Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Trying to straighten up and hold my head high
This is my depressed stance. When you're depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high, because then you'll start to feel better. If you're going to get any joy out of being depressed, you've got to stand like this. -- Charlie Brown
When you begin to relate to a passage from Charlie Brown, that is when it's time to self-evaluate! I have been feeling a little low lately, which is really hard for me to admit, and even harder to accept. How can I feel badly about my life when I have so much to be thankful for? And yet...there are these feelings of frustration and anger and sadness that seem to creep up night after night, no matter how many baths I take (count for tonight is 2, so far) or how many new episodes of my favorite shows air on TV.
What makes these feelings seem worse than they actually are is that I am normally a very upbeat person. People ask me all the time how I remain so optimistic, and it is mostly because I am an absolute control freak. There, I admitted it. I get through life so well because I am a doer. When something bothers me, I don't wallow -- I resolve it. I talk things out, I think things through...I actively DO SOMETHING until my problem disappears. I haven't met a problem or a situation that I haven't figuratively roundhouse kicked to death (though David might argue that some of our conversations to resolve our differences could be better compared to being slowly flogged with a wet noodle). I deal with things, so it's really hard for me right now to be faced with situations that just can't be dealt with...they only need time.
My injured back (my own depressed stance, of sorts) is an enormous source of frustration. I am impatient and angry, and while I hate myself for those feelings, I can't seem to let go of them just yet either. The exercises I do in physical therapy are so basic, and yet my muscles quiver as if they are learning how to contract for the first time. My body has gone from being physically fit to practically geriatric overnight; and though I am incredibly dedicated to my therapy and am working as hard as I can, I feel powerless to make my slow progress move at a faster pace. It is so irritating to be this weak! But then, I observe the patients around me that are clearly struggling with problems much worse than mine, and I know that I shouldn't feel angry at all -- I should feel grateful that my injury will heal itself with time. But I'm not grateful. Not yet, anyway. Maybe the grateful part comes once the healing really begins. Right now, I'm just really pissed off. Every time I have to ask someone in lab to lift something for me that I used to be able to carry around without trouble, every minute I walk on the treadmill at a snail's pace to "warm up", every stretch I can barely complete...all of those things just make me feel more helpless and more angry.
I am also really struggling with the physical distance between David and me. Ithaca is only a car ride away, and yet I can't seem to stop missing him. I'm doing so well for myself here, and I have a lot to be proud of; in fact, one would argue that things are much better than they were a year ago when David left for Cornell. My experiments are really successful at the moment, and I am in the middle of writing three new manuscripts with a team of people from my laboratory. My internship is really fulfilling, and I have finally found a career that I am wicked excited about pursuing. I'm a really active member of my book club, and the BU Alumni Club that I am a part of has tapped me to help out with some events in the spring. I'm at the top of my game in so many respects...so why I do feel so incomplete? Why do I feel so empty when I come home to my apartment after work? Wasn't I raised to be independent and strong? Why am I this needy and pathetic? (Maybe I should also ask: why am I so hard on myself?) I am working as hard as I can to make sure that I graduate in a timely fashion, but no effort is good enough...so I push myself harder in lab, working longer hours and taking work home with me. But then, when I am visiting with David, the opposite is true...no weekend spent with him is ever long enough, and I lack the willpower to get in my car and go back to work on time. And yet, until I have my degree...something HAS to be enough in each of these areas. After all, the distance between Ithaca and Philadelphia isn't getting any shorter, and neither is the timeline for my PhD.
Some people think it's pointless of Charlie Brown to try to kick that football year after year after so many failures...my family always felt pity that he wasn't smart enough to distrust Lucy and give up. However, I never felt that way. I always liked to think that someday he kicked the hell out of that ball (and possibly Lucy's face) if for no other reason than he was just absolutely determined to do so. And so, I have to be the same way towards the footballs in my own life that I can't seem to kick right now. I have to get up, dust myself off, and keep running at them full speed. I have to keep trying to feel better until I get it right, even if I continue to take some emotional falls along the way.
A start, in a positive-minded direction: Tonight I am grateful for friends that call exactly when you absolutely need someone to talk to...great to catch up, Anna.