Something I’m Not and Practices in Compassion
After a break you would think that the words would be flying, but they’re not. In fact they feel twice as slow in coming, but they are coming. I decided to take a walk tonight, again at the lovely Greenway park. I don’t know why I went, I had a headache and I didn’t want to be around people, especially considering how I feel about my weight lately. I went any way. That seems to be the definition of me right now, “it doesn’t make sense, hell yes let’s do it!” For the most part I feel like I am fumbling around, blind, fogged in, no clue how to find what I’m looking for, hell I can’t even remember what I’m looking for right now. The butterfly metaphor is still alive and working in my life and right now I am wrapped up tight in a cocoon. I have a feeling I’m going to be here for a minute.
Tonight’s blog is about me. But, Sara, you say, aren’t they all about you? I suppose in a way they are. The last month or so I have been stuck in a serious depression. My mother suffers from depression and so does my grandmother. I don’t like thinking that something like this might be hereditary, that sounds like a cop out, an excuse, but the reality of how I have been feeling makes me think that sometimes as much as something might sound like an excuse, it really is the truth. For the first time since I was a teenager I have actually reached out for help. I email my friends, I’ve had lunches with them, attend social events, in other words I make myself get out of the house. I’m even going to see a shrink starting tomorrow, despite my spastic fears that he will pronounce me a nut job and lock me up for the rest of my life. Most of the time I just want to stay in bed, but I know if I stay there that this thing will eat me alive. I do not get out of bed because I want to, or because I am making some positive affirmation about the day is going to be good. I get out of bed because I must get out of bed, it is a matter of survival. Same with reaching out to my family and friends. Typically, I would try to bear this depression alone. I have this fear of running people off, boring them or scaring them with what I call my “crazies.” Not this time though. Oh, I’m still afraid of all those things, but I know better, because last time this happened I almost didn’t reach out. I can say with certainty that yours truly would not be here tonight if my mouth had not opened one night at a party. I don’t even know what made me open my mouth, maybe just straight will to survive, maybe it was divine intervention either way I’m alive because of it.
Writing has helped immensely. When I start breaking down, which happens far too often these days, I turn to my journals. I write it out like you would suck poison from a wound. I know I have to get it out of me. If it stays in my head I’ll think about it until I break down again, berating myself and then it gets really ugly. So instead I write. The blank page becomes my safe space, the holder of my sorrow. I’m grateful for every line I write. But still, I’m not a poet.
I don’t think I ever will be. Oh, by the end of the semester I will probably have a better idea of what poetry should look like, but it won’t be mine. My poetry is too abstract, which I still find incredibly amusing. The good thing about knowing I’m not a poet is that I’m starting to get over it. At first it hurt, learning I wasn’t a poet. I mean I’m a writer and I thought I liked poetry, so why am I not a poet? I would go home after poetry workshop days and just cry. Then last week I got an okay review on my poem. It wasn’t good by any stretch but at least I didn’t feel like the professor had completely dismantled it. I have to admit it didn’t give me a lot of hope. I noticed things I could have done better, playing with form and language, but I also realized that a part of me didn’t want to be a poet. Somehow realizing that there was something on this planet that I wasn’t good at and, most probably, I was never going to be good at was a shock. I always thought I would be good at everything I tried. Coming to terms with something I’m not hasn’t been easy, but it has helped me see the things that I am and things that I want to change.
First and foremost I am a nice person, a compassionate person. I’m the kind of person who steps over ants and grasshoppers. I stop in the middle of the trail and use my foot as a block to protect snails from being run over by strollers. I’ve been known to run out in the middle of the road to rescue turtles (running in flip-flops no less) and dogs. I’m the person who takes your criticism with a smile, nodding my head emphatically as you outright attack me feeling as though you just punch a hole in my chest. I’ll give the little kids with collection buckets my last dollar. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t want to disturb anyone with her little problems. When I hear a song that reminds me of an ex-boyfriend I sing along and wish with all my might that he is having the best life possible, whatever that might be for him. I’m the peace maker, the diplomat, the people pleaser. I’m the strong army wife, but not really. I am the person who remembers everything, you can rely on me. I’m a good girl. I do my homework, I get to class on time, I don’t skip. I drink, but not often. I don’t do drugs. I am the poster child for what you should do and be.
And there’s the word that started it all, should.
Here’s how I really feel: empty and voiceless. I want to scream at you for attacking me and scream at myself for allowing it. I want to tell people to take care of their animals. I want to tell people to watch where they are walking. I want to talk to my friends about my problems no matter how small they might seem or no matter how many times I need to repeat myself and hear their reassurances. I don’t know how to be a strong army wife any more; the last deployment nearly killed me. I do not want to be the peace maker. I am sick of being the luke warm diplomat and people pleaser? Let’s not even go there. I feel like getting drunk one of these nights and yes I’ve recently had an inkling to try pot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to be a nice person or follow the rules but something in me is no longer satisfied with the choices I am making. I am a nice person, it’s just who I am, but there is a part of me that wants to reach out and punch someone. Yes, I believe we’ve come full circle.
I don’t think I could ever actually punch someone, but I wish that I could find my voice. Fear overtakes me though and I’m left staring at my hands wondering why didn’t I say something? One incident stands out in my mind from this past summer. I may have related this story to you in another blog, but it bears repeating. I rescued two beagles from the side of the road. One had a collar with a phone number on it, so I called the number and the woman there said she would come get them. Both dogs were emancipated; you could count every bone in their bodies. They had sores all over them, cuts and scrapes, burs in their fur. When the woman came I wanted to question her about the dogs condition, but the only thing I could do was timidly ask how the dogs got the cuts. She said the dogs play around horses and they got cut that way. I didn’t believe her. I wanted to tell her that she needed to feed her dogs that she shouldn’t even be allowed to have them. But I didn’t. I was too afraid. I watched her drive away and I knew I would never see either of those two dogs again. I doubt very much they are alive today. I felt I was just as guilty of hurting those two dogs as the woman was. Why is it when I see things like this I can’t speak up? Why is it I’m so afraid? I wish I had the answers to those questions; perhaps it would have done those pups some good.
This semester at school has required my voice. Every class requires participation and they are all so small that it’s impossible to hide in the crowd. I have tried to use my voice but have managed to get smacked down in every class, either by student or professor. So I got quiet, but the professors still call on you, so I don’t have a choice but to speak up. I try to keep my answers small and simple. I would rather look stupid than say too much and invite conflict. Looking at my situation I wonder if this semester is meant to help me find my voice. It will not be easy, it is a difficult lesson. I must learn to speak, to say what I need to say without getting defensive or angry. I must learn to speak even though it might cause conflict, I must remember that not everyone in the world is always going to agree with me and as a good friend once said to me, not everyone is here to support me, sometimes that is the lesson.
“Opposition is true friendship.” William Blake
I might say that opposition is you getting punch in the face over and over and over again and you being really nice about it until you are bleeding all over the place, your eyes are swollen, your teeth are cracked and you finally figure out that you need to tell the person to stop or they won’t. But still I get what Blake is saying, because I’ve said it myself. The opposition is the lesson. How can we have light without dark? How can we learn if everything around us is happy happy joy joy? No we need the opposition, we need the contrast, and I just wish I knew how to handle it better. One way I think I could handle it better is if I had compassion for myself. I realized a few days ago while writing in my trusty journal, that I have almost no compassion for myself. I have compassion for everything else, even people who are nasty to me, but I left none for me. Usually in a rough situation I send love, light pink candles, meditate and pray for guidance. I realized that I’ve done none of these things for myself, even though right now I could do with a little love. So I’m being gentle with myself, loving myself, even though it’s hard. I even let myself light one of the candles I brought back from Fatima. A long handmade beeswax candle that I call a mother candle, because the nuns at Fatima make them and Mary is so revered there. I haven’t noticed much of a difference, but I have noticed a tiny difference and at this moment something is better than nothing.
For anyone who is going through depression I would urge you to reach out to those around you. No, not everyone is going to be helpful, but you don’t need everyone. You just need those precious few who are willing to listen. As for me, I will inch out of my cocoon a millimeter at a time until I am back in the sunlight. I will find my voice one word at a time. I will plunge into the depths of myself and return, not as I was, but better, stronger, and more full of love.