When I turned seven, I remember clearly walking outside in our driveway in the cold clear winter air, thinking that this was the beginning of the end. I felt an immense world-weariness, the weariness and jaded cynicisim of age (which had grown on me, turned me, since I was six: now I knew more, knew better, than I did as a smaller child). I was serious and sad, but at the same time in a funny way lighthearted: well, it’s already bad, so that’s liberating. What’s the world going to do to me, if I am heavy of heart at seven? Things won’t get worse, at any rate.
I should be clear that nothing especially bad had happened to me; I had a happy childhood. My mother was sick, but that was both years in the past and years in the future; at the moment that I am remembering, everything was fine. It was just a sort of cusp I reached, as I think many children do. Some remember, some forget; I was serious-minded and so was pleased to adopt a kind of jadedness into my personality. As I say, it was freeing to acknowledge, and gave me a sort of edge with which to tackle the world. You laugh, as you should, but as you can see I never forgot that clear sense of seeing through different layers: the ones you express, and the ones you keep to yourself, and that they are both equally true, this happiness and sadness at the same time as you balance the burden of the world.
I was thinking about this tonight, while lying in bed on a rainy fall evening, because of my ongoing struggles with ennui and depression, which I fall into fairly easily but also am good at talking my way out of. Depression, after all, is boring. No one wants to hear about mine, not even me. So I cheat and trick my way around it; I give myself excellent pep talks. I pay close attention to my moods and all the tiny ways they are affected. “Perhaps you are not actually depressed”, one meme going around on the internet this year says, “perhaps you’re just hanging out with assholes.” There’s always a chance, I suppose, though I do not think so. Advice from other people is usually not especially interesting, as it often boils down to “you have a lot to live for” — well, yes, but you must understand it’s been all downhill since I turned seven, so things are relative.
I’ve had leisure to reflect on all this the last few months, since I’ve had a bit more time on my hands — both from work flattening out, and some projects ending. I took a long and restful break after leaving the board; a full multi-week wikibreak, and then I went back to just editing. I’ve done a lot of editing this fall. I heartily recommend it. There were a couple of months in there where people would ask me to do things: I’m not ready! I would say. It was as if leaving in that moment all my grit and ambition collapsed like a deflated balloon, and I needed to be reinflated before being useful again. I am getting ready. I may be ready now. But the break was wonderful, relaxing. It makes me once again want to write about editing, and practice it well; some part of me feels like every article I make better is a small atonement for also adding to years of drama and discussion. This makes little sense, but it’s an accounting that matters to me, on this project I love.
I’ve travelled a lot this summer and fall as well: a long and glorious trip in Europe this summer, for a wedding and friends; and many smaller trips too. I had a week of company from my dad, which was lovely. I worry about my family, and have grown closer to them the older I’ve gotten. My dad and I are just alike: we think about each other, but we do not call. Other people would think us neglectful, but I think we understand each other. We’d both just as soon avoid the work of growing older, too: healthcare and paperwork, cleaning up the house and taking care of things. I feel responsible for both of us, and therefore anxious, but not so much so that I can’t procrastinate on both counts.
There are many lovely, beautiful things that I have thought about writing about recently; my trip diaries, my projects, ideas. But this summer and fall I’ve been turned inward a bit, focused on rest, or I suppose what most people would call a normal 40-hour a week schedule with lots of vacation time, which certainly feels like rest. I have not put pen to paper in months, but perhaps I’ll start again soon, use writing as a long-promised trick up my sleeve: use this Samhain as a start of opening up to the world again, rather than the more traditional withdrawing in. I have always loved fall and winter best, anyway, and I am again feeling expansive: like a lot of things could happen if I let them. Time, perhaps, to find a new layer to look through.