Three days ago I said I’d be right back with a few positive tales from the last week. I then spent the ensuing days milking every positive and energetic moment for all it was worth. That means riding my mountain bike small fractions of the miles and time I used to spend pounding pavement before the crash(es) and sitting in the sunshine with Hank until he and I were both thoroughly tired, followed by spending the rest of the day somnolent on the couch getting lost in a book(!)—a profound joy that I haven’t felt in a long time.
There was no time, desire, or energy to write, even though I made the commitment to myself and whoever actually reads this site regularly. It has been a beatdown of a weekend, even with plenty of sunshine and pup time and a couple of bike rides. Slow, sad mornings give way to pleasant afternoons which then meekly yield to evenings of insecurity and sloth and self-awareness that makes spending time celebrating a dear friend’s birthday feel like a fearsome undertaking. That reality spirals into the sadness that you can barely make your favorite people happy without feeling immensely exhausted and distant.
This is the mania of depression: no appearance or activity or pill or thought means that it is immediately overcome. Quite the contrary, the same pills that render you functional might make you too numb to feel sad when you think your dog is lost forever in the woods or too ethereal to become aroused. I think ol’ Kurt hit the nail on the head with ‘Lithium.’
I could rattle at length about the highs and lows of depression and antidepressants, and I’ll gladly lay my experience bare under a microscope for anyone who asks. But it is late and I don’t want to go another day without sharing the simple truth that’s made my days worth living in this weirdly dark, sunshiney times.
After a slow start, I spent much of Saturday outside shredding on the mountain bike then hiking the Green Belt with pups and perfect company. It was warm enough that the still-chilly water was worth wading into, even if Hank was far from amused. After a day of stress-free outdoor bliss, I collapsed into a tumultuous sleep on my couch and woke up at 8 PM completely confused and inconsolable. I scrambled trying to make it out for late dinner and a Blind Pilot concert(!) but simply couldn’t snap out of it. And thinking about all the different times and places I’ve seen and listened to them in my life only made me sadder in that weird, nostalgic way.
After eating, I felt about 17% more human though still unsure of what millennium it was and why I wasn’t still on my couch. Then I saw two Austin Police officers in line to order food and felt the impulse I so often do in times like that. I wanted to buy them dinner.
Usually, these thoughts fall into the same impotent, wistful hindsight is 20-20 category as smooth one liners, asking for phone numbers, pulling over to help people with flat tires, going on the trip you want to take, going to church again, making that bid in the online auction, quitting your goddamn job, calling someone for no reason, reconciling wounded relationships, losing five pounds, gaining five pounds, writing new posts for your website every day, etc. etc. etc.—in short, we always mean to, and there’s always some reason we don’t.
But, one of the amusing things about near death experiences/trauma/depression is that sometimes you get a real saunter, a sort of attitude that screams “YOLO!” and whatever it is that makes you feel like you want to die for no apparent reason also makes you want to benevolently piss away your money or do something you’ve always wanted to do. Or both (The Chris McCandless Effect, if you will).
And so, I walked over to the cashier in a manner that utterly belied the way I’d been feeling since I woke up, and said, “Excuse me, I’m buying!”
“Oh, that’s mighty kind, but I got it, really,” the stunned officer countered.
“Nope,” I winked at the cashier who’d rung me up earlier, “It would make my night to buy you a burrito.” I wasn’t exaggerating. “How’s your night? Just getting started? Finishing up?”
“About halfway through, just taking a dinner break. Seriously, this is too kind.”
“I’m about halfway through my night, too. We got this!”
The cashier began to ring up the meal. “I’m getting his, too, by the way,” I gestured to the other officer who was still toiling over whether he wanted carnitas or sofritas.
“You better not let him hear you, there’s no way he’ll go for that,” the officer who’d already conceded mentioned.
“Ok, let’s hurry!” I said to the cashier.
“Wait, I need to see if he’s getting guac or not.”
“Just charge me for it, let’s go!”
She entered it, then hit a button and I watched the total get slashed in half. I bought both of their meals for under ten bucks and positively skipped out of that Chipotle, my sails full of wind that lasted until we arrived at the concert venue only to be told we could park right by the front door for free—a major miracle in this ever-more-crowded town.
I may not have lasted more than five songs before solemnness descended once more, and today may have been a trillion times worse, but I am armed with a handy piece of advice that I’ve been preaching a lot and not practicing enough. If you feel like something would make your heart and soul feel whole—do it! Not tomorrow, not next year, but as soon as you’re even semi-practically able. The best medicine is not citalopram (this shit sucks. Seriously.). It’s not money. It’s not altruism or humblebragging. It’s not coffee or food or cool cars or new clothes. It’s acting. If you want a new sweater but keep denying yourself, then the act is medicinal. If you have always wanted to roll down your window and give a homeless man one, ten, twenty, a hundred dollars, I promise you’ll feel more ecstatic than the first time you heard Jack Johnson if you just do it. On my way to church tonight, I literally got out of my car at a red light and gave a man in a wheelchair all the cash I had on me. Today was terrible, but that two minutes was heaven. And now that Hank is usually with me, I always make the guys I give food or money to stop and pet him. We all deserve to feel that happy.