Friday, May 4, 2018

Death Grip that Optimism

Shoshone Falls will spit on you if you let it, but Idaho can be a surprisingly warm state in spring, and the shower in the breeze felt nice. I stared at the yellow waters of the epic falls and lamented the sadness that overcame me. I did not miss my ex. I missed the fantasy of traveling with a man I loved. I resented him for redirecting my thoughts from possibilities of the future to the ways he ruined things. He had always made trips (and everything else) unbearable, and yet when I traveled across America this spring, I thought of him frequently, constantly brought back to sour memories of hurt and disrespect. It had been years, and I was still wounded. I was supposed to be having fun, and all I could do was grieve over the loss of optimism. It wasn’t that I thought of him, it was that when I tried to fantasize, I would be slapped in the face by what actually happened when I sought companionship.

During my travels this last month, I also received several rejections on multiple projects, including a local one-act. I had known my dark, sarcastic comedy about anorexia and depression would have a hard time getting a leg up, but something about this rejection struck me in ways most didn’t. The critiques on my one-act went well prior to submitting, and I’d had a conversation with one of this year’s judges about the low quality of the few early submissions. For a minute I felt confident I might see some signs that I was connecting with people and was surprised at how demoralized I became when it was passed up this time. Usually there is one extremely fun play in the three picked, but historically there have been plenty that, well, we’ll say, weren’t indicative of experience. I consider my script to be focused, emotional, and funny, some of my best work, and I could only picture what it will feel like if the one-acts this year are as painful as some of those in the past.

I was struggling with my unhappiness. I had plenty of reason to not feel terribly, but negativity constantly claws at my back. I had slacked off from my duties the last few months and struggled to induce inspiration or even daydream. I not only didn’t feel like creating art, I didn’t care that I wasn’t either. I had shortened my hours at work to give me more time to create, only to do God knows what with my days. Which wasn’t really like me. In my youth, I was fairly productive. What happened?

Something happened on the sunny trip around the American National Monuments. As I confronted a stronger feeling of unimportance, I also could face exactly what it would mean if I just gave up. When the pains in my neck grew too intense to bear, I decided to stop in with a highly-praised massage therapist a friend of mine had used. In one hour, I realized just how much tension I chronically held in my shoulders, (plus everywhere else) and the fact that I haven’t been truly able to relax in over four years. He explained a lot to me about what I could do to help my chronic pain and why some of it was happening, more so than the dismissive doctors ever did. Leaving there, I not only felt better physically, but I had more hope that something could be done… about anything. He had a lot of the answers I’d been seeking—in the wrong places.

The trip that ended in Disney World gave me a childlike glee, bonding my mother and me together, giving me some sorely needed sunlight and exercise, and exposure to the possibilities of design and art. The desert landscapes I had traveled gave me inspiration about the worlds that could be created in fiction or reality. I met with a good friend whose Etsy store had taken off. Inspired previously by the television show, Boss Girl, and a ridiculous work schedule, I had decided at the beginning of this year to try and be self-sustainable with what I love. But at the same time, I didn’t expect a lot out of it. Until a cold on the last day hit, I felt great. Free.

My experiences had left me feeling that dreams are painful. I worked hard to be with a man I wanted to marry who proved a dishonest invalid. All of that effort and all I got was years of emotional consequences. I worked for half a decade on a novel to feel joy when I got an unsigned form rejection, because at least there was a response. I’ve drawn prolifically since I was 12, but God forbid I come up with a style I actually like. Each time I’ve tried to overcome chronic pain, put myself into the dating world, or ask for help, I’ve found myself humiliated, tired, and nothing to show.

Yet, depression lies. Negative experiences might make optimism shy away, but you can coax it out again. There are ways to solve problems and even though blindly putting yourself out there can lead to literal injuries and stalkers, the only way to convince yourself good things can happen is by feeling more in control. Bad shit makes for good stories, and mistakes for good lessons. There’s a lot of bad advice out there and it takes way more work than it should to shift through it, but you can understand how to solve things through trial and error. I can’t say what to do when faced with depression, and know first hand how trying can sometimes make things worse. That being said, there’s not much else to do with our lives, and one of these days, something has to click.

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