The temptation in writing about hard things is to wait until they have passed, until we are on the other side, our feet firmly on the shore as we peer back out at the choppy waters and sigh, so glad we’re not still treading water and trying like the dickens to avoid a shark attack.
Where we get it twisted is not in the writing of it, but in the presenting of it. As far back as high school, I remember our brilliant creative writing teacher Mrs. Sheridan (swoon, we all loved her so) explaining that it’s fine to write through the pain, but if we want to present it as the truest thing, as the thing about which we are most confident, we need some distance.
It’s not that writing about it while we’re in the messy middle of it is wrong. It’s not that we’re unreliable narrators. It’s just that our vision is limited. We’re myopic. We’re nose pressed to the glass of the hard thing on display. We’re smelling the fresh flowers at the funeral parlor. But what a thing we’ll have to write about in a year when they’re dried and shriveled. We’ll smell the fresh in our sense memory but we’ll also have a story to tell about the bouquet that looked like it had been caramelized in a cast iron skillet.
I’ve been trying to write through my winter depression this year, rather than wait for it to pass. It’s a seasonal depression, and one I treat with light therapy and a low dose of anti-depressant, along with talk therapy and a high dose of aerobic exercise and binge reading of sadpants memoirs and inhaling Hershey’s kisses by the bagful. I wish I could say that writing through the heaviness has been leavening. But I still feel as though I wake up most days with an elephant squatting on my chest. I still feel like making a salad is possibly tantamount to climbing K2. I still want want to be hugged and for nothing to be expected of me from anyone. I am still depressed and trying to fight through it. Writing does not help to change this or cure this, but it does change my awareness of how I am coping.
Just yesterday, for example, I realized that it’s not that I become a different person, per se, that I’m inhabited by a depressed monster of a different color. I’m not unrecognizable. I’m still there. It’s that it takes so much effort to pretend that the depression isn’t also there. I still think my kids are funny and their Big Chungus memes are still ridiculous. Sometimes my face just winces instead of the easy laughter flowing out. So I wish sometimes to just go join a different body. One that doesn’t have the elephant sitting on it.
I think about the line in the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” where they resign, “We’ll have to muddle through somehow…” and I’ve always genuinely wondered what the somehow actually looks like, and how they’d carry on until the fates allow for a reunion. Those aren’t the songs that get written, though. It is the blog post that gets written by ya girl and right now I’m muddling through. I’m grateful for a husband who truly understands, two Voxer chatgroups that make me feel heard, two beautiful kids that see my penchant for sweatpants and forgetfulness and love me anyway, and Bill Cunningham’s Fashion Climbing on loan from the library.
Holla from the messy middle.