While I haven’t written much here, the path my life has taken since October 2014 and January of this year has been a remarkable one. I lost my only sister to addiction (she is alive, but no one knows where or in what condition, and it’s not for lack of searching), I struggled through the hardest and darkest period of depression I have ever known, and I have my current doctor to thank for giving me the light at the end of a tunnel I had convinced myself I was destined – and doomed – to inhabit forever. The stigma of mental illness is strong, and it’s tiring. It’s wearying to continue to talk about it, especially when you’re in an upswing. Just surviving it is enough, much less trying to cope with what you’ve been through while you’re not currently going through it. I have a few friends with whom I’ve shared my journey, along with my other half, but beyond that I try not to talk about it. It’s a “downer”, after all, for people to listen to the desperate feelings whilst not having to experience them firsthand. I know this. Which is why I do my best not to center my conversations around that, just as I do my best to not talk about my kid constantly (okay I don’t accomplish that goal very well, obviously.)
But one thing that has emerged from the darkness is this yearning to live in the most authentic way possible. Oh, I know that is everyone’s favorite Instagram tagline: live your authentic life! Live authentically! Be true to yourself! and the feeds are filled with artistically arranged feathers, shots of the California coastline, slim and pretty hands with bright polish encasing white cups filled with dreamy coffee or clutching a vintage handbag. Retro styled skirts in the most modern fabrics, white legs poking out and feet sheathed in honey color leather Mary Jane wedge heels. Artfully arranged peonies and ranunculus on a jewel-toned, expensive textile or farmhouse table with the tag #authentic #modernliving #livethelifeyoulove. I could go on and on. And I subscribe to many of those feeds! Why wouldn’t I? They’re gorgeous, modern, simple, and they offer a glimpse into someone’s world where you stop a moment and say “that’s the world I want to live in.” In a small, high def, square picture, you get to see a world where messy floors and dirty dishes and paralyzing fear of the ever-low bank account and mountains of laundry don’t exist. Instead, you find calm and beauty and serenity and the idea that YOU TOO can live this way, if you procure the same things or move to the same place that these pictures encompass. I think by now you have a pretty good glimpse into my obsession with Instagram. It’s a lovely world of makers, inspirational people, and the beauty of life. And it’s much more. It’s design inspiration, recipe inspiration, comedy, drama, trends, tutorials, and camaraderie. I find myself gravitating there because it’s a happy space. Sometimes I come across an account that brings the “real world” crashing back in, but those always make me feel uncomfortable and sad. It doesn’t belong in this simple and gorgeous world I’ve created with hearts and “follows.” We have enough to deal with right now, what with the nightmare that is our current Presidential race, the powers and terrorists of the world committing unspeakable acts, and the ever-present re- and o- pression of minorities of every caliber. Instagram is an escape. And while I recognize that, most of the time, the pictures that people post are a carefully curated collection of how they want to be represented in the world, it has also made me stop and be more aware of the things around me. I am lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful natural areas in the country (if I do say so myself!!) and Instagram played this funny trick on me. Now, when I see my enormous Rhodie in amazing and wonderous bloom, I just stop for a moment because I am staring at the “perfect” IG picture. In. Real. Life. And I take note of how the sky looks through the frame of my kitchen window when it’s raining and gray out. Because that’s something that might get 3,000 likes on Instagram, but I am experiencing it in the present, and not via the amazing handheld device that I am never without. And I try hard to commit that little square picture to memory, because someday I will be old, and maybe blind or maybe deaf or maybe senile, and I won’t be able to stop and watch the sky. So I damned well better have something locked away in my brain to remind me of the beauty of the world.
Whew. That was a very long way to get around to what I’m trying to say: The journey of the last 18 months has opened my eyes to the importance of being present. The importance of being intent. The importance of every moment passing, never to be repeated again. I think this renewed zeal for being present in every moment can be directly traced back to feeling like I’ve been living in a void for the last couple years. I feel like I have this duty to make up my absence from life to my family, mostly my daughter. And there’s still laundry, and dirty dishes, and the bank account that somehow always stretches enough to pay the bills, put food on the table, and buy me a few new pieces of fabric (but damned if it’s not a question every single time, ha) but there’s also the giant Rhodie and the rainy skies, or my kid in a too-short dress from last year, band aids on her knees because she got her grace from me, dirty rain boots on her feet, running wild through the backyard with whatever stuffie is the current love of her life. There’s the 12 year old dog staring at me with eyes that are slowly degenerating and half a mouth of teeth so his lip sticks out funny, asking for lazy pets in the early spring sunshine. There’s the power of staring in my partner’s eyes and seeing the foundation we’ve built (with intent) and the questions we still have and the fatigue we both feel from living and knowing that we have each other’s back in this. The way a line in a song can give me goosebumps, even if I’ve heard it 100 times already (“mom, are we listening to this guy AGAIN…”)
Intent. You don’t even know that it’s missing until you realize that everything is better once you start paying attention. Putting in the work. DOING. Being present. Really listening. Coming out of this depression has been more like waking up from a long and dark and lonely sleep than anything else I’ve ever experienced. I’m not all the way there yet. My soul is healing, but it’s done a number on its physical vessel. My body is heavy, unwieldy, sore, and broken. My physical presence does not match my soul, my heart, and my thoughts. I am still in discord, but the difference is that now I care. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but whatever happens, I will be present for it and I will appreciate it. I am finally reclaiming my journey, and for the first time in maybe forever, that doesn’t scare me. Because if there’s anything that Instagram has taught me, it’s that everyone’s journey is worth documenting. Just as long as it’s yours. Finding the best square pictures of you that you possibly can. Committing the memories of your life to your mind and not to a page in the ever-elusive cloud. Intent.
I keep saying I’m going to bring it back to the creativity. And I am. But I think I have some other stuff to get out before I get there. I’m working on great things, beautiful things, and real things. The most important of those things, I think, learning who I am. After 33 years of life, maybe I’m finally getting there. As with everything else in my life, I seem to be a little late for that. Better late than never, though. Or at least I keep telling myself that 🙂 xo