Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Normal

Today I heard a song that reminded me of being 12 years old, when I believed my life would be fun and exciting when I got older. I strain to hear such songs, as if remembering and recapturing that 12-year-old sense of anticipation might somehow straighten out the past 26 years like a bedsheet, resulting in a different 2005 outcome. But it doesn't. The song ends and I re-awaken to find myself back in this 38-year-old life, in the company of a man with whom I have failed to fall in love, on my way to a job I embrace because it doesn't allow me to sink into self-reflection and self-loathing. It's my Mary Richards life, but with rain and loneliness and depression and way too much effort.

I appreciate hugely my friend who’s 15 years younger than me telling me that she hopes to be like me when she's my age: independent, active and creative, with a strong network of friends and no end of male attention. She sees my life as successful, not as the consolation prize I see:

"Well, Regina, you didn't win the happy marriage and the life of love and family, but you won't go away empty-handed because here's your SWINGING SINGLE LIFE. [Audience goes wild as a panel parts to reveal a one-bedroom apartment with a hamster cage.] Yes, Regina, you'll experience the freedom of apartment living, regularly changing jobs and endless first dates. [Gorgeous model flips through an oversized Rolodex, carelessly scattering cards on the floor.] Not for you the wonders of childbirth, long-lasting marriage or grandchildren in old age. No, none of that is for you because you'll be enjoying a regular rotation of ever-changing friends, trying to figure out a half-way decent retirement plan for one and never having to call home to explain why you'll be late because there will never be anyone there! [Model waves arms around to indicate there's no one else in the apartment.] Ever! Congratulations, Regina!"

Humor is a freaking bizarre coping mechanism. Sometimes it helps when someone laughs at me, but sometimes it just makes me feel like my life is nothing but a series of punchlines. Get it? Get it? No one gets it. I don't get it. It's the depression. It's back. For a while I felt normal, but thank god I'm not. Thank god I'm not. I didn't know what to do with myself while I felt disappointed but basically okay about my non-existent love life. While I was able to stop dating one man and go on to the next without hunger strikes or crying spells, I didn't know what to do with myself. Is that what normal feels like? An endlessly sunny day? I actually missed the gloom. The depression response took a while to kick in , but it's back and it's familiar and I'm glad. And I'm a freaking nutcase.

Tell me no one gets the life they expect, tell me everyone wonders what went wrong, tell me everything I’ve ever felt is common and normal and I’ll start wondering how anyone survives the first realization that suicide is an option. Today I heard a song that reminded me of being 12 years old, when I believed my life would be fun and exciting. Does everyone feel like they’ve failed the child they used to be? Does everyone feel like they’ve abandoned that child’s dreams and her best possibilities? And what do they do with the guilt?

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