods in my life when I've been left so humbled by reality. For every instance of happiness, there's been a bucket of cold water.
It started to go off the rails in late 2012, with hubby's faithful pickup becoming a victim in a fluky traffic accident just before Thanksgiving - not mortally wounded, but the insurer totaled it because it would need so much work to make right again. Much as we've loved its replacement, the loss of that beloved truck that had seen us through so much...well, it broke our hearts a little, but we carried on. Life happens that way sometimes, and it was just a material object, and what mattered most was that he was uninjured.
A month later, we'd just completed a happy Christmas visit with hubby's mother down in Florida. As we said our goodbyes at the end of the visit, something inside told me I needed to remember this moment. It wasn't a misplaced sentiment. On the drive home, we learned she had been taken to the hospital. It was a somber, subdued ride home.
Then the next week, the son of a good friend of ours was killed in a traffic accident. There are few things more saddening than a funeral home at Christmastime, seeing someone you know and care about stunned by sudden loss and overwhelmed by grief, wishing you could say something but struck completely dumb by the awfulness of it all and the pain you're witnessing.
The new year came and we hoped for better things, but the news out of Florida did not improve, and we prepared for the most likely outcome. It finally happened at the end of February; given her condition, it was no surprise, and at least she was out of agony. We went back down a couple weeks later for the memorial service. I flew back the next day so I could get back to my job, while hubby remained for a few more days to sort out some estate matters.
Death wasn't done with our circle. About a month or so later, a friend of ours we knew from our hobby club was found dead in his apartment. I always figured he wasn't in peak physical condition, but I don't think any of us knew he was as ill as he turned out to be. The loss of this guy, who always added life and joy to our club meetings (and who had a special bond with me - just about every meeting, he'd bring something, usually Formula One-related, just because he knew I liked it and wanted me to see it), was a sudden punch in the guts.
The stress and everything else of dealing with his mother's passing, not to mention piling all this on top of his very demanding day job, wore down hubby's resistance and about a week after returning from Florida, he spent a weekend sick as a dog. As happens when you live in close proximity to someone else, I came down with it a couple days later and lost two days of work. Although I was back to health by the following weekend, I didn't expect the psychological effect it would have on me. It was the first time in almost a decade I'd been that ill; most of the time I've managed to avoid these things or play through whatever I've come down with. This instance, however, rattled my confidence in my own body, and within a few weeks I began having panic attacks again. I thought I'd conquered them, but there they were. Then it went to kind of a fear of the panic attacks themselves (how meta is that, right?).
It came to a boil during a trip to Seattle right after the school year ended. Halfway through the trip, and everything had gone fine thus far. Then all of a sudden I started to get The Fear. I spent the remainder of the trip a nervous wreck, consumed by anxiety, doing my best to keep it on the rails while out and about but spending the long hours in my hotel room consumed by my fear. The real treat was five hours on a 737 flying transcontinental, crammed into a window seat, having what amounted to a five-hour panic attack, feeling utterly trapped.
A friend of mine shared with me some techniques for overcoming panic attacks (and they have worked very well, for I can count on one hand the number of them I've had in the last year), and I spent the back half of the summer working with those methods. Before I had a chance to do that, though, she invited me to fly up and spend a week with her. It was, I thought, a blissful four and a half days. I enjoyed her company, I loved the week in a new setting, and it seemed almost perfect. Halfway through the week we took a day trip to New York, and being in the great city for the first time was overwhelming in the most wonderful way imaginable.
I'd hoped our time together would cement the bond we'd long established via e-mail; she really seemed like the sister I'd never had. Within a month, though, came an e-mail that established otherwise. It's not fair or appropriate to get into any of it here, but of everything that's happened the last 18 months, that event is without question the one that's caused the deepest hurt, and probably most responsible for the heartsick, jaded feeling that's so characterized the last year.
Other things, too, left me wary, among them an epic "why you suck" session directed at me during some volunteer efforts I had been asked to lead. Even though some good folks with some influence tried their best to make things right, the damage had been done, and I said "enough."
All the things I've described above happened roughly by this time last year. It was an incredible string of unadulteratedly sucky events. And since that Saturday evening last July when that fateful e-mail suddenly and unexpectedly cast me adrift, the most accurate way to describe what I've been through since has been a journey. It's had its heights and its depths, and I've had a few chances to meet back up with my lifelong friend cyclical depression, never enough to knock me down or keep me from living a normal life, but certainly enough to suck the fun out of the quiet hours away from work, when I haven't had some task at the ready to keep me occupied.
(And, yes, I know there are people in far worse shape than I have been. I know there are personal tragedies that would make what I've been through look like a resort weekend in Daytona Beach. I know people who have been through things I don't want to imagine. And yet it isn't accurate to make these kinds of comparisons, because we all perceive and experience life's up and downs in different ways. Sometimes the big events come as matter-of-fact moments handled with cool rationality, yet the smallest things are the ones that reduce you to a quivering lump of jelly. It happens.)
Yet a year later I feel the journey taught me some things about myself, about life and the world, about the fragility of certain things and how quickly your world will turn upside down. And even if I've come out of it having personified this trope, I've also been reminded of strength I'd let myself forget I have. At no point through it all have I thought the misery would last forever. Instead, I have pressed forward. To me, there's been no alternative. I keep going. I have never stopped looking for that new dawn just ahead, if only I keep moving toward it.
And, you know, that's been borne out. For while there were depths, there were also some truly great moments. I've been to some new places, seen some amazing things, done some cool stuff, and got some things accomplished. There were moments that bring a smile every time I remember them; others leave me feeling astonished at how fortunate I've been. And slowly, steadily, I've let go of the anxiety and hurt, making room for a little more peace and forgiveness with each day. Some days are better than others, but the good days are by far outnumbering the bad, especially in the last few weeks.
Then there's the little signs of hope that stubbornly grow from the ashes. A few days ago, an especially happy and hopeful piece of news came from my family in Alaska, and that news added light to the whole week. I had lunch yesterday with a former student I'm fond of, someone creative who has good ideas, and from our discussions came some promising concepts that may resolve some vexing technical issues at work. Several projects on which I've worked are starting to bear fruit, too, and the investments of time and effort and emotion are proving to have been worth it all.
And as I've worked on this post, there have been the little signs of life that remind you what's important. The wild birds in our woods have singing. The doves that stay near our yard have been cooing. The sun's climbing over the horizon. The world is waking up. That new dawn is here. I need to make the most of it.