Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Untitled Thoughts

It’s scarier to slide downward than it is to climb up, I decided as I slipped once again on some loose dirt that covered the unstable rocks that littered the path to the bottom of the waterfall.

“Are you sure we shouldn’t turn around?” I asked, gripping the rail along one side and stopping to try to control the shakiness in my legs.

“We made it this far.” Friend noted easily, not struggling nearly as much as I was. “We’re going to the bottom of the falls.”

“Fine.” I muttered, gasping as I felt myself slip once again. “Freaking gravity.”

In truth, I had dreaded the journey back up. Wondered if whatever was located at the bottom of the impressive waterfall was worth the panting climb that would follow seeing it.

I did, in fact, pant and request moments of rest on our climb back up. It had been cold at the bottom, more crowded with people than I expected as we sat on the rocks and felt the water mist over us. But I felt more stable on the return journey. My legs were strong enough to carry me, though I did get quite tired. I could lean forward to retain balance rather than being terrified that I was going to lose my footing and tumble down the hill until I dashed my head on the rocks and died in an undignified heap. And though I’d insisted that Friend go find help if I did fall to hurt myself, I really would rather avoid the pulled muscles and broken bones that might accompany such an event.

The point? I feel myself slipping rather effortlessly into a mild depression. And though there is a steep slope to a hole I very much want to avoid, the gentle dip into quiet isolation isn’t nearly so scary. It’s cold outside – honest to goodness cold – and I find myself badly wanting to snuggle into bed, rising only to check my email and find starchy foods to consume.

I didn’t think it was that bad though. So I’m staying home today. Not such a big deal. I filled out some simple paperwork. So that’s something at least. If I haven’t opened any of my grant documents, that’s understandable. Nothing overly worrisome.

Chienne was whining insistently this morning, eager for her morning walk. I resisted – kept telling her we’d go later – until 9:00 arrived and I realized I wasn’t ever going to want to go. I should just do it. Once I start, I tend to get lost in my thoughts and enjoy the time outside. So I threw on a sweatshirt, grabbed a Kleenex and plastic bag and headed out the front door with a happy puppy on her leash.

“Goodness.” I gasped as the wind off the lake chilled me immediately. “It’s actually cold.”

I let Chienne choose the route, and she pulled me directly into the wind. I winced and shivered and tried to convince myself I’d warm up as we moved around. It didn’t work. I found myself turning around after 5 minutes and calling her to follow. She looked up from a mailbox and trotted back to me, big brown eyes confused.

“You’re a good girl.” I told her. “It’s just too cold. I just don’t want to be out here. We should rest instead. Let’s go home.” She trotted obediently at my side, looking up at me again and again as we headed toward home. Instead of crossing the street, she tugged me to the left, selecting an alternate route I might prefer. I sighed and looked longingly at the house. Glanced over to see my dog gazing equally longingly down a side street. So I followed her for another 30 minutes. I warmed up. It wasn’t bad at all. But I still felt strange – that feeling in my stomach saying that I’m unhappy. I needed to nap – to avoid people and work and thought in general.

Given that I didn’t make it to work or to my tutoring session, I think I can safely say I’m having a problem this week. I read somewhere recently that someone thought birthdays were easy for happy people. If you were satisfied with your life, it wasn’t bothersome at all to watch the years pass. If, however, there were many points of unhappiness, age is a cause for concern. Days passed uselessly. Friends drifted away. And finding myself isolated to some degree and without much motivation to resolve that issue, I’m beginning to acknowledge that Thursday is causing me some problems.

At 14, I sat in a biology classroom. The front row was directly in front of a reptile tank – a clear glass aquarium that contained rocks, greenery and this gross lizard-like creature. There were actually snakes and reptiles all over the large classroom on the first floor of my high school. So as we learned basics of the scientific method and read aloud from a textbook, these creepy organisms would scuttle and slither in their cages. I hated them.

One day, Mr. Biology – a 22-year old specimen of cocky male energy – decided to feed one of his pets. I was paying attention to something on my desk – perhaps a quiz of some sort – and glanced up to find him dropping a tiny cricket into the tank. I found myself overwhelmed with sadness and fear for the tiny bug when faced with this gross predator. But the lizard was stupid – he was slow and dumb and could not catch the quickly-moving cricket as he hopped smartly around the cage. Mr. Biology, watching his pet with a frown, reached in, captured the cricket again and broke its leg. Replacing it in the tank, the lizard walked over to the doomed insect and observed it for a moment, likely confused in his minute lizard brain. He finally ate it and Mr. Biology looked at me with some concern as I felt my face convey the severity of my pain and rage at this event. I found that I hated him too.

In two days, I will turn 28. This doesn’t concern me too much in and of itself. Still young enough, I tell myself. I have plenty of time to fall in love and have a child, though there is some despair that I won’t be granted the opportunity, regardless of how much time is allowed. I will determine my professional future to the best of my ability, though right now work is rather sucky. I have time to turn things around. I’m OK.

Yet this morning, I entered the hall to find Sprout playing with a cricket. I watched for a moment, unmoved, and reached for my toothbrush. Then I sighed – inconvenienced – and glanced down at the cat. The cricket – leg broken – was dragging itself along the hall and trying to escape the cat. I shooed Sprout away then went to get my flip flop so I could kill the bug and stop its misery. Sprout looked annoyed that his toy had become motionless and I grabbed a tissue and picked up the tiny body. There was no pain. No rage. Just the resignation that this is how life is. If you’re a tiny cricket, it’s highly likely that someone is going to break your leg and eat you. You’re just too near the bottom of the food chain, little buddy.

“As I get older,” Pastor said as we had coffee, “there are just more shades of gray. I used to have all these ideals and certainties. Then there’s cancer and my children grew up and I had to watch them make mistakes and get hurt. The world has become such a scary place. Our reputation as a county is not good. I find that I’m not optimistic. I have hope – a good deal of hope – but when faced with reality, it sometimes feels foolish to expect that everything will be OK as we would define ‘OK.’”

I think that’s true. When faced with reality, there has to be some acceptance of the likely outcome. Fall in love? How nice for you. Be prepared to get hurt though – it’s simply more probable than finding lasting happiness. Get a new job? Congratulations!...But there will likely come a point where you’re overworked, underpaid, feeling inadequate and wondering if you took the wrong professional road. Make a friend? Delightful. Perhaps you could start counting the days until she moves away. They all do, you know. At least in my experience. Men fail to show interest at some point. The job that seems right – the degree that seemed so important – lead to more confusion. Friends – beautiful, wonderful women – all move away. Flung to the far reaches of this country, only available by phone or email when I need someone to be here. (And if you'd like to bring up Friend - who showed up at a time I very much needed her, she's on her way out too. I know it.)

The problem is that recent experience indicates that each new year of age brings more of the same. I will celebrate my 28th birthday very similarly to how I spent my 14th. My parents will take me for dinner and offer gifts, albeit a day late since they’re driving down on Thursday night. I’ll write posts when I'm a year older that are derivative of something you’ve read from me before. I’ll get more gray hair. Watch a lot of TV. Read some books – perhaps finish mine and tuck it away somewhere – a reminder of how stupid I was and how what went wrong was never meant to go right. I'll be alone. Always alone. 14, 28, 42.

Cousin got me a Christmas gift. I think I failed to mention that. We all agreed to just buy for the children. I, of course, don’t have children (you may feel free to weep for me at any time.) so I just get to enjoy the little ones as they open their gifts on Christmas. So on Christmas Eve, she arrived with a basket from her cat and dog for my dog and cat.

“Since you always get ripped off at holidays now.” She explained. “I thought I’d get something for your little ones. Mom said I shouldn’t give it to you on Christmas, so I brought it tonight.”

I was touched – it was very sweet and I adore her for thinking of me. But as I sit with a kitten on my shoulder, purring happily, and a dog sleeping peacefully on my other side, I wonder if this is it. When hope starts to feel foolish, when I’m trying to write one of what could be countless grant applications, when my Christmas gifts consist of rattles and jingle balls for my pets rather than my children…

Well, the slip into flat depression is easier than it should be.


Estrella said...

Have you ever read "The Blue Castle" by Lucy Maude Montgomery? When my thoughts gravitate towards those which you expressed in this entry, that book is a wonderful comfort to me.

Lucy said...

*hugs* I'm sorry, Katie. I hope this means that once you've got to the bottom (without hurting yourself too badly) it will be easier to come back up again.
I wish I had good counter-arguments to your likely outcomes, but I don't. I guess I just try not to think about it. I still hope that you (and I) will get the unlikely, happy outcome in some of those areas, at least, though.

Anonymous said...

i am thinking about and praying for you too. lots of hugs.

The Contessa said...

Hey Katie - definate hugs from me. When I feel like this I look at my two cats and think, how bad would this be WITHOUT them and it makes me feel better.

Of couse pampering myself always helps too!!!! :-)

I hope you can pull yourself out as gently as you are sliding in. If you need anything please let me know.

LaKisha said...

I've moved away from my friends and that makes me very sad too. It just reminds me though, how friends are such an important part of our "families". And where ever you are, you have to try to build families and communities up. Because they just don't seem to stick together like they used to. I hope you feel better soon, and find some friends close to home to give you comfort.

MapleMama said...


You still have plenty of time, dear Katie. I started dating my husband when I was 29, we got married when I was 34, and had minimaple when I was 36.

You are brilliant and beautiful and you WILL find love. I'll be thinking of you Thursday.

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