I’m not even sure myself, so I can’t answer that, but I’m having trouble getting back to wherever I used to be. I feel guilty leaving this space empty, and I miss it. I’m sure my need to produce will ultimately win over, it’s just how long will the struggle last, ya know?
Funk is such a fun word, but put depressive before it and everything gets all fucky. Trying to get out of a depressive funk is rough. I’m not suggesting that I’m experiencing a real bout of depression that requires any sort of diagnosis or medication or therapy, but I’m definitely in the dumps. Motivation is hard to find, though I have had fits where I’m exceptionally productive as if all the productivity I should have during the day gets balled into an hour-long session where I run around the house cleaning EVERYTHING while simultaneously narrating an entire chapter to a project I haven’t touched in months. My body and my brain want to get back to normal, but they’re failing miserably.
But it’s probably not depression, or even just plain old sadness. What I’m dealing with is most likely grief, a term I’ve never given much thought to before now. Grief, specifically, as it’s the sadness that comes with death.
I find myself on the verge of and more easily persuaded into tears lately, and not at all wanting to engage with others for the same reason: the weirdest shit is triggering. I saw a cardinal on the way to the post office a couple days ago, and I was immediately blinded by a rush of tears. I really don’t want this to happen in front of someone, and, truthfully, I really don’t want this to happen AT ALL, so I think I’m sort of avoiding everything in order to just suppress it. And sometimes being alone feels really good.
As you may have noticed, Vacancy has taken a regoddamnediculously long and unexpected hiatus, and it’s hard to get back into the swing of things, but what makes it so much harder is that the next part has some death-related things going on in it. I can’t exactly skip those things, they’re integral to the plot, and when I just go work on something else, I feel guilty about not finishing this, so I am kind of languishing here. (And to add insult to injury, when I did decide to work on an older project, I picked up at a spot editing where I was just killing someone off and experimenting with my main character’s sorrow and reaction to that so FUCK ME RUNNING, HU?)
I had these plans of having a daily routine figured out by now, almost a month into our move, but that’s gone to hell. I literally have all the time in the world, but I feel the hours slip away like they’re nothing and the pressure of imaginary deadlines looming thick and fat over my head, but the joke of it all is there are no actual consequences? Which almost makes me feel worse because it highlights the crux of this feeling: nothing I’m doing matters because all the people I love will eventually die and someday I’ll be dead too, so what’s the point?? And maybe it never did matter??? But at least before it mattered to me.
But somewhere I know these things, the projects I want to work on, they really do matter to me, they just need to come out of me. (GET THE FUCK OUT, WORDS!) At least I hope they do. I mean, my fish aren’t dead yet, so no worries. I still feel something, so apathy hasn’t totally settled in.
I did find something very helpful to me, though. I’d like to share, but I want to stress that this is very helpful to me because it aligns with my personality and views on the world. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’d encourage everyone to find their own brew, but if you are dealing with the death of a loved one, grief, and pseudo-depression like I am right now, Caitlin Doughty’s Ask A Mortician series might be helpful.
I’ve always been intrigued by the physicality of death, and there was a short time when I thought I might want to actually become a mortician (but eventually realized I’m way too soft a person for this). I thought maybe my outlook was easy for me because I’d never really cared very deeply for anyone who’d died before, but I find that in my saddest moments now, these videos are incredibly comforting for me. She shows death for what it is: an inevitable end, but makes it a hell of a lot less scary and even a little less sad by dealing with the facts head on.
I don’t know what my thesis here is. I’m feeling particularly shitty, but I do think I’m getting better and doing so by seeking out resources that are tailored for me. I wish I had something better to offer you if you’re reading this and having the same issues, but maybe sometimes there really isn’t anything that can be said. Sometimes you just have to wallow in it for a little bit and then one day you won’t feel so shitty anymore and you’ll get on the treadmill and you’ll go to the grocery store like you’ve been meaning to and you’ll do the dishes and things will start to feel normal again.
It’s no secret that I am areligious. In fact, one of the most common jokes I make (or is made about me) is that I worship the devil. Of course, that is not a form of not-religion, but good luck convincing most people of that.
While I would like to believe there’s something greater out there, I fully admit I could never understand what that is, so while I do strive to be a better person and to try and make sense of life, the universe, and everything, I don’t prescribe to any set of rules or named deities.
That being said, I do have a nativity scene up for Christmas. Or, more specifically, a crèche, because that’s what my family always called it and my grandma was really into French for whatever reason. I cleared out a bookshelf at eye level in the great room area, and set up the figurines in the same way they were always set up when I was little. I don’t do this because I believe in Jesus Christ’s divinity, and I don’t do it to honor “the reason for the season” despite my stance. I unpack the box marked “manger” every year in someone from my family’s handwriting, this crazy sturdy, old box that’s been moved from state to state with staples all up and down its sides, and lovingly unwrap each king and lamb and angel because it’s the one constant that I’ve always had at Christmastime, and to me this crèche represents joy and goodness and hope.
So here’s what I was told about this set. My great uncle, so my maternal grandmother’s brother, collected the pieces one by one in the 1940s. I’m fairly certain the barn piece itself is not from that time, but the figures each still have the pencil marks on their bottoms with the price (between 5 and 15 cents). This story has always enchanted me.
First, when I was very little, I couldn’t imagine my great uncle ever being young himself, but when I got a bit older, I put myself in his shoes, trudging out into Boston’s winter, almost unimaginable to a child who had never even seen snow, with just a nickel in hand to the corner drug store to buy a single lamb to add to the collection.
I wasn’t allowed, or able, to touch the crèche when I was very small, as it was kept atop a hutch that typically housed other fancy breakables, but once I could reach it, I would play with it. I remember doing so in secret at first because I knew I shouldn’t be touching something so old or fragile, but I was always a careful, quiet kid, and quickly everyone got over it.
No one ever indoctrinated me into any religion throughout my life, and for that I am entirely grateful, but there was some “Christianity is the right one” background music. I mean, obviously, we had a nativity scene up and were celebrating Christmas, but I didn’t really know who Jesus was. My actual focus was on the animals. There was a long stretch of time I wanted to be “a farmer” when I grew up because in my head that was a person who just owned a bunch of animals and pet them all day, and the crèche was like my mini farm. It had sheep, and cows, a donkey, and even a camel! And my loose understanding of Jesus, deeply influenced by animated Christmas specials, was that the animals came to see him, and to me that was very similar to a Disney princess which was another aspiration of mine. Princess Christ, if you will.
When I was eleven and my mom and I moved out of the house I had lived in my entire memorable life with my grandparents to Ohio a thousand miles away, that first Christmas was pretty hard. It was nothing like the ones that had come before, except the crèche was there. It was always there.
It was there when we lived in that first city in Ohio when we started fresh and I finally started making friends, and then it was there when we moved less than twelve months after that to the most rural place I’d ever seen. It got put up in the tiny one bedroom apartment we lived in for a couple years, and then again put up in the house my mother built with her own fucking hands on seven acres where we actually did have real live cows. And then when we were forced out of the house and back into those tiny apartments, it was put up again. It saw me cry, it saw me go through a phase where I actually did believe in Jesus and so badly needed him to believe in me, and it watched that belief slowly fade away.
And now that I’m again a thousand miles away from the people I grew up with, including my mom, the one Christmas constant I have is this scene of the birth of the messiah from a religion I don’t follow, collected by a man who’s no longer alive and I hadn’t spoken to for at least a decade before he died, and passed down through three generations to a heathen. But despite everything it carries, it gets to look out on a different me, a married me, a happy grown up me, and even though I don’t hold what it represents literally, it is certainly a beacon of hope and joy in this house.