Everyone’s a Winner

When I stepped out into the snow this morning, my life was like a scene straight out of Frances Ha.

To recap, one of my close friends/gray area pseudo boyfriend type person has just cut me out of his life, this decision seeming to cause him remarkably little anguish, him of the little attachment. Me of the quite great attachments, it causes me great angst. Today is his birthday, there’s a party and of course I’m not invited. My roommate let me know with an “I love you darling, I’m sorry”, last night.

Then I had a stupid fight with the boyfriend late last night while working on the thesis project (which I have made zero headway on), which spilled over into the morning.

I woke up shivering, because the heater in our house is broken. And this being the middle of April and Spring, we all woke up to a pile of snow in the front yard and said collective, “What the FUCK, Canada?!”s.

Then I ran out to catch my bus in ballet flats and without gloves since I’ve packed away all my winter stuff.

But you know what? I’ve since been drinking a large coffee and listening to “You shook me all night long” on repeat. And I’m feeling better. It is impossible to be unhappy to this song. Scientific fact.

Writing about depression I

It was a funny thing, that winter I struggled with depression. I seemed to stumble into sufferers all over the place. Love is all around us, sang the Troggs, but down here in dreary winter Canada, mental illness seemed to be. I ran into them at the phony-abc-problem solving workshops the university’s Counselling Services sent me to, where students with a Masters in Social Work tried to fix us with progressive muscle relaxation, and effective study strategies. We shrugged at each other across the table, in mutual commiseration. Our sadness went deeper than that. I ran into them at my new home, and in new best friends who’d lowered their standards and saved their own lives. I ran into them at the play my boyfriend- patient, persevering- forced me to audition for. They stomped across the stage wearing monocles, doing an English accents and playing carnivorous sentient plants trying to take over the world with a catchphrase of ‘Pip pip!’. Later on at night, trudging through the snow to the bus stop, they told me about struggling to get out of bed, and failing grades and dashed hopes and blow after blow after blow. I thought about waiting for sleep to come, then spending all day wanting to be unconscious, going through the motions, and trying, trying, trying all the while to put on the appropriate expressions, display the appropriate interest, be appropriately charming in conversations. It was all so bloody exhausting.

“Therapy cost me 200 dollars an hour!”

“He works at Boston Pizza now. Got kicked out of school. Life, eh?”

“Oh, great. You want my grades? You can have my depression too”.

I’m not a brilliant writer, and I probably don’t have an Ariel inside me waiting to be bled onto paper. Besides, all those stories ended with someone’s head in the oven and children hanging themselves years later, infected with the sadness they forgot behind. I just wanted to get through the winter and run for shelter to the sun. Write about it, my patient boyfriend told me. I didn’t really want to bleed my demons on to paper. I didn’t particularly want to remember them or record them. I only wanted to get over them so I could carry on with the rest of my life. I’d been waiting for this bout to leave me, like it usually did, as had always happened before. This time was different though. This time I said it out loud to different people, at different times. The counsellor, trying to wrap up our appointment over my sobbing into Kleenex, my roommate as she fed my unwashed, unfed, ratty-clothed body avocado-goat cheese sandwiches while I spent entire days on the couch. A kind boy I didn’t know very well who watched episode after episode of sci-fi telly with me, and lent me his sweater, his warmth. Professors who peered at me in surprise over their desks and told me to be proud of myself. My boyfriend, while I waited for him to run away. I said it out loud and watched people’s perceptions of me shift and waver. I admitted for the first time out loud: Yes I was ill. No, I couldn’t handle it on my own anymore. I knew that I’d been a good student all this while: motivated, ambitious, hard working- taking pride even, in my maniacal schedule and the constant barrage of stress I undertook. This was the first time that I had just stopped caring. I was four months away from graduation, from spring, and I found myself unable to care even the littlest bit. 

So I sought refuge in the company of others, trying to get away from my own head, and worried my mother as I refused to study, as I refused to care. I ate chowmein, wrapped up in fluffy blankets in my best friend’s bed, and told her over and over how glad I was that she was back.

A ragtag bunch of strangers, copers I ran into on every turning, and a couple of friends, who fed me and bossed me around and tried to bring routine into my life. It was all inexplicably heartwarming and wonderful, and I should have been grateful and come around, but I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. Nothing but indifference and calm despair.

The crackle at the other end of the line
told me that he was still there,
despite the dead silence.
The click at the back of his teeth,
and the sudden sharp uncontrolled intake of breath,
Impatient at the rising pitch of my voice,
wavering perilously close to tears.
Tremulous and shaky,
for the third phone call this month.
I am stricken by the irritation in his voice,
and struggle to make amends.
I apologize for being irritable,
for being a bore, for being predictable
and for the lack of sparkle in our conversation.
I dredge out the same dull things each time.
The worry in my thoughts
translate to a crease in between my eyebrows,
turning into a ceaseless litany of woe on the phone.
I can imagine the mouse
hovering over a link in red
and the impatience perched at the corner of his absent smile.
I hang up feeling stupid.
That evening sitting with work,
with cats lolling on the floor,
and stray roommates behind closed doors,
I remember my grandmother,
and us children rolling our eyes, every time her voice would start to rise
about my dead grandfather,
about money, and the servants.
The crack was coming, we knew it
because it came so often.
Impatience, and irritation.
‘I love her, but why can’t she just keep her misery to herself?’
I did not think those thoughts,
I did not vocalize them,
not even to myself.
Am I a bad person,
I wonder.
Don’t think so much,
a friend told me over the phone.
Isn’t it exhausting,
she asked, bewildered, frustrated.
Yes, I said.
But not giving shape to the thought in your head,
doesn’t un-make it.
But I am a fool,
who thinks too much, and sleeps too little, and gets confused,
and cries on the phone.
Offering apologies, swallowing the knot in my stomach.
So I keep my feelings to myself,
and try to take up littler space.
I will not intrude in your world.
I will back away one half footfall at a time,
and you will not hear me leave.
You will not care.
And I will make a mental note to myself,
to be kinder to my grandmother
when she tries not to cry.

On distance

Here is a hard truth about distance: No matter how much you love each other, and how fascinating you find each other, and how many interests you have in common, there are some days on which there simply isn’t anything to say. Nothing earth-shattering has happened, nothing sounds particularly amusing over the phone, and one of you probably keeps saying “What”? after every alternate sentence. Now this happens even when you’re in the same place, but can usually be bridged by doing something together- drinking chaa, killing time with small talk, lying around listening to music, getting stoned and watching something, cooking, fucking, whatever- and that, *that* is the crucial thing which long distance can never, ever compensate for: inhabiting the same space takes up so much of a life.