By now, I should have found a life partner, bought a house, secured a six figure salary and graduated from buying my clothes from consignment shops.
At least, so goes the story.
I’m 38. Actually, 38.5.
I didn’t think I bought into the story. I thought I was immune to it—that my values were about authenticity, freedom and creativity.
I’m beginning to suspect I’m wrong.
See, despite everything in my life being pretty damn awesome right now, I’ve just successful executed a cross-country move with my four-year-old son.
I found us the perfect house to live in with another single parent, I can finally do two or three yoga classes a week, I’ve finally found an awesome yoga teacher, I’ve been invited to teach twice a week at a local studio during childcare hours and my book has just gone to print internationally and continues to get glowing reviews on Amazon. My website is going from strength to strength, my yoga practice is solid, my health is fabulous, I have amazing friends and family…
There’s very little fun or joy or happiness in my life.
Sometimes, even when the sun is shining and people are telling me what a difference I’ve made to their yoga practice and my child is hugging me, I still feel like bursting into tears and disappearing under the covers.
Depression, right? Albeit mild and non-abiding, meaning it comes and goes.
Okay, I get that. I’ve had it before. But in my world view, depression is the soul’s signal to us that something in our life isn’t working, or that something in our psyche is trying to get our attention.
So I’ve been listening.
I’ve been paying attention.
I’ve been attempting to find ways to unleash the fun, revel in the joy and celebrate with happiness. It ain’t working. Well, I’ve moved past the totally lethargic can’t face the world stage and am in the functioning day-to-day stage, which comes and goes. Some days are okay. Some days—less so. But still there is something wrong with me. I can feel it. I’m blocked.
Tonight, talking with a dear friend, I wondered out loud:
“Do I feel like crap because I don’t have a life partner, don’t have a home, make poverty wages and have a lousy wardrobe?”
I was joking, as we both know those things aren’t important in life, right?
Yet as I said it, my voice cracked and tears threatened to rise up form the depths. I almost pounced on them and dragged them up—was this it? Was this the source of my lingering depression? Could these tears be blocking all attempts from fun, joy and happiness to make their presence known?
Maybe, but the tears were gone too fast for me to release them. So I thought I’d turn to a sure fire winner when it comes to releasing tears: writing it out. But here I am halfway through an article and I can’t feel any damn thing at all. Maybe that’s good; at least I don’t feel depressed. I’m enjoying writing, as I always do.
But I want to have some fun! I want to feel joy! I want to feel happiness!
The other day I even found myself fondly remembering the co-dependent, addict-enabling, verbal & emotionally abusive relationship I used to be in—I was remembering the good times and the fun we used to have.
Sure, we were often drinking or lining up spots on the stove, but at least it was fun! At least then the tears flowed easily too—and often. Oh yeah, that’s why I’m not in that relationship anymore, it sucked. Yet in the middle of the sucking, was… fun!
Now, life doesn’t suck at all. Life on paper, on the surface, on the face of it is great and getting better by the book sale. All that’s missing is the damn fun.
Maybe I’ve just worked myself to the bone. Maybe this entire single parent/yoga writer-teacher/website publisher lark is too much or not enough or something. but I’m sick to death of feeling like the walking dead.
I’m boring and dull and grey and even shop assistants must cringe when I stand slack-faced at their till with nothing to give, not even a genuine smile.
Once upon a time, I had fun. So much fun. All the time. It involved lots of drugs, alcohol, dancing, night clubs, after parties and house parties. And it was fun fun fun. And I was a mess. Yes, messy fun pretty much sums up my 20s.
My 30s: hard bloody work sorting out the damn mess. But you know what, I’ve done it. I’m sorted. Or at least sorted enough to recognise my shit when it comes up and file it properly rather than dumping it on other people. That kind of sorted.
Now the messy me is gone, I’d like to reclaim the fun me, and I have no idea how to do it. How the hell does one have fun?
I do have friends with whom I’m expert at having fun with. We get together and the fun spills out all over the carpet. But I keep moving and leaving them behind, time and time again.
And maybe that’s why I feel so dead right now. New town. New friends to be made. New niche to be carved out. And I’m over it.
I’m sick to death of moving every year or two and setting up all over again. I’m sick to death of flatting and moving house and never being able to build a groove and memories in my own home. I want my own home dammit! I love setting up house and keeping house. I love cooking and cleaning and gardening. Hell, I need to do it for my sanity otherwise I get… depressed. Huh.
And at 38.5, on the wages I’m earning, I’m proud of the fact I’ve still managed to sock away a few thousand dollars in the last few years.
I tell myself it’s for a house deposit, but at that rate—assuming my ancient car doesn’t give up the ghost and suck up all the funds—it will take me 20 years to earn a deposit on a $200,000 house. Seen a $200,000 house lately? (New Zealanders traditionally own their own homes—everyone does it. Not owning a house and hitting 40? Loser!)
I know my earning power is going to increase. Especially when I write Book #2 and Book #3 and Book #4 and Book#1 becomes an international best seller. But you can’t count your royalties until Amazon pays them.
And what if it doesn’t unfold like that? After all, I’ve got 20 years of adulthood behind me and nothing has happened like I thought I would. Except book #1. I always knew I’d write a book and it would be easy. That happened. The rest of it, not so much. Never planned on psychosis, or single parenthood, or a string of long-term relationships that never lasted the distance.
But you know what? Even if I owned a house right now, I’d probably still be depressed. Instead of worrying about saving for a deposit, I’d be worried about paying the mortgage and feeling hemmed in and freaked out about selling enough books.
And even if the money was flowing and the mortgage was paid, I’d likely still be depressed because I didn’t have a man to share it all with, and what’s the point of loving life if you don’t share it with someone?
But if I had the perfect man and my perfect house I’d be freaking out that I never have enough me-time to write anymore because I’m sharing a bedroom and a bed with my man. Maybe book #3, 4 and 5 wouldn’t get written at all. And maybe I’d never help someone get into yoga. And maybe they’d suffer because of it,
Maybe I have to be single. And house-less. And poor. Because it means I write and writing is what I’m here to do. At least, it’s fulfilling and other people seem to enjoy it.
So everything is perfect right? And I just have to get over myself and stop freaking out over everything I don’t have and start appreciating everything I do have. Maybe start a gratitude practice. Assuage some first-world, middle-class guilt over all my privileges and the fact I’m still not happy god damn it.
At least I’m not in a war. At least I’ve got food to eat. At least I haven’t been gang-raped by soldiers. Right?
Only the psyche doesn’t work like that. It can’t pick itself up by the bootstraps even when it can see how damn self-indulgent this wallowing around in depression seems.
At least, that’s what I’ve noticed. Hell, if I was in a war I’d be so busy surviving I wouldn’t feel depressed at all—life and death would be brought into sharp relief. It would only be later, post-war, that I’d start to have mental issues: PSTD and the like. Then I’d be freaking out about how I should feeling great because I survived and other people didn’t.
Oh what conundrums we build. The suffering of it all. This is life though and I don’t have any answers.
I don’t know why I feel like crap right now even though my life is supposedly awesome.
I don’t know what these tears are that keep threatening to erupt. I don’t know how to make them come. I don’t know if it will help if they do. Ok, scratch that, I do know. After observing my messy self for the past 10 years I know that invariably, once I start to cry out those damn tears, I feel a million times better. Seriously. The trick is to get them the hell out.
Why so hard? Because I spent my childhood and teenage years running from emotion. I spent my 20s running from emotion. I’ve spent my 30s running down emotions. I want to feel. I want to be right in the middle of emotions. I don’t want to hide anything away from myself. I want to let it all out… but old habits die hard.
It’s like a battle with myself and the other part of me is still stronger. 30 years of practice versus a decade. But I will win out. Those tears will surface. Whatever it is that needs to be released will be released damn it.
And joy and fun and happiness will breath a sigh of relief as again they can see the light of day. I know they’re in there… just waiting to come out and play.
Anytime at all…
In the meantime, a house, a man and a six figure salary …nah. Wouldn’t make any difference at all, right? The surface is never what any of this is about. And ultimately, I’m okay. Even in the middle of feeling like crap, I am okay. Because I’m not my thoughts or my feelings or even this body and I know that… I know.
So, whatever. Mild depression. Bring it on. It’s just life. This too will pass. I may as well have some fun with it.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Zoe Walker Designs/Pixoto