After decades of resisting medication, my month and a half taking an antidepressant has re-booted my system — much like turning off and re-starting a computer — I have been restored to my original settings: I remember being that boy who believed in happy endings and smiled even through barriers and obstacles. So, now, when I speak of Love and Light, it isn’t just an effort to convince myself I can survive. In this post I share a story about how this revitalization has affected my daily life.
I long feared disaster was my destiny and if things were going well and I allowed myself to feel happiness, I would be punished. I could spend years trying to psychoanalyze the why of it: Genetic make-up? My early devotion to the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith and the wish to be a martyr like the saints & Jesus? My life experiences? Years of gravitating to others equally miserable who felt threatened by and jealous of any happiness I had?
It doesn’t matter. Spending energy on parsing my history of habits of sorrow holds no interest to me other than as fodder for short stories/novels and reminder there are happier ways to see the world, my world.
But listen to this: When this evening’s mail included an official looking letter from the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles, I didn’t panic. I thought it might be a “You ran a red light” letter — although, despite what my mother might tell you, I’m pretty careful about red lights. I opened it. Right away. You’ve no idea how remarkable this is. My old pattern was to worry myself into paralyzation about which of the many lurking disaster I’d find inside any official letter. It would be days before I could open them. If I ever could.
Now, truth, this one was rather unpleasant.
Nutshell: the MVA tells me they’ve been informed by Maryland tax authorities that I owe back taxes and because of this I will not be allowed to renew my license or registration until said taxes are paid.
Problem: I thought I had cleared all that up a few years ago, but I guess I didn’t, and suspect there were letters I didn’t open somewhere in those years ago.
Next problem: The letter didn’t mention the amount owed. Doesn’t matter much, because I live a purposefully simple life which requires being super-careful with money; it doesn’t afford an emergency fund to pay unexpected debt.
Pre-medication Charlie would have spent the rest of the night and the next few weeks frozen in incapacitating terror. But, not only did I open the letter and read it without collapsing — Okay, maybe for a moment I collapsed just a lttle — I acted. No procrastination or immobilizing dread – I emailed as indicated the proper authorities inquiring about amounts due and how to proceed.
What a great milestone this was for me; to not become helpless in the face of fear, but, instead, to have faith things work out. Somehow. If it’s thousands of dollars, well, whatever. I’ll sell something. I’ll stop driving. It will be what it will be.
I’ve had a really lovely last few weeks and I’m hanging out with Cody and Sue and Alli tomorrow for which I have already made — from scratch — a triple chocolate cake, and I’m cooking them dinner at Sue’s home, so, how fantastic is that?
And Monday night I’m seeing my dear Diane. Wednesday I am having lunch with my dear Amy. Thursday, my dear niece, Melissa, arrives to stay with us for a few days.
The last week has been full of lovely times and dear ones and the antidepressant has freed up vast resources of energy I’ve for years been having to use just to convince myself to keep going and not commit suicide.All those resources are now available to love and be present again in my life.
My sister who lives in Florida, JoAnne, was here for a visit. We had a big family shindig at my sister, Jenny’s, last Saturday for which I made a devil’s food cake with peanut butter icing. There was so much laughter and love generated and shared between us; Mommy, we five remaining siblings and spouses and children. It was glorious.
Even more fun was having two of my sisters with me from Sunday night through Wednesday morning. JoAnne stayed with Debbie and me and I made dinners every night and took care of them and it was this renewal of love with an energy we haven’t had for a while. Long story. Over and not worth revisiting. Good to be back.
More fun, on Sunday of last week, I fulfilled my promise of making Momma the birthday dinner she’d wanted and never gotten at any of her parties: roast beef, boiled cabbage, mashed potatoes, green beans cooked with bacon fat and country ham, and dessert of yellow sheet cake with cream cheese frosting. It was Mommy and JoAnne and Debbie and I having a wonderful — albeit HUGELY unhealthy — Sunday dinner like the ones my dear aunt, Sissie, made every weekend. Only, now, I was getting to do the making and the loving and the caring. And it makes me wonderfully happy.
Now, I confess, after taking JoAnne to airport Wednesday at 6 in the morning and then making another dinner that night for my great niece and nephew, Kieran and Connor — although really I recycled the Shepherds Pie I’d made for JoAnne, Debbie, and myself two nights earlier (Talk about unhealthy! Lamb and beef and gravy and MASHED POTATOES made into a casserole, but OH MAN it was delicious.) — I was exhausted from the care-taking and coddling and loving in high gear.
But exhausted in a good way.
And so Debbie, who often reads my moods and knows my thoughts, knew I was fatigued from six days of pretty much non-stop activity, and she volunteered to take Momma to hair day. Blessing: I spent much of Thursday on the couch, catching up with my DVR-ed television shows. I am currently obsessed with Riverdale and This Is Us and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — don’t judge me. Or, go ahead. I’m okay with being judged now.
So much happy. A week of family. A day of rest. And now, this STACK of books to be read.
Today I returned to running around. Library. Curious Iguana Bookstore to visit and pick up my pre-ordered copy of Peternelle van Arsdale’s The Beast Is An Animal. Grocery store for basics and cake ingredients. I did some laundry. I enjoyed the glorious sun and the chill breeze on my way to and from these locations. And I made the cake for tomorrow’s gathering with Cody and Sue and Alli, which is kind of gorgeous. AND, I still managed to fit in writing time.
Writing, funny, it opens my soul and invigorates my mind. I see connections in the universe. Like this. Mid-afternoon I took trash out and when I opened the dumpster door, I saw this:
Isn’t that beautiful? And fascinating? First of all, that there could be so much pretty to be found in a dumpster: the huge paper flower looking like a discarded prom decoration, and the way the shaft of sunlight shines on it.
And then, the shoes.
I mean, they look perfectly good, right? Why had they been relegated to the dumpster? My open soul and invigorated mind started making up stories. Had the same person thrown the flower and shoes away?
Perhaps the shoes belonged to an artist; he was beautiful in an unconventional way and he made collages out of found, discarded paper products. He was almost always barefoot, even in the dead of winter, but he owned two pair of shoes: sneakers and these boots, which his lover had bought him because he needed something to wear in snow and cold, something practical, and his lover took care of the practical side — getting the shoes, paying the rent, keeping the barefoot lover-artist grounded and safe. Until, one day, the artist disappeared. No note, no nothing except, when his lover walked into the apartment all the artist’s clothes and art supplies were gone, except that yellow flower, mid-deconstruction, and on top of it, the practical shoes. The artist’s practical lover kept the flower and the shoes for months, thinking the lover-artist would return. He didn’t. He hasn’t. And so, today, there are what remains of him, finally surrendered to the dumpster where they are still art, because everything the lover-artist touched was magic and beautiful, even when, finally, at its end and in his absence, it was laid to waste.
Darling friends, you can see why I can’t be distracted by fear about the (maybe) thousands of dollars Maryland wants from me. There are too many beautiful and magic stories in dumpsters, and meals to make for family and friends, and books to read and talk about, and two (YES, TWO) twenty-year-olds who think I am fantastic which I think is fantastic despite a so-called friend quipping: “Even added together they are too young for you.” Pshaw. I spent so many years not being wanted, closed off, catering to ridiculous demands from others whose own sorrowful agendas distorted their ideas of what constituted love, it’s only natural in this rebooting release from sorrow I’m experiencing I would radiate an almost nuclear-blast intensity of joy, magnetizing to me others looking to share ecstasy without expectations, free of should and have to.
I am happier than I’ve been in decades. I am able to open all the envelopes without fear of what’s inside. I am able again to take care of others without resentment. I am able to love nearly everyone and everything. I am seeing the world through my lavender color glasses and even on dumpster days when I am feeling discarded or faded or exhausted, damn if that shaft of light doesn’t shine on it. On me, here where I am, going.
Love and light, dear ones. Love and light.