So there’s been a long absence here, and in the event that anyone drops by to see if I’m alive: yes, I am.
Last summer it became clear that my job and I weren’t getting along. It was taking a really heavy toll on my health, and in the end the company and I agreed to go our separate ways. I was exhausted, depressed, and felt empty. And, mostly, I felt broken.
People would ask “How did this happen to you? You’re a reasonably bright guy...how did you not see this coming and do something to not get in such a bad place?” Well, you know, that’s a complex thing. I thought it would all get better; at some point the pieces would fall into place. I kept telling myself:
- Cheer up! It’s worse where there’s none!
- Count your blessings; start a gratitude journal!
- Remember: "Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same. ~ Francesca Reigler"
- Man up; grow a set; step up to the plate!
- Successful people give 110% to what they do. "Four short words sum up what has lifted most successful individuals above the crowd: a little bit more. They did all that was expected of them and a little bit more. ~ A. Lou Vickery"
- Would we have lightbulbs if Edison had given up at the 499th try? No: he didn’t quit!
And it’s like how you boil a frog alive: put it in a pot of cool water and raise the temperature. The frog doesn't realise it's been boiled alive. I was that frog; I couldn’t even see where I was at. In retrospect, the panic attack in the grocery store was about more than not having made a shopping list.
The rest of last year is a bit of a fog. I travelled a lot. Gradually I started to get my mind back, and maybe some of my soul, too. But it’s hard when you feel broken, and it’s hard when you know there is something wrong with your head and your mind, and your thinking is foggy and you are forgetting details and you can’t remember things that you believe you should be able to remember. It’s hard when you think about your home, and while you know you don’t want to be there you’ve no idea where you want to be instead. It’s hard when people ask “So...are you ever gonna work again?” and you have no answer, because...well, there is no answer. There was just this feeling of panicked flailing around in a weird, empty head-fog when I tried to think up an answer.
There were, also, these overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame and embarrassment that I should be working; I should know the kind of work I want to do; I should know where I want to live; I should have a plan; I should have goals. I am a white, middle-aged, university-educated male; I belong to one of the most priviledged classes in the history of the world. What was wrong with me that I wasn't making that priviledge work for me? What was wrong with me?? Why was I so broken?? Why couldn't I fix myself??
Frankly, I just wanted someone to wrap me up in a blanket and hold me. Most people, including me, don't consider that "a goal". (And, anyway, there wasn't anyone to do the wrapping and holding.)
And eventually I stopped talking to a lot of people --or they stopped talking to me-- because there just wasn’t anything to talk about. Nobody cares what you had for lunch or whether you ate lunch. (And when you're the size I am, the assumption is you ate a lot of lunch. Often.) They want to know whether you're working; when are you going to get a job; do you know what kind of job you want; do you know where you want to live. And when you just go blank --when you have no answer, no answer they can see as concrete or real or rational-- you watch them blink and you see the thought "...well...okay then...this is pointless, moving on..." go across their face. And I totally understand that.
Thank goodness I had a therapist who said --over and over and over-- “Just give it time. Stop judging yourself. Stop fumbling around trying to answer peoples’ questions about when you’re going to get a job and where you’re going to live. Just let it be okay to have time for the dust to settle.”
Thank goodness for the handful of friends who checked in every so often to see if I was alive. Especially the ones who said “Yes, I know what you’re posting on Facebook. And how’s it really going?”
Thank goodness, also, for the wonderful friends who offered hospitality when I was on the road. I couldn't have made those trips without your generosity.
And then, somewhere around the middle of December I decided to bake Christmas cookies. I couldn't remember when I’d last made cookies, or baked anything. Somewhere in there I started to bake the odd loaf of bread. Looking back at it, I think that’s when the fog started to lift. A bit.
And this spring, I realised that I needed to get rid of stuff, because sometimes your stuff prevents you from moving forward. I read a piece of advice somewhere that your stuff should facilitate your having the life you want, not reflect the life you have. And while I didn’t know the life I want --still don’t; it's why I'm a failure as a life-coaching client-- I knew what I didn’t want, and that helped with sorting and discarding. I got rid of books, furniture, yarn and spinning fibre. (Lots of yarn and spinning fibre. Lots and lots of yarn and spinning fiber.) A full 8-place setting of china that I had not once used since unpacking it 10 years ago. I found my sister's Grade 10 high school English notes, which for some reason I had been carrying around since I-don't-know-when.
And then I grappled with the frustration that while I knew that the town I lived in didn’t support me as an individual, I didn’t know where I wanted to live, other than San Francisco. Still don’t. San Francisco isn't even vaguely possible. Then I remembered that last fall a friend had suggested St Catharines, Ontario. I hadn’t seriously considered that area, but since I didn’t know where else to go, why not?
Finding an apartment was looking like an insurmountable problem, and just when I was ready to throw in the towel and forget about relocating, an opportunity to housesit for 6 months came up in a small village just outside St Catharines. I moved in some days ago. And the end of 6 months, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll be lead somewhere else.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. I hope to post more often in the future!