Yesterday, just for a while, I broke.
Without going into detail (others deserve their privacy), personal stuff has been unremitting and draining the past month and more. A bunch of work deadlines collided in September. The outcome: a relentless grind of sleeplessness and toil that never seemed to diminish, or leave space for thought or rest or peace.
And yesterday… well, for a while I just stopped being able to handle it. For several chunks of the day – even while trying to write a skeleton for a case later this week – the tears kept flowing. And the anger; at myself and at others who, wholly unfairly, I felt were leaving me to carry burdens alone. And the frustration. And a sense of hopelessness, that nothing would or could change.
Now, before I go further, a caveat or two. I’m OK, fundamentally. I know depression; I know too many people who have to live with it, and this isn’t it. I’m no danger to anyone, least of all myself. And it’s possible that yesterday was a particularly bad day to finish Jim Butcher’s latest, which was an emotional minefield and roller-coaster combined. (And no, Jim: you’re not forgiven yet. Not for that. Can’t say anything more – spoilers! – but you know what I’m talking about.)
And most importantly: I know a good chunk of this isn’t about me, but about these strange days we’re living through.
Because I think, like many people – including vast numbers who are hurting far more than I am, financially, physically or spiritually – I’ve found the past months and years have delivered some wounds that just can’t, for the moment, heal.
I’m not just talking about the pain of living through the time of Covid, watching people suffer and die as those whose responsibility it is to step up fail, dismally, over and over again, as others pay for their arrogance and incompetence and obsession with a Kulturkampf that, right now, should be relegated to irrelevance. Watching chickens from a decade or more of grasping short-termism come home to roost.
But about the change of the past four years, as many of the things I hold dear about how human beings can, at their best, relate to one another – summed up, perhaps, in the ability to say “I could be wrong” and mean it – are trampled underfoot in a wave of straw-man attacks and visceral ugliness.
At the enabling of our darker sides, the ones we all have, to speak out as though they’re the sole truth, as opposed to just being one element in the mixture of soul and sin that’s woven into all our psyches.
At the refusal to remember we’re all frail, all failing, and all – therefore – desperately in need of generosity, understanding and acceptance, of ourselves and of others.
We try to keep going. To ride through the chunks taken out of our well-being, of our yearning for this not to be all there is.
It’s hard. It’s sometimes too much. And yesterday, it was too much for me.
Again: I’m here. I’m OK. Today’s been far better. And I know my trials are but pinpricks compared with those of others.
But it’s a lesson. I mustn’t – we mustn’t – ignore that underlying pain. I don’t know quite how I’ll deal with it, except I know I need more exercise. More quiet. More solitude, but also more time with those I care about. More natural beauty. More things, like playing the piano, that salve and save my soul.
A better control on the work I take on, managing better that fear which all self-employed people know, of how to keep the cash flowing. (The Bar can be a terrible place for this, hardly helped by how its lingering machismo about stupid hours combines with the constant thud – literal or PDF-metaphorical – of bundles landing on one’s desk at the last minute.)
And I need to keep giving love, because that will feed me as it feeds those who receive it.
That way, I can preserve the things that, in my core, will keep me going. Love, certainly. Hope, that our better angels (call them what you will; I continue to believe we all have them) will one day prevail and that we’ll see the best, as well as the worst, in those around us. And also faith: that this chaos and disorder isn’t all we have, that this darkest timeline can change, that whatever our deserts we can rise to the challenge and remake this world so all can flourish.
Faith manages. Hope, somehow, survives. And most of all, love endures. As long as those three things are true – and thus far, God willing, they always have been – I’ll be OK.