Warning: I'm in a funk. So this is going to be a funkified post. Sorry. I'm trying to bring the funny, but even in real life I have been feeling like a cardboard cutout of myself.
Have you ever grappled with depression? I mean, gotten into the ring with it, doing scissor kicks and Vulcan death grips on it, pounding away at a seemingly unbeatable oppenent? The kind of depression that you can feel seeping in, but no matter how how hard you try you can't find a way to staunch the flow?
How about what I like to call Depression Lite? It's like The Real Thing only you can kick it to the curb in a day or two. Or three. The blues. Elton John sang a song about it (and here's a bit of Jenny Trivia: I thought the song was called "Dog Blues", and when I sang it out loud I sang "I guess that's why they call it Dog Blues") (proof that a high IQ doesn't mean a whole lot).
I've been dealing with something for the past couple of weeks. So far I've been able to keep it at the Depression Lite stage, but folks...this one is scaring me a little bit. I've only really dealt with the major depression stuff once, that was back when Big Daddy had left me for the second time. That was when things got so black, so scraping-the-bottom that I had written notes for each of my kids. Notes to be read after my demise. I think there are two main reasons I'm still here: my former BFF Big Red, and the fact that my god forsaken truck didn't fit in the garage.
This time, I'm not writing any notes, but I am finding it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. Finding it difficult to muster any enthusiasm, for anything. Maybe it's the change of seasons, daylight savings time. Maybe it's yet another malady that can be blamed on menopause and her bitchy little sister, Perry (because after the age of 40, you will discover that anything from dry skin to loss of hearing to flatulence can be blamed on one or the other. Menopause: The Middle Aged Woman's Scapegoat).
I've been doing everything by the book: getting outside, getting exercise, focusing on the positive. Surrounding myself with friends, petting my dog, etcetera etcetera. But I'm just not feelin' it.
Our school is having the big Silent Auction tonight, for the first time ever it's being held off-site and is an adults only function. My good friend Gillian and I are the emcees for the live part of the auction, and as flattering as it was to have been asked to do it, and as excited as I am to have a microphone in front of my big mouth, I'm filled with nothing less than dread. Not so much stage fright (although I have to admit, every movie scene featuring someone having a public, mic enhanced breakdown has been been playing in my brain all week), rather, this is yet another event where it feels like I have a big, glowing neon sign above my head blinking "ALONE" "ALONE" "ALONE".
School events are hard for single parents. Harder still if you have been part of a sticky divorce, and even harder if the event happens to fall on a day or night when the kids are with your ex. It's hard to describe what it feels like to be one of us, I know many of my friends have attended programs and such solo due to a spouse being out of town or otherwise engaged...but it's different. It doesn't matter who I go with, who I hang out with at the event, how much fun we have, at the end of the night it's always the same. My friends go home with their significant others, if I'm lucky, I go home with a buzz.
Yes, I am completely aware of how Eeyore I'm being, and I'm sorry. I try to not wallow in the little bouts of self pity that sometimes cloud my vision, but this time I'm finding it oh so tempting to just jump into it, wrap it around me and lose track of time while I close my eyes and let it encase me like a cocoon.
That's the thing about being single at this stage in life: it's not normal. It's not par for the course. People my age, with my background, with kids who are the ages of my children, we are not supposed to be alone. I know that it's not unusual, I know that there are statistics and studies and lots of t.v. shows that feature single parents in my age bracket, in the same demographic group I'm in...but we're still an anomaly. And most of the time, I think the majority of us in this situation do a great job of blending in. We show the world that we can handle it, that we are confident, strong people who rise up to the challenge of being a star-less bellied Sneetch in a world where all other Sneetches have stars upon thars.
But some days, some weeks, it's hard. Sometimes you just want to fit in, you want to be one of the pack. Sometimes it hits you, just how unbelievably alone you are despite the fact that you still can't use the toilet without someone standing outside the door asking where something is. Sometimes, you notice that everyone else in the world starts sentences with the words "We" and "Our" while you are the spinster who can only say "I" and "My".
The good thing about these moments, these days of realization is that they tend to come in waves. And just like the waves in a lake or ocean, they'll slowly recede, leaving the beach smooth and calm again. I guess I need to learn how to embrace these waves, learn from them and let them wash over me instead of trying to fight them.
When I was little, we went to California to visit some relatives. While we were there, we went swimming in the ocean. I remember playing in the shallow water, going a little bit further out, feeling the tepid water creep up my legs, shocking my belly and back, wrapping my chest and neck in a watery hug. I remember looking at my mom, who was sitting on a blanket in the sand, smoking a cigarette and chatting with some aunt or uncle or cousin. The water suddenly got deeper, and then pulled me under. The panic hit me like a sledgehammer. I remember trying to stay upright and the feeling of my legs being knocked out from under me, the brute force of the ocean pushing my face into the sandy bottom. I remember thinking "I'm going to die and no one knows".
And then, just as abruptly as it started, it stopped. I was standing in ankle-deep water, sand in my eyes and mouth and bathing suit, a wail just starting to erupt from my throat. No one on the beach knew what had just happened. No one saw me struggling to stay alive while a force with unbelievable strength held me underwater. No one knew.
So I spit the grit out of my mouth, tried to discreetly shake out my bathing suit bottoms, and got back to the business of playing in the ocean. My brief battle to survive had passed, and I had won. I had no idea that someday, when I was all grown up, I'd be doing the same thing over and over again...not in the ocean, of course, but in my own head. Fighting invisible waves, battling forces that are hellbent on keeping me down. But just like Little Jenny found herself alive and standing on the beach all those years ago, Grown Up Jenny will be doing the same. Shaking the sand out of my pants, spitting the rocks and salty water out of my mouth. But standing all the same.
I want to end this with something a little lighter, something that makes me laugh and I hope makes someone else laugh.
Here's one of the scenes that I've had in my head all week...those of you who will see me tonight, rest assured I will not be singing. I hope....