Saturday
Sep042004

« What a Difference a Year Makes »

A year ago today was the darkest day of them all for me. For all I cared, it was a good day for a little self-extermination, and on that day, I came closer to that than ever before. Life was miserable. I don't mean to say life was miserable in the way life is miserable in Iraq or Darfur, or even in places where Republicans hold office, but misery is relative. There is not just one brand of misery. Misery for me was mostly an absolutely draining hopelessness. It was an existential crisis for me. I'm one of those casualies of modern American life—really that the soullessness of everything has triumphed over the desire to be part of something bigger. It wasn't that I had no clothes or food, or shelter. No, that wasn't the problem. I felt like I was homeless. Not houseless. Homeless. I felt chronologically homeless, like there was no time that was a good time to be me. It was a big problem (to use a technical term). Dysfunctional families are not new or anything unique now, but there was great pain just in realizing that. I was using my shattered family life in the past and present as a weapon against any future I might have with Kelli. I felt like I came from nowhere, and only had nowhere to return to.

An e-friend of mine is from Louisiana (lives in Texas now), and is proud of being a Cajun. He still does things distinctly Cajun, with people from home. I'm sure there are quite a few other things that get rolled in, but he still has it in him. He knew some history of his people, no doubt passed on from grandparents and so forth. Last year, I was just totally pining for some sort of life that had what I perceived to be rich in that sort of way. He had some roots, and was proud of them, and practiced certain rituals that were part of that world.

Or maybe I thought of how maybe a huge Italian or Greek or Jewish family would have overlapping events that celebrate births, comings-of-age, birthdays and holidays, marriages, and even deaths—in a big way, and with a certain set of customs and ritual that went with it all. I wondered at how that all worked. It was anecdotal to me. It was something I could read about or see in a movie. I was on the outside looking in. My family never had any big celebrations. My family was never big. My mom's side of the family (including five siblings) came closer to that, but I was never raised with them. Over here, my family was never bigger than five people. There were gatherings, but they trickled off as the grandparents were less active, and my stepmom left, and so forth. By the time I was 20, almost all the memorable holidays and birthdays at home were already had. It wasn't that I didn't look forward to events, but they were always small at best, and usually without any particular ritual associated with it. It was always Americanized, which pretty much means, all that interesting stuff was cut out or replaced with off-the-shelf and canned stuff to take its place.

I also had myself worked up on a host of other issues, mostly related to the state of the world being a rather dismal place to live. I can still summon thoughts like these, complete with references, but the utter lack of hope has been sort of washed away from a year of trying to not get so personally wrapped up in this stuff. I still read a lot about the issue of global oil peaking and do think a little too much about it, but instead of using as an excuse to knock myself off, it is a chance to educate myself and mentally brace for things that just won't be the way I know them today.

There were a lot of things wrong, and a lot of it was just leading me to not wanting to move ahead, and I could come up with a million reasons to not go on. I also happened to have just started back to school the day before, and had a wicked case of performance anxiety as to whether I could do that right. And then there was the fact that around that time, Kelli and I were in a holding pattern and I was just too impatient and frazzled to be around. And throw in the fact that my home life left me feeling like shit, not knowing if the roommates were going to leave the place messed up or broken, or if my dad/landord was going to start cutting trees down without my knowledge or approval or building things I didn't want built. I felt like I was superfluous, even in my own house. I was also doing terrible in freelance work (music AND web), finding people were walking all over me. I'd do their work, and they would not pay me. The fact that I packed it in with music also made me feel like a dismal failure, and that the only thing I ever really loved was leaving me now. I felt artistically dead.

Clinical depression sucks.

It has been a year since then, and well, things are different, quite different. Some of that is from good luck, but a lot of it has come from making better decisions and really paying attention to stuff. I dumped two of the three classes I had that first semester back, and absolutely nailed the one class I had left, getting the best grade in my class, and something like 101/103 for all his students in three classes. I used a speech class as an excuse to write about things that mattered to me. The next semester I nailed too, in two classes. Stuff like that is good for the recovering ego. Then there has been a year of counseling, on my own, and a few months later, for Kelli and I in a second weekly meeting, and sometimes a group at the county MH office. My job now keeps me from needing to do freelance work just to get by, and not dealing with flakes is a good thing for my sanity. The work itself is meaningful to me, unlike anything else I've ever done. I don't do much music now, but instead of fighting it and feeling loss, loss, loss, it is something that I've trusted needs to happen, and it's time to do other things. I've also stopped hanging out online at forums which came to hate me. I've pretty much slashed a few people out of my life, and have tightened up with the ones that should be in my life.

And obviously, a year ago, I never thought I would be married. The business of totally diving into the relationship with Kelli has been good. A lot of the fears about the lack of family support have been melting away while with her, and particularly since the counseling has opened both of us up to more of that. We may have known each other for half our lifetimes, but that didn't mean we wouldn't have problems. We did, but we decided the reward was worth the effort. More and more, I just go with the fact that she is my family, and is also the ticket to a future family, another thing I wanted to deny myself last year, just because the past or present sucked. Frankly, I've found it nicer to be a homebody than to worry about flaky musicians or people who get free work. Some of her friends are just a lot nicer to be around, and frankly, I have some time to make up for when I wasn't as supportive as I should have been. But now we are trying to make our home, set up our own little rituals, and even though we both have parents that are distant or dead, we have been made like family at the homes of some long standing church friends. And the wedding was just a great time that was just so supportive and encouraging for both of us. People asked us why we didn't just elope. I think its because we wanted the ceremony, the ritual, and the chance to stand before a lot of people and sort of just bask in the glow of all that stuff that was a visible sign of hope and love. Kelli and I are also trying to do some decidedly old fashioned things that were just missing for us, and from many people's lives, I think. We actually try to sit down to dinner several times a week, and turn the TV and music off, block out as many distractions, and just try to be with each other. Or we have gotten into saying grace more. Not a big speech, but a word of thanks. And we've also had a semi-regular dinner night when we invite some friend or couple over from church, and just sink the roots down a little deeper with them. Or we go for walks or rides, and sometimes drop in on my clients to chat off hours on the weekend.

Its hard to be depressed for long when things like these are getting done.

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