Back in the Swamp

I am surrounded by beaches. I love the water, the ocean, lakes and ponds. Anything I can fall into and be wrapped in the stillness and quiet of its comforting arms. Yet I rarely go to the beach here – I hate going alone, and during the summer months, it is simply too hot. As I was getting ready for work this morning, I realized that my trip north, at this time of year when the myriad shades of green are on full display and the air is fresh, without the humidity hanging on every breath, is what I miss. Perhaps what I miss the most is the Island.

The lake, the nature. The lullaby of the wind through the pines at night and the slapping of the sailboat against the ripples of waves. The feel of the warm pine needles under my bare feet and the feeling that there is no time, there is no schedule. I miss being surrounded by what I know, even though I am one who has never found a place to settle, has never found a home. Except for the Island. I ache to go there, but the memories are too painful. If I were alone it would be easier. Usually, however, there are others who are present and who are in demand of attention.

I cried the entire day I was leaving to come back here. I didn’t want my time there to end, at least not for another week or two. But life moves on, and I have responsibilities here I cannot ignore. So I returned to an empty house. To the monsoon-like weather we have every afternoon, to the place where no one knows me. No one understands me, but that is something I am coming to accept. Our boss expects us to be professional, and while I always am, there are days…and we all have them. And on those days, all I really want is to be surrounded by the strong arms of the one I love, or at least feel that someone here gives a damn about more than themselves and their careers. But that is life. This is the hand that has been dealt right now, and I am trying to figure out how to use the cards in my favor.

Because I want to change the narrative, as my therapist so gently reminded me I had to, unless I wanted to stay in this place of stagnation forever. I meditated again this morning. Not long, but enough to put out what I thought was the most positive message to myself and the universe that I could. I took my meds, the ones I believe help – not the horrid anti-depressant my shrink thinks I am taking. I am trying to practice more self-care. None of this is as easy as it sounds. As someone who is bipolar, there are always the lingering thoughts of escape – though what form that takes depends on how bad the depressions are. There are always feelings of anxiety that make my hands shake and paranoia as I sit in this office, hidden in a corner of this building, that everyone else is discussing me. Ridiculous, I know. Most people are so consumed with their own lives, they are only focused on themselves. And it’s a shame we don’t care more about others. The world would be a much better place.

But that is not my battle to fight. My battle, the one immediately before me, is to change my thoughts, my beliefs about myself, find a way to forgive myself for all the asinine things I have done in my life and use them as learning tools. Use them as the fodder for my writing. And I am slowly trying to do that. I have to add to my toolkit though. I have to make sure the static of what everyone up north wants and expects me to do does not interfere with what I want, nor send me into a spiral of depression because I simply cannot please them all.

And truly, the only one I should be pleasing, who should be at the front of the line, is myself. When my husband was alive, it was so much easier. Life was easier. I don’t know if it was because I was younger, if my bipolar was more controlled, or simply being in his presence. Which was always divine and calming. Our house was a haven where the outside world stayed away and we had one another: playmates, friends and lovers. With his death, not only did the bipolar go haywire, but innumerable other friends came to play – PTSD, abandonment issues, panic attacks, debilitating anxiety and isolation unlike any I have ever known. It is one thing to seek out solitude. It is another to have it forced upon you, by life ripping away the one person who was your compass. We nurtured one another. We grew together – like two trees entwining and growing stronger for becoming one. We could weather any storm. Without him, I no longer could.

To this day, I am still trying to figure out how to keep the boat upright when the gales come to beat at the sails. But it is not easy. Not alone or with a partner that I love tremendously (even when I bitch about him), because it is simply not the same. As I have said, and my therapist has confirmed, we are changed by grief. We are altered by death. And it is not something we can outrun. It comes for us all, eventually. Either by our own hand, an accident, or the body simply giving out. I do not understand this life. I do not understand what the meaning of it all is…

Perhaps it is because I never wanted, nor had, children. I know that numerous people derive great pleasure in creating families, offspring. And yes, this does give meaning to their lives. It gives them someone to watch over, help grow, carry on the genes and family memories. But that was never in the cards for me. I could never imagine caring for another human, a fragile being, in such a manner. I have enough issues with the adults in my world. From day to day, I do not know what my mind will be like, so how could I possibly trust myself with teaching and nurturing another human, when I can not even do that for myself? How could I pass on these horrific genes, which now include Alzheimer’s? When I was younger, it was a selfish decision. I didn’t want the baggage. As I have grown older, I have never regretted my choice, but I see how it gives others a reason, a mission. But still, I am too selfish, too much of a seesaw that I would never be able to handle such a situation.

And so I wonder why I am here. What is my purpose? What is the meaning of it all? For me, life is to be spent with those you love and in places that inspire the soul. Sadly, that is not the case for me, personally, at this moment. Nor is it the case for most people who wade through 8-hour days and then trudge home to whatever chaos may be laying in wait for them. Such has become the American way of life and one reason I would happily move abroad and forget about this rat race. Perhaps that is where I am heading. Perhaps that is where I will find my compass again, and parts of myself I thought were lost many years ago.

But what I really wish is to hear the wind through the pines. To feel the warm earth beneath my feet. To let the water slide over my head to feel the sense of security and silence that calms me so easily. Perhaps my legacy will be these words. Perhaps this is my child. It is what I look forward to the most, and miss when I am not able to write. It is where I find my flow and that is a drug I will always be addicted to. Getting lost on the page, the screen, and letting it all out.

© Sorrow & Kindness


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