Tag Archives: Depression

The Whelming

1100-2

Spur yourself to muster the power of faith. Regard your survival as wondrous. Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other.

Many things in my current slice of Vermont life are overwhelming. Underwhelming, too, as those two words are more collusive than opposing.

All the concrete biggies are in play: Finances, Health, and Security. The existential ones too: Purpose, Meaning, and Creativity.

I am anxious about being able to provide for my family, my dangerous drop in weight, and the uncertainty of the future. I worry about not doing what I was born to do, finding less attached too often to meaning, and words unwritten dying with me.

I take action of course: applying for better, more-suitable employment, like with the Vermont Humanities Council; creating work and putting it out there, like with this post; and continuing my volunteer activities, like with reading submissions for the Mud Season Review.

I take more actions than the above and try to think of what further things I can do, what other steps I can take, to create a life that is something other than “nasty, brutish and short.”

Lately, in addition to chanting, I’ve been reading and rereading Strategy of the Lotus Sutra. It is a short letter, just a page or so, Nichiren wrote to his devout follower Shijō Kingo. It is a reply to a letter Kingo had sent about being ambushed by some of his fellow samurai, encouraging him to remain strong in faith; indeed, for him to become even more resolute.

Faith is difficult for me to muster.

Ribs clearly visible in my gaunt body, I envision the formidable obstacles in any potential roads taken and doubt my abilities. Yet I am still alive to have or not have faith, time passing either way.

“Regard your survival as wondrous” seems to have two meanings. The first as in thinking wow, I survived this horrible attack. How amazing! But also, life in general is a constant struggle to survive, and us being around at any given moment is something quite extraordinary.

The “strategy” of the Lotus Sutra is faith; not just having it but understanding its relation to other things. Faith is not something to be added later, but should come first. It is the foundation upon which all other actions – strategies – are built.

I’ve been trying to chant – and take action – with such thoughts in mind.

Nichiren ends the letter with “A coward cannot have any of his prayers answered.”

I think of this line, too, as I take determined steps forward, despite being very much afraid.

Death of a Cat

Christopher, 2015

Christopher, 2015

Life continues until it doesn’t.

Obvious, huh? So much so, why bother writing it? Maybe because I’m not sure what it means.

Christopher died on Tuesday. We had been expecting his death, but it still felt unexpected. The timing was definitely…

I half want to write “inconvenient” here as there is a certain amount of accuracy to it. But there is an unintentional coldness present, too, with using such a word; an uncaring to it that is as far from the truth as one can ever get.

Maybe I can substitute “awkward” instead.

Gary called me at work. Already stressfully behind on bills, including rent, and with little food in the house, Christopher died: on Tuesday, two days before a future paycheck already devoured by red. I borrowed $85 cash from the store director to cover the cost (deepest thanks to him), clocked out, and, along with Gary, took Christopher to Kingston Funeral Home and paid for him to be cremated.

Afterwards, I went back to work.

Life continues.

We had him since he was a little black dot of 7 weeks. An integral part of our lives, his 19 ½ years saw us in three states, various apartments, and up and down circumstances. He woke us up on our 1996 Wedding Day with his “turbo tongue” full of kittenly affection. He was still around for our 2013 Marriage Redux.

Over the years, cat habits formed.

Evenings, he’d patrol our home like a security guard, checking off each room and being annoyed at us if we got up during the night; he’d have to recheck that room. Affectionate in his own way, he’d make a beeline for our heads, wanting — needing — to touch noses before settling on our laps. Later in his life, after we introduced moist food to help with constipation, he developed a clockwork habit of waking me up by standing on me and screaming to be fed.

He loved office chairs, catnip, and shredding nice furniture. He had a talent for opening doors and cabinets. He liked butter, which we learned to keep covered on the table. He had a strange fixation with tape that made wrapping presents – and keeping them wrapped — challenging.

He was lovable, insufferable, and all the adjectives in-between. Then those adjectives started losing their hold except for lovable, being replaced by the new ones old age and sickness bring. Yet it felt like love alone would be a powerful enough word to contradict fate…

Yet, here I am, Sunday, several days later and still trying to properly mourn the loss of our beloved cat.

Sunday, my day off, with a committee meeting and board meeting coming up this afternoon. Grocery shopping somehow needs to be done, as we have nothing for dinner. I have submissions to read for the Mud Season Review, author bios to compile for the Burlington Book Festival website, and I should probably read Go Down Moses for the event I’m hosting at the Kellogg Hubbard Library come this Tuesday.

I have a resume and cover letter, too, that need revised, as they both must be absolutely perfect as I apply for my dream job at the Vermont Humanities Council.

And, of course, my in-progress fiction and poetry awaits my focused attention, along with markets to be researched for submitting completed works…

Life continues until it doesn’t.

Is that a nihilistic expression of the meaningless of life? The ache in my heart feels like it is, wanting me to throw in the towel at the banal absurdity of it all.

Or is it a seize-the-day cry emphasizing the first part and beseeching us to pick the towel back up, dry our eyes, and make the most of this limited time?

I think it just might be both.

 

2015

How do you make the old year new?

You can’t really. That’s what makes New Year’s Day and all the sanguine emphases on fresh starts, resolutions, and clean slates a bunch of malarkey.

Debt, sickness, and other concerns that were serious issues at the end of the old year will likely — barring some Lifetime Movie Miracle — still remain issues in the beginning of the New Year; the unbroken flight of the temporal arrow shooting through our arbitrary divisions with indifference.

I made a pledge when we moved out here to “get involved” and I have pushed myself harder than I ever have before.

2014 did have some good points, the kind of points of which my husband tells me I should be proud: my writing has gotten more exposure; I’ve been involved with numerous non-profits, boards, and committees; and I’m now an assistant editor for a literary journal.

All of the above, though, are non-paying.

My current full-time paying work doesn’t pay enough – not even close – and is physically, emotionally, and psychologically draining. I’ve had worse adherence to my medication regimen than I’ve had in years, I’ve unintentionally lost about 30lbs so far, and my finance-related stress is at an all-time high.

Yeah, sure, money isn’t everything and lack of it shouldn’t diminish the value of other things, the things that truly matter. And it doesn’t. But it certainly overshadows them, eclipsing the joy they bring as I stare into a new year that is simply the old year continued.

So how do you start a New Year when you are still wounded and bleeding from the previous year without a tourniquet in sight?

One-half of that start I reckon is waking up. Not everyone does. Not everyone did.

Another half is staying up. Not everyone does that either.

Although “the thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night,” it is day now. I’m both awake and plan to stay up.

So I regroup, write this post, and try to think of ways I can push myself even harder in 2015.

I check my e-mail and see a creative prompt from Poets and Writers: the first one of the year in their weekly writing exercises series The Time is Now.

It always is, isn’t it?

Until it’s not.

Life outside the Rose Garden

So keep your eyes set on the horizon
On the line where blue meets blue

Life outside the Rose Garden

Sick at Thanksgiving, it’s hard to be thankful
for fever, fatigue, and loss of productivity.
At times like this, I feel the virus
mutating my immune system cell by cell.

The next day, today, same bills still to pay
make staying home a pretend thought
stolen from others with sufficient means;
possessors of dreams that do not stay frozen.

How do you keep your eyes on the horizon
when fog banks keep rolling in?
I drink coffee, write bad poetry, and try
to keep things in a less jaundiced perspective:

I have my spouse of nineteen years
plus our dog, two cats, and a fish.

Spark of Gratitude

Today kicked off Montpelier Poem City, a month-long celebration of poetry.

Part of that celebration includes poems posted for the duration at various businesses and part of that posted includes two of my efforts: “Father and Son” at Kellogg Hubbard Library and “My Personal Town” at Heney Realtors.

Normally I would be excited. And I am excited. Of course I am. How could I not be?

Writing is my passion and is something that I do on a daily basis, regardless of whether or not any of that daily makes its way to readers. And here are all kinds of fun-sounding, writing-related things happening that should-would fuel my excitement. And they do.

But.

It’s been a difficult year. Is a difficult year.

When adding no results
Times a shallow digging through the mud

The kind of difficult where the time demands of eking out something falling far short of a living will make it impossible to attend many of the events. The kind of difficult that makes the non-eking time spent in a funk of despair that is an obstacle all its own to attendance. The kind of difficult that leads to large gaps of time between blogs; time that is filled with being stressed, overwhelmed, and otherwise not in a good frame of mind.

And sure, I know that is when I probably should be creating the most, turning that difficult into art; god knows there are many things therein to write about.

And I think about writing – blogging in particular — about such things, but then I get too depressed about such things to put word one on the page; it being a fine line between adversity firing up one’s creativity and its burning one alive.

I felt pretty burned up today after working all day; like a walking pile of ash.

But I stoked the coals of my soul enough to get me to tonight’s event, where David Budbill spoke about poetry and read some poems, both components worth listening to. Enough so, I ended up purchasing one of his books. Enough so, his remarks should be blogged about.

However, this particular blog isn’t about that. It’s about after that.

A reception followed the kickoff.

I have always admired sculptors who install their work in the public square for anyone to view. Art should be shared; is meant to be shared. The displayed poems are a vast literary installation that is pretty darn nifty.

So I went over to thank Rachel Senechal for putting on the event and say my little sculpture comparison remark. She called me by name, remembering me from the spelling bee. As if this didn’t surprise the hell out of me enough, she mentioned the poem I wrote also by name (Father and Son).

This touched me more than anyone could possibly know, happening at a time when I’m feeling fairly hollowed out most of the time.

I can’t say my soul is fully reconstituted.

But, upon that touching, its ashes have coalesced enough for me to write this, which I will now put up as a blog, thus ending the most recent large time gap.

I should probably thank her for that.

And I hope this blog does so.

So-so It Goes

I had a job interview today and the last question threw me a bit. He asked:

What in your current or previous jobs are you hoping to avoid in your next job?

I paused a long time to answer. For one thing, “avoiding” doesn’t sound like it typically would be a good employee quality to have. Especially not with “and other duties as assigned” being a common catchall — or maybe a common gotcha — in job descriptions. But also, I don’t tend to think in terms of avoidance. I mean, I would like to avoid the usual; hunger, homelessness, illness, etc. But tasks are what they are and if something needs to be done, avoidance doesn’t take away that need.

I paused for a long time, a maybe interview-crippling long time. But I think the answer I ended up giving was a good one and was actually more true than the interviewer might ever realize.

I said I hoped to avoid stagnation.

In context of work, it means striving to learn new things, pick up new skills, advance one’s career, and so on building upon et cetera ad infinitum. But I meant it moving beyond a work maxim, though, and into a Weltanschauung where life far too often seems like one giant, twisted mass of averaged-out stagnation: the distance between birth and death divided by the giganormity of the universe times all the moments before and after that you weren’t, aren’t and won’t be.

It’s a tad overwhelming. Underwhelming, too, from a different point of view.

But despite the absurdist-friendly math, growth is the only thing we have to combat the absurdity of it all; for the alternative to growth will eventually happen of its own accord, making actively choosing such an option redundant.

I try to avoid redundancy, too, which is stagnation’s sister.

I didn’t mention her in the job interview and now I’m no longer thinking about the job interview anyway and thinking more about my life as it is right now.

Earlier in the week, I had a better job interview; that is, for a better job. The kind of better, quasi-writing-but-still-writing job I got excited about when someone gave me a lead on it and became even more excited when that lead-turned-live-contact gave me a chance to prove myself worthy of that opportunity with a test of sorts.

But the excitement couldn’t be shared as at that exact same point in time, other, less pleasant circumstances manifested and dominated. That was okay, though, as I reckoned there would still be excitement enough left afterwards to make such insensitive-to-the-events-at-hand expression unnecessary.

But I ended up mucking the test up.

So that excitement moment disintegrated unshared under the weight of the subsequent dismal moment. Both those moments are gone now, as is the one in which you read this sentence.

I feel like I’m in a maddening holding pattern that is a first cousin of stagnation and redundancy; dull isotopes of decaying moments.

Like this one.