A better day today. Took yesterday off from, you know, pretty much everything. I was having some female trouble, so I made that my excuse to do what I’ve been desperately wanting to do and have been afraid to for fear that it would push me deeper into my depression: namely, just check the fuck out. Lie on the sofa in my pajamas and nap and eat chocolate and watch TV for twelve hours. In this case, curled up around a hot water bottle. The kitties loved the hot water bottle, so of course they were visiting me off and on all day. I was really worried that a check-out day would make my depression worse, but at least this time it doesn’t seem to have done that. It wasn’t a great day or anything; but it seems to have actually re-charged my batteries a bit. At least, it didn’t make things worse.
And today I had some good stretches. Got caught up on some of the emails that had been piling up over the last few days: got started moving forward on taking care of a little business, scheduling some new speaking engagements and re-scheduling some ones that I had to cancel when Dad died. I’m feeling a little apprehensive about the speaking gigs: my moods are still so unpredictable, I’m still being fairly functional one hour and then shambling around like a zombie the next, without any warning, and I have no way of knowing whether I’ll be more on the “reliably functional” side of that balance in a month or so when I start doing speaking tours again. I suspect I’ll be doing better by the time those gigs come around, but I don’t know for sure. But I can’t keep putting my life on hold forever, just because I might or might not feel up to it in a month. And being engaged with my life and my future, making plans for the work that I love to do, does make me feel better.
I also think I’m getting a little better at figuring out when I’m reaching my limits. Spent about two, maybe three hours catching up on emails… and then realized I was starting to fade, the fog was starting to settle in, and I needed to shift gears. I felt bad, there was some important business that I had to leave unattended… but I heard the voices of every one of my friends and family, the voices of all my blog readers and colleagues and everyone in the Grief Beyond Belief group, all saying, “It’s okay. Give yourself a break. You don’t have to get back to work full-swing right away. Grief is exhausting. It’s okay to take some time.” And I put away the computer, and picked up my Kindle, and just read for a bit. It is funny, though. I had to first convince myself that reading counts as work for me, before I was able to feel fully okay with it. I’m glad I’ve learned enough self-discipline to be able to be self-employed as a full-time writer: I’m glad I have the instinct to want to actually work when I’m at home during the day, and not just fuck off and read books or watch TV. But it makes it harder to let go and give myself a break when it’s appropriate.
Speaking of which: All of this grieving shit is making me realize a big downside to being self-employed: I pretty much have to work if I want to pay the mortgage. And I can’t phone it in, either. I have to actually work… and I have to be self-motivated about it. If I had a day job right now, all I’d have to do is muster the self-discipline to drag my ass to the office. I could clock in for eight hours and wander around like a zombie and not get fuck-all done, and still bring home a paycheck. For a while, anyway. But I can’t do that now. I feel like a jackass, complaining about the downside of being a full-time self-employed writer when 98% of all writers would give their eyeteeth to be where I am in my career. But it is a downside, one I hadn’t thought about, and it’s making the grief harder to manage.
The main thing I’m wrestling with today: the unpredictability of my moods. I feel like I could manage my shifting moods better if I had some sense of when they were coming, and what sets them off. But I have literally no idea. Reading might make me calm and happy one day, twitchy and restless and unable to focus the next. Surfing the net and reading blogs might make me feel engaged and connected with my work and my community one day, irritated and enervated the next. One day I’ll wake up from a long night’s sleep feeling rested and refreshed; the next day, I’ll wake up from the same amount of sleep feeling groggy and like I just want to sleep for four more hours.
Part of the issue, I think, is that depression and grief aren’t the same thing, and I’m still struggling to learn the difference. If some experience cuts through the fog of my depression, if it wakes me up and lets me connect with what I’m feeling… well, the feeling underneath the fog could be anything. So even positive, engaging, depression-cutting experiences could make me feel crummy… because they get me to feel what I’m feeling. And a lot of what I’m feeling these days totally sucks. Cutting through the depression is like scratching off the gray schmutz on a lottery ticket: I don’t know whether what’s underneath is a thousand bucks or a “Sorry — better luck next time.”
Oh, I’m realizing a flip side of the whole “letting other people help me as a form of compassion” thing that I was writing about the other day: Listening to other people, getting engaged in their problems and their lives, is a way of taking care of myself. Hung out with my friend Rebecca tonight, and of course we talked about my dad and how I was doing, which was good and which I dearly wanted to do. But we also talked about her life, her work and her wife and her friends, and we talked about Ingrid, and we talked about stuff and people we had in common… and it helped, just as much as gassing on about my own grief did. Maybe even more. I want to let my friends support me and listen to me… but I don’t want to get so wrapped up in my own grief that it becomes a bubble, isolating me from the world. Listening to other people forges a connection, builds a bridge to the world outside the bubble. And it’s… I don’t know how to put this. It’s what I do, what I would do in my normal life. That’s really important right now.
Of course, the other thing I would do in my normal life is to quit writing because “The Player” just came on TV. So I’m going to go do that now.