06 August 2010

This one's not for happy-aholics, but it could be for happy people who've been melancholic


I haven't written since May. But I have written things in my mind, fleeting things that I forget, let slip when I start to look for a parking spot, when I hand over my bundle of a new niece to her mother, when I turn to a new page in the newspaper, when the disembodied GO train voice tells me I've reached Union station, when I yell down the hall, "dinner!"

I just didn't have the gumption to transcribe them with a keyboard. 

Been busy - maybe its the sunny weather, maybe its because all my kids are home for the summer, maybe it was my whirlwind trip to Vancouver to visit all my siblings and nieces and nephews - new and old in June, maybe its because I am finished my teacher training, am awaiting my official Instructor certification in the mail, maybe its because I am volunteering in an ESL classroom and writing up grammar lessons and designing a public speaking course (from scratch and no experience) and took my kids to New York City on a dime and a sketchy hold of the Metro.

Maybe its because my husband's business is down to a skeleton of what it once was pre-recession. Maybe its because my sons are off in all directions and family time is becoming less unified. Maybe its because my father's parkinsons (it does not deserve a capital p) is slowly but surely transforming him into someone that is not my dad.

Yes, all of that could be it.

But words and thoughts seem to knit themselves into little bits of poetry and narrative as I go about my day, fed by observation: the anxious cue to the coffee counter, my neighbor's neatly swept driveway, the polite greetings of my students, the peculiar light between houses, the faded plastic flower pots on a front porch, the finger-nails of a friend, my husband's grey temples, my mother's fading blue eyes, my interactions with my growing and growing-away-from-me boys, and my growing-away from himself father - with these last few I could tap my inner recesses for all the melancholic fuel any story would need.  

Sometimes I think it would fuel, particularly well, one of those bourgeoisie stream-of-consciousness novels written in the 19th c. All Whine, with lots of wine, time, absinthe, ego and cafe-au-lait on their hands. I'm not fond of that kind of drivel. And yet.  I am not far off from a privileged whine myself. 

But I do believe that no one escapes life as a hard battle, even the privileged struggle. Privileged as in I am not on the street and my fridge is full of things to eat (Dr. Suess and I go waaay back). But I can manufacture melancholy by the bushel full. Well practiced. A strong genetic trait apparently - oddly not sawed off by evolutionary editing.
Its like an auto-immune disease - attacking me from within.

Ironic - this mis-timed melancholy. in the sun. can't you come back when its raining? this is the life of an x-depressive. It's just like alcoholism: once a depressive, always a depressive. I will fight it till my last days. But I have better armour now.

I know and have known for a time that melancholy is really just a safe harbour where one doesn't have to DO anything about anything.To understand that has been helpful - to know how melancholy functions in my life. And I have taken the glass-half full approach since the beginning of the year, this too makes me better equipped, I can see the glass now, twinkling at me. Now at least I know it is in reach.

But I am getting dragged down, and it feels unalarmingly normal. My normal is sitting between a ready-made bucket-full of melancholy and a glass that insists on being half-full - I could drink from either.

I am not making promises. But I have to drink from that half-full glass more often, if only for my sons. If only for my brand new nieces all wrapped up in love. and for me too. I have to show that life is as you make it, that you can find a universal river of strength waiting for you inside yourself. I have to show them that life is well worth the ride, even if it kicks the shit out of you every once in a while. I am, sometimes, a lousy example. 

I have to, afterall, put suspicious amounts of effort into being happy.

I might be ok, I see the signs: I can still appreciate the pink blush forming in my green garden tomatoes, I can still admire my son's brown bony shoulder blades, I can still desire a crisp salad laced with vinagrette.

the half-full glass is in reach

but I am feeling the hard-edges of survival black and bruise me,
the quicksand gathering beneath my feet.


  1. Love love your new look!Welcome back. Life does drags or bury us down at times and it is ok. It just means that part of lives needs looking after.
    I look forward to reading your new posts.
    Again this new look is so YOU!

  2. beautifully written - i too know the workings of melancholy - here's hoping you can inch closer and closer to the half full glass - force yourself to have 8 half full glasses a day and see what happens love from Down Under xx

  3. Beautiful thoughts. I don't use the word melancholy enough-I like it. This too shall pass.

  4. Cheers to you all - it passed - with a little help...

  5. You're brave to blog when the melancholy hits. I usually stay away from the keyboard at those times. Beautiful beautiful post.