When my mother died, I got her china. I only used it once. The teacups were cracked with thin scars, so that the tea seeped through them onto the saucers, leaving dark stains where the tiny fissures had formed.
I kept the teapot and the sugar and creamer, though I lost the lid to the pot during a move. I displayed them on a shelf. The rest of the set, I gave away. The treasure of one generation often winds up as “so much junk” for the next.
It’s not that I had fond memories of the china, or that it ever held stories from meals shared. It was not the china from when I was growing up. It was something that she bought later in life, when she was creating her world with flowered and delicate things. The woman always had a sense of longing about her, as though she had missed something along the way, and was trying to catch up to make a life that reflected what was just out of her reach.
We all feel that way sometime—that the thing you are aching to hold is just out of reach. The poignancy of life is contained in small chipped cups and unrealized vision.
This is one of those mornings where I’ve hit a default setting: numbness that comes with a creeping depression. I don’t go to my manuscript. That story will have to wait. Instead I sit in the glowing light of a computer screen, trying to capture the tone of this familiar friend and feeling with words and metaphors that will write me alive and back into the world.
No apologies from the dark waters of thought. No struggle to try to make myself happy. Everything that comes to a writer is a gift. Don’t run from anything. Don’t edit. That’s how Stephen King got to be famous. He wrote his darkness with unabashed and disturbing honesty. Authenticity will set you free.
Besides, no one will care if you couldn’t sleep, or that you tossed and turned, gnashing teeth on a million decisions and indecisions in the middle of the night. But a story that recalls the pain of finding love in a small chipped cup–well, that gives purpose to the day.
Basically, we all tell the same stories. The characters and the settings may be different, but the stories are the same. We long for certain stories and certain endings with our whole lives. One of the endings that I long for is the “ride off into the sunset” ending where everyone lives happily ever after. The story that I am in now has harsh, jagged edges. If you have read my “About” page, you know that I suffer from a lack of courage sometimes—what a psychologist would call “dysthymia.” It usually comes in the middle of the night, when I am sleeping soundly and I don’t know about it until morning when I wake up with what feels like someone sitting on my chest ready to strangle me.
Fear is an old and unwelcome friend that seems to find a way to seep under locked doors like yellow smoke, wrapping its self around me. Though I cannot explain the how and why of such events in my life, I have learned to live with it. This morning, I got out of bed, feeling the physical symptoms of the dysthymia and I did deep belly breathing for ten minutes. I am doing that even as I sit here writing. Writing is another tool. Giving voice to the demons seems to make them less, and gives me some small sense of power: I am not a victim.
When I get like this I wonder if the rest of the world has it all figured out and I have somehow missed the bus. I feel guilty for the challenges life throws me and embarrassed by its sorrows. Now, I know this is temporary because I have lived with the on again off again condition for all of my adult life. I have read way too many self-help books; attended enough process groups to be equal to the processing of a Velveeta Cheese block, and prayed myself to sleep in hopes that the fear and sorrow would leave me. Still, even this morning, I don’t feel like a victim, I just feel uncomfortable, and I know I have tools.
In my musings about these states, I wonder about the guy who works hard all day and goes home and takes a hit off of a joint to take the edge off of the day. Does he have demons too, albeit un-named? Or the woman who pours the third glass of wine alone in her kitchen…is she lost in sorrow too? I think we have given psychology way too much credibility over such things. Is it possible that the sorrows and fears of being human are just part of being human and don’t really deserve a diagnosis? Does having a diagnosis make things worse?
So, I will make another cup of tea, take a walk with the dog, keep breathing deeply and know that as the day wears on, the physical symptoms will fade and my mind will be on other things. I would love happily ever after in a life with out challenges. It seems like such a friendly place. I just don’t think I would be willing to give up the textures of the shadow that in a strange sort of way make my life rich, interesting and creative.