I write to you from the Dumps.
Unfortunately, I find myself stuck here. Occasionally, I climb out of the muddy pit and feel sun on my face. I talk fast about small things, feeling like myself. I get lost in a book. I snuggle my face into Max's freshly licked fur (and, you might think this is crazy, but I LOVE the smell of freshly licked cat fur). I tell him how much I love him, knowing the words don't mean anything to him but believing that he can sense the safety in my voice.
I haven't made it to the gym since some time before Christmas, but I have eaten a vegetable each day this year. I bought tiny cans of Low Sodium V8 this morning, to tend to this habit, which, here's praying it will actually become a habit, because oh if my body doesn't need the vitamins.
I am making a list of the small things that could be practically feeding this funk, so that I don't turn the blame inward, even though I know this is never anyone's "fault" to feel this way.
I remember that Alex is out of town. I am independent, yes, and not clutching for his presence, but it is affecting me that I haven't been in his embrace in 18 days. I tell myself to enjoy the Netflix binge until he comes home Sunday.
I look at the grey skies in Los Angeles, and remind myself that I've never done well in my adult years with grey skies. I try to be grateful for the rain, in this time of desperate California drought.
I remember that schedules are always weird this time of year. Key people are out of the office, celebrating holidays, and when they roll back in to work we're all in an alien place, because we're trying to do things that don't fit our normal patterns, with resolutions to eat vegetables and spend less money and exercise more. I tell myself that personalities go missing around January 1st, as we all try to be our best selves, pushing down our desires to snack and move freely as we did in December.
I talk to friends, and I feel relatively normal. I take a frozen pizza to Sam's place, and giggle at the Minnesotan accents in New in Town. I hang with a cluster of peeps after church and interject and listen and feel temporarily buoyed.
I keep popping my pills, paying attention to my moods. I wager when I should go to the doctor, knowing that the new med needs time to become effective, but also knowing that I can't play the waiting game forever.
I re-read what I've written here so far and sigh, thinking "This sucks."
I keep reaching out. I call Alex -- again -- fighting the urge to keep it all inside, even though I wonder if he's tired of saying "What's wrong, Muffin?" and "You sound so sad." I know that he loves me and wants to see me happy, and if his job is to listen to make that happen, then I'm sure he's willing to do all the listening.
I write belated Christmas cards, to use up my stationery and tell people in my life that they bring light to me. I feel pleased as I reflect on the words I scribble in my chicken scratch, because they are truth -- I can't but think, "Man! Am I lucky, to have such awesome people spread far and wide who care about me."
I read. Because I love to read. I love strings of words so poetic or funny or heavy like a sack of flour to the gut. I reflect on my lifelong attraction to words, the attraction that was there before I even noticed -- begging my parents for a word search book on vacation, writing words with my finger on the leg of my jeans (really, who does that?), copying the words of my Amelia Bedelia book on the family typewriter. I marvel at how it all makes sense, that even when I hated to read in fifth grade and hated to write during college, the path was all being paved for me to do exactly what I would eventually love -- read and write, every day for the rest of my life.
I breathe. I drink water. I drink coffee when I get sleepy, even though it stains my teeth. I try to be friendly with people who aren't my favorites. I smooch on that cat like there's no tomorrow. I enjoy movies new to me like Penelope and silly silliness in shows like Baby Daddy.
I go out on New Year's Eve, to a dive bar when I feel isolated but can't muster myself up for a full-on party. I put on lipstick to be a team player, but don't bother with mascara or blush. I sit alone at the counter, miserably texting friends in Memphis and Malibu. And then someone says, "Hey!" and I don't even notice. Until I do notice, and I look up and the voice, who now has a face, says, "Yeah, you." I move down a few barstools and I have friends until midnight. I show them pictures of my cat and survive another night, always taken care of.
I don't stop reaching out to people on the ground, asking shamelessly for company or hugs to get me through. And I hear a baby Lauryn Hill singing: His eye is on the sparrow:
I tell myself that He watches over me. At the beach with sticky sand on my skin and sun on my face, and right here in the muddy, blegh-ful Dumps. May we all feel happy and free enough to sing. If you're in the Dumps with me, please reach out. Spring will be here before you know it. And besides: You're worth it.