I like to think of myself as a glass half full kind of person. Stuff happens, but it’s your reaction to the things that happen to you that’s important. The first quarter of 2012 was very tough for me. In early January, my father passed away. That was tougher than I thought it would be. And then in February, I got passed over for a writing opportunity that I thought I was a shoo-in for. And in March, I was told that my job was being outsourced that I would be out of work in September.
Within three months, I received blows to my family life, my writing and my livelihood. Granted, the second two events might have been easier to weather if I wasn’t still dealing with my father’s death.
I just felt so damn sad.
Like a low grade fever, I had low grade sorrow. It was like a cloud that hung over me. Maybe I was depressed… I don’t know. It wasn’t that I consciously felt preoccupied with my father’s death. But it felt like I was being tossed some emotional medicine balls and the first one had been the heaviest.
I kept trying to see the work situation as an opportunity. I had recently been thinking that my writing would only move to the next level if I had more “skin in the game”. What if my livelihood depended on my writing? Hai Carumba! I’d get better a lot faster. And now I’m being faced with that “opportunity”. But I didn’t feel like writing.
I took a week off in February to get a piece written to meet a deadline and I just couldn’t write. I couldn’t focus. It was one of the few times that I’ve missed a deadline – and it was a contest deadline, so it wasn’t like I missed a commitment to someone else. It was only a commitment to myself. But it still felt bad to miss it.
I just wanted to whine to someone. Well, I really wanted to whine to my parents. I wanted to be the little kid again even though I’m forty-nine. Whining to my wife or my kids just wasn’t the same.
I kept thinking about the “look” that parents give their kids when they look at them: full of love for them for just being themselves. I look at my kids that way, when I think they’re not looking. And I’d catch my parents looking at me like that. And it hurt to think that no one would look at me that way anymore.
This low grade sorrow continued into early April.
But then my good friend John was in town and we went out for dinner. We’ve been friends since kindergarten and we chatted about our lives and families and rehashed the stories of our youth. And somehow, seeing the expanse of life from the perspective of our friendship, it helped.
Work and writing setbacks seemed small compared to the experiences of over forty years of friendship. Even my father’s death could be understood from a larger view of things. It’s hard to get too upset with the inevitable.
Although we only chatted for a couple of hours, it seemed to do the trick. I definitely passed a corner with that meal and think I’ve broken through that low grade sorrow. I don’t know what the ratio of time and talking is to get over the emotional kicks to the crotch we occasionally receive, but there is one. And it’s probably different for everyone and every situation.
The important thing is to give yourself the time and the opportunity to talk about it.