I haven’t published a new post on this blog in almost three weeks, which feels like a really long time. In truth, May was a difficult month for me. It had some lovely bright spots – like a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit friends – but overall it was challenging, leaving me exhausted and drained.
I spent a lot of the month of May writing about my mother, both autobiographically (a theater piece I’m working on that will premiere in July) and fictionally (exploring the mother/daughter relationship that’s at the heart of my screenplay). All of this recent personal archaeology, combined with the fact that Mother’s Day and my Mom’s birthday are both contained within the month of May, left me feeling emotional and raw – like an exposed nerve – these last few weeks.
I tried to write my way through these feelings – I often do – but found myself hitting a wall. I started writing several potential blog posts, but abandoned them all halfway through. Sometimes what I end up writing turns out to be so dark that I don’t want to share it. Sometimes I catch myself falling victim to a “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” form of self-censorship. And sometimes I just want my life to look better to the outside world than it actually feels, to me. I guess all of these things are my own personal stumbling blocks.
As it can sometimes happen in this crazy life, it took something of a breakdown in order for me to experience a break through, or at least, a moment of clarity. At my lowest point, I was sitting on my therapist’s couch, crying because I was feeling sad and hadn’t been able to shake the feeling for several days. I had thought I was finally done with the waves of grief, but here they were again, rearing their ugly heads with a vengeance. “I am so tired of this,” I wailed. “When am I going to feel better?”
“What does better mean?” she asked, in that annoying way that therapists can ask questions you don’t have the answers to. And we sat in silence while I pondered what in the hell exactly I did mean. “I just wish it were easier to be happy,” I said, finally. “Like it used to be.”
“I feel like I’m doing everything I can think of,” I continued. “I exercise and I volunteer and I keep a gratitude journal and I practice self care. And,” I said, indicating, my therapist, “I’m here with you. Which is a big deal for me.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “You’re good at doing the right things. But what if, sometimes, there’s nothing you can do? What if, sometimes, you can’t fix it? What if you just have to let it be what it is?”
Nothing I can do? I was speechless. I am not used to doing nothing. It makes me feel weak and ineffective and powerless. But as I sat there, silently, feeling sorry for myself, I wondered if she wasn’t right. Have I been trying too hard, pushing too stubbornly to be someone and something I’m not?
Going dark scares me. It’s a slippery slope, and after watching my mother slide into blackness and never come out, I am terrified that the same thing could happen to me. Perhaps that’s why I fight so hard against the dark days when they come. But I have to admit, not only is denying my sadness not working, but it’s wearing me out. What if I could learn to simply sit with those bad days, to embrace them, even? What if I could do it without judging myself, without worrying that others will judge me, or distance themselves from me because I’m too difficult to be around? What if I could allow myself to be sad when I’m feeling sad without fearing that those feelings will swallow me?
Maybe going dark – on occasion – isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s just like the weather. Some days it rains. Some days the sky is clear and blue. And no matter how bad the storm, it will always, eventually, lift. And as anyone who has ever enjoyed hiking in the city I live in – Los Angeles – will tell you, the best time to ascend a mountain is the day after a downpour, when all the smog has blown out, the air is clear and beautiful, and you can see for miles, all the way down to the ocean.
Until next time, friends.