“When problems overwhelm us and sadness smothers us, where do we find the will and the courage to continue? Well, the answer may come in the caring voice of a friend, a chance encounter with a book or from a personal faith.
For Janet help came from her faith but it also came from a squirrel […] But Janet not only survived. She worked her way out of despondency and now she says life is good again. How could this happen? She told me that late one autumn day when she was at her lowest, she watched a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter. One at a time he would take them to the nest. And she thought if that squirrel can take care of himself with the harsh winter coming on, so can I.
Once I broke my problems into small pieces I was able to carry them, just like those acorns, one at a time.”
That segment was from the prelude of a White Stripes song. It’s always been a mantra of mine when getting slammed with problems—I didn’t learn it from the song, but it did reinforce the “one problem at a time” mantra. Usually, I’m very good at it. Processing each problem individually was step 1 of solving it. Lately, however, the processing isn’t happening as quickly as possible. Whether it be because so many have cropped up in a short period of time or because my mental squirrel isn’t properly storing the acorns, I’m starting to get overwhelmed. So to kick start my inner processor, I’m going to write them down here. I don’t anticipate anyone will read this, and that’s fine. This isn’t me asking for help, because I wouldn’t bogart anyone’s time or effort in making a long post about it. This is me simply storing my acorns.
1. My dad contracted COVID. He tried kicking it the old fashioned way by bed rest and chicken soup, and when that inevitably failed, he went to the hospital. The day he went to the hospital was a bad day to say the least. It was pretty severe case, and if we’re being honest, he could have gone either way that day. I’ll cut the tension by saying he is on his way to recovery to the point where he was released from the hospital and continuing to regain his strength at home. But that day he was 50/50 remains with me. My mind led me down a dark road where the other 50% chance seemed inevitable. And no matter how hard I tried to get any sort of optimism, my mind took me further down the dark path. By the time I went to bed that night, I had already written most of his eulogy in my mind, and was picking out what I’d wear to his funeral. Pulling myself back out of that dark corner has been a mental workout in and of itself.
2. Let me tell you about Dan. Dan was this cancer patient who frequented the hospital. He was a great guy, got to know everyone… literally everyone, even us dregs in the kitchen. He was a stand up guy, had a wife and a kid in kindergarten. In the span of two years visiting the hospital, he went from one foot in the grave to ringing the bell after his last cancer treatment. It was awesome to know he walked out of this hospital cancer free. Last week, which is about two weeks after that last cancer treatment, I heard he had died. He was in a violent car crash not two miles from the hospital. His death is a tragedy for sure, but it did more to shake my foundation of thinking than anything else. My beliefs in the nature of the world and the after life and everything like that are pretty complicated, but I’ve always believed in some rendition of karmic energy, and how there was a balance to life. It took 2 years for Dan to beat cancer, and just two weeks after that to be killed by something as random as a car accident. That is not karmic justice. And I’ve been killing myself wondering where the balance is… This guy fought for his life, then had it stolen. I’m still searching for the justification, and I doubt I’ll ever find it.
3. Speaking of doubt, with all this spiking my anxiety and depression, it was only a matter of time until the self-depricating part of my anguish showed up to take a cro-bar to my esteem. And this time it’s back to finish off my creative ambitions. I can’t get two sentences into a story now without telling myself it’s terrible, and to scrap this project… in fact, scratch all your projects because you’re not good enough to do the things you want to do. You want to build skyscrapers when you can’t even build a mud hut. Does anyone else have a brain that actively tries to sabotage your ambitions as fervently as mine does? Because right now Self-Doubt is back, and he’s very convincing.
4. I’ll be turning 35 this year, so I get the joy of my anxiety saying “IS IT TIME FOR A MIDLIFE CRISIS? IS IT? HOW ABOUT NOW? NOW? … WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW?” To which my depression comes in and says “Mid life? He’s been in crisis mode since kindergarten!” It’s weird, I convinced myself at 30 that age did not matter, and that society in general was obsessed with the number. While watching football this year, on more than one occasion, the announcers commented on a player in the early 30’s, not even 35, and pronouncing them at the end of their career and needing to think about retirement. And that just set off the whole aging crisis anxiety, and it’s louder this time than it was at 30
5. I’m starting to get concerned about my son as the pandemic continues. I’m worried his social development is stalling. He does go to public school so he gets social interaction, which is nice. But I can’t remember the last time we went out to do anything. He goes to school, then he comes home. Occasionally we’ll go to the park and take walks and stuff, but he’s gaining this impression that this is how things are now and how they’re going to be for awhile. I feel like I can anticipate the end of the forest even if it isn’t until next year, but I’m not sure a 6 year old has that foresight yet. I worry what that’s going to do to his mental state. He has periods of hyperactivity and periods of lethargy. I try to keep him occupied and entertained but it’s been getting more challenging to keep him hopeful.
6. We’re trying to buy a house this year, and the hoops needed to jump through to be qualified to get one are numerous and challenging. It’s a long process, and we thought we could wait it out where we’re renting. But the place was built in the 50’s and the problems are growing exponentially. The property manager is as useless as tits on a canary. He does nothing but collect rent checks and make empty promises to swing by. I cannot go into his complete ineptitude these last three years without making this post ridiculously long. So now we’re stuck between do we wait it out in a problematic house, or do we rent a different place but prolong the homebuying process another year. I feel like both decisions suck.
7. And finally, on Saturday, I got a letter from the IRS saying that our taxes that we filed last year—11 months ago—had a miscalculation, and that we in fact owe them more money than we already paid, nearly another grand.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
So there are all my acorns, lined up, and ready to store. Turns out lining them up like this actually does nothing to solve them, but maybe it’ll help them to process. I don’t expect anyone to have made it through, and even if you did there’s nothing I expect anyone to say or do about it. Maybe if you feel bad, you can give me one collective “That sucks” and I’ll take it, otherwise thanks for spending your time reading about my recent tangible, mental, familial, parental, financial, and existential issues.