Throughout most of my years online – first with a blog, and then on the usual array of social media platforms – my relationship with these portals of expression, communication and connection has been an uneasy one. I have tended to “blame” my online activities on my work, thinking that if I didn’t have to promote books or art shows or classes or whatever creative project I wanted to share, I wouldn’t bother. Sure enough, during this year of huge personal transition – when my creative work has been all but nonexistent – my attitude towards the virtual world has been visceral. I’ve been resistant to all of it, even something as basic as email. I can psycho-analyze this quite easily – I’m in an Inward Time, the seeds for the next phase of my work in the world are still underground, taking form, I am Resting, this is part of the natural Inward/Outward course of things as an Artist. I can tell that story, and it will make sense. It might even be true. But none of these stories have brought much comfort. A break from the online world might have been a necessary step in all of this, but without a space to lay down new creative roots I have felt lost and unmoored. I’m not online because I don’t have anything that feels worthwhile to share, and it is that part of the story I have been struggling with.
The zero birthdays have never jolted me much – turning 30 and 40 were welcome milestones, and I embraced them ferociously. It is the fives that give me trouble. There is something about moving from one side of the hump to the next that has inspired more questions and examinations. In the middle of these decades, I look back more to take stock, wondering where things will go as I move forward. Turning 45 this November was not merely about the 5 in between 40 and 50, it also feels very halfway. The possibility of being hit by a bus tomorrow notwithstanding, I am, statistically speaking, about halfway through…life. Throw this in the mix of a year when my husband has retired and we’ve moved to the house we will likely grow old and gray in, and my mind has been tossing and turning all the What Ifs, the Did I do the right things?, the Have I done enoughs? and so on, particularly as they relate to my work. I don’t know if I would call it a Mid-Life Crisis as much as a Mid-Life Inventory, where, whatever work I end up doing in the new year and beyond, the next phases feel much more precious. There is less sand in the hourglass, and each grain is like a jewel that I don’t want to waste or take for granted. The priorities I woke up to everyday in Santa Monica have shifted dramatically, and I’m still figuring out the shape and texture of the new ones here in Santa Barbara.
This unique stew of experiences and emotions has had me living under a very dark cloud off and on for months. I have been reticent to drop the D word – to say plainly I have been battling depression this year – but there it is. I am not sharing it to garner sympathy or seek condolences. I know it will not last and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong, and in the midst of the darker days I have countless moments of beauty and abundance. I don’t think this is merely chemical and I don’t think this means there is something fundamentally flawed with the life I am living. I think it is a fairly normal state of affairs considering the magnitude of Change in our lives this year. I have been flung into an entirely new territory that feels far away – even downright foreign – to the space I inhabited as an Artist and Creative before my husband called me almost a year ago with the first serious inkling of his retirement.
I have not been going to therapy or taking medication or even meditating to deal with the depression; my approach has been much simpler. It has been to Fake It, to Act As If, to Show Up, to Declare 2013 to be The Year of F*** It. Yes, I am triggered much more easily and more sensitive than usual. I have been riding swells of frustration over the power of very old demons coming back to haunt me. I was knocked for a loop by something I consider to be a profound breach of trust, and it took the very direct and almost stern words of a brave friend to ask me, “Why are you taking this so personally?” to get my head out of the muck in one particularly troubling moment. Languish is a word that keeps coming up when I think of the work of my soul. All of those things are true.
But faking it has worked. Acting as if meant I
worked played in my studio this week – for the first time in months – and when I finished for the day I was completely blissed out. Showing up means I haven’t been hiding from the world, but have continued to run errands and see friends and share meals and dance in their living room. Yesterday it meant I went for a run in the woods, and last week it meant an impromptu trip to LACMA. Declaring 2013 to be The Year of F*** It means I am saying Yes to travel and possibility and wild ideas. It means I know the dark clouds aren’t permanent, and even on the days when I feel them hovering just above my head, they won’t prevent me from Living. It means my most meaningful work is not, in fact, languishing; it means I am doing the uncomfortable work of sitting still with unknowns and honing my ability to recognize what attitudes and actions feed my ego and which ones serve my soul.
In the end, the joke’s on me; the irony is in my saying something like “faking it” has worked. Because what, really, do I have to fake? The joy I have experienced in all of this has been anything but insincere, the beauty in my life is technicolor-ly real. When I’ve laughed, every laugh has come straight from my gut – uninhibited and exuberant as ever. It is all real. It is all here. It is all part of the journey. And what I must never, ever lose sight of is how, in the past, when the D word has cast shadows over my days, I have always emerged with arms loaded by gifts – of gratitude, compassion, wisdom, humility, strength and equanimity. All the things I value most within myself are not lost during these times, they are, ultimately, enhanced and bolstered. I am not suffering. I am alive. And with all the world’s woes looming large on everyone’s horizon as the new year stands poised to leap forward, that is the greatest blessing. That is my prayer of thanks. Today and every day.