The craggy, rooted black pavement was under my feet. I carried myself through the middle of the quiet street under a canopy of trees and a blanket of dark Montana night sky. I really liked the shoes I was wearing. I bought them with money I made taking photos. I bought a house the same way. I looked up at the stars, at this world, this amazing place that I am a part of. I felt alive.
I am living.
I am here.
This is happening.
How can I feel so happy? And so sad at the same time.
Much of the month of August I have spent in a cloud of depression. I don’t say this to be pitied or felt sorry for or for people to worry about me or to wish it away for me. Of course I don’t really want to feel this way and it has not been pleasant, actually at times it was practically imbearable (that made up word sounds more right than the un-version of it). I texted a friend in a state of panic two weeks ago as I drove from construction detour after detour trying to get to a trailhead, trying to get to the mountains, trying to get to my sanity. I was losing my shit. And she called me and talked me off a cliff of my mind’s own making. The gratitude I have for that human, for her words, her love, her kindness, I can’t quite express. So yes, it has been awful but also probably necessary.
“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”*
I have thought a lot about not sharing this. My public posts have become more emotionally wrought, some might say dark or depressing. An acquaintance even texted me yesterday and asked how my house is and whether I’m loving it (which despite depression, I am!). They assumed so because they had not seen many depressing posts on Instagram lately. Signed with a wink face. I get it: emotion, feeling, these can be really uncomfortable. But what I’ve noticed lately, is how many around me are all just struggling along too. I have loved ones searching for healing just like me. I have friends in relationships that they’re scared won’t work out. Friends with career worries. Others with body image issues they’re afraid to talk about. Heartbreak over the falling apart of relationships. Financial worry. Worry that they’re wasting their life on the wrong things. All of us seeking. All of us sad and happy and somewhere in between a million times over each day, each week, each month, each year.
In therapy yesterday, we talked about the magic in the world. Last week she asked me what magic I had accessed recently. I could think of none. That sounds so bleak and dramatic, but it was nonetheless true. She asked me yesterday and I had an immediate answer. Tuesday night, in a haze of wine, lost in a late summer warm night, my belly full of the best crab cake of my life, walking down a street I love, under trees I love, in a town I love, and in shoes I love that I love even more because I made the money to buy them, I felt the magic of the world. I felt so happy. And so sad. My therapist said she loves that feeling. And maybe I do too, because it feels so honest.
Why do we spend so much time pretending? When we’re all going through so much all the time. Aren’t we all walking this line between culturally accepted opposites of happy and sad. How much time do we really spend firmly planted and completely embraced by only one of those feelings in it’s entirety? We’re sold the carpe diem dream. Let’s seize this day, let’s live it like it might be our last, surely it could be—and I have struggled with this notion for years, because that grandiose sentiment has also felt like an exhausting idea in practice. I firmly believe that sometimes we just need to be sad and sit with it and let it be our teacher. We can’t rush through it. In fact, to do so, is in my opinion to do ourselves a great disservice and only procrastinate and protract the struggle or set of struggles in our precious lives.
“…when the pain of staying the same is greater…”
Maybe carpe diem can be applied differently, possibly mediocrely. What if it’s walking down the street and marveling at the stars and feeling good about a silly pair of shoes because it’s really cool that you made enough money to buy them and you live in a town you love and you’re heartbroken and don’t understand humans and you’re confused about the meaning of life and the meaning of your specific life and you really like trees and your friend said she dreamt you were a tree and that was really cool and empowering and man emotional pain is so physically painful and life is awful but it feels really good to be outside and able to move and walk on your own two healthyish feet and it’s so weird to be so resolutely happy and so sad in the same breath. Maybe carpe diem is sitting with the pain and not getting out of bed until 10am somedays because you’ve spent a decade plus judging every step you take and you’re finally tired. Maybe it’s sitting in the dark in your own house crying because you experienced loss and you need to feel it. But that bowl of peaches in the wan August light is marvelous, too. Maybe it’s making an olive oil cake in the quiet and feeling the worn wood of the spoon in your hand and the smell of lemon zest in the bowl. Maybe it’s writing stream of conscious early in the morning as the almost fall sunlight hits the keys of the laptop you think might be on the verge of dying but you’re willing to last another 6 months. Maybe carpe diem is rarely the grand gesture we’ve been sold. Maybe it is being wholly and fully in our messes, beauty and suffering and all but mostly the in between. Maybe it’s not rising above, maybe it’s just being able to be with in it all.
“..than the pain of change.”
*Quote is from Tony Robbins whom I have mixed feelings about but this sentiment has come up a lot lately including this exact quote in my journal this morning.