I’m a sad person holding a fork
What is it about having future plans for travel adventure that makes all the difference in how I feel about today?
There’s a drawing that shows up on my computer’s desktop, in rotation with others I’ve kept because they make me smile. It’s a panel from a comic strip by the bittersweetly hilarious storyteller Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half. Her blog hasn’t been updated since 2011, which is unnerving since her last post is one about incapacitating depression. While Allie has since explained that her silence is due to her continued struggle with depression, her last comic sits on her site, hitting too close to home.
While I’m nowhere near as depressed as Allie, lately I’ve been unusually sad and under-motivated. And, having grown up on Long Island, I also really like pasta.
Combine the two and I too often find myself eating pasta and being sad. Staring into my bowl of carb comfort, I realize I’m enacting Allie’s comic and I laugh at myself — which then makes me sad in a new way. I’d rather be laughing at myself for my out-of-scale enthusiasm for shenanigans, or for blurting out something that makes it obvious I’ve muzzled my internal editor. That’s self-mockery I can handle.
I’d hoped that moving into a gorgeous apartment and out of a no-longer-wonderful apartment would have squished some sad. I even have a door on my office now. Not just a doorway, but an actual door that shuts out the world (and Todd) out so I can immerse in my words and work. Yet, the isolation chamber has mostly served to remove many of the excuses I used to have at the ready when I couldn’t write or get things done.
Now I have no excuses. It’s my fault if I’m not writing or doing.
I know that I’m being unfair to myself. While this blog has sat silent, I’ve gotten a lot done — a shit-ton*, in fact. I’ve created a lot for my clients, churning out sparkly press releases, social media, and other copy writing. I’ve moved, thrown parties, and shared funtimes with friends.
Yet I’ve still found myself having sad pasta moments.
I’m sad mostly because my mom has a type of progressive dementia and there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to make her whole again. We can’t even stop it from getting worse. I’m fortunate in that I can and do visit her and my family in New York often, but it’s not an uplifting way to spend time. I guess I’m depressed about that.
Gah, OF COURSE I’m depressed about that! It’s a depressing thing to watch your mom vanish. But, unlike when Patrick Swayze’s character lit out at the end of Ghost (which I remember seeing in the theater with my mom and aunt, with them sobbing loudly and me teenaged and embarrassed), there’s no chance for a last conversation aided by a sassy psychic. There’s just less of her in her, and that’s the new normal. It sucks and is unfair and messes with my joyance.
Mine isn’t a debilitating depression, like Allie’s. There are just sad thoughts, putzing around, waiting for my other thoughts to grow complacent so they can cut ahead in line. Which is ever so distracting.
In the midst of my mental muck, I also lost my motivation to write about travel because I had no exciting travel in the foreseeable future. Up until a few weeks ago, my 2013 travel plans were to visit Long Island over a half dozen times (yes, really) to see family and buzz a few cities for conferences.
It was a lot of travel, sure, but all familiar and stateside. The shared trips would also eat up most of Todd’s available travel time. As a consultant, I could travel without Todd and still work, but it just seemed…meh. It wasn’t tragic, but because of it I stalled on finishing telling the stories from my Peru travel memories, knowing I wouldn’t be making any new travel memories for nearly two years.
I thought about writing about another topic. But, I’m confident that writing about my personal life would lead me down a David Sedaris-like path (recall my previously mentioned muzzled internal editor) lined with enraged friends and family whose lives I’d overshared.
Then things fell apart in a way that worked to our advantage. A change of plans left Todd and me free to choose our own adventure for spring break, which as a substitute teacher Todd has off — unpaid, but off. Things also started to gel. Friends invited us to glamp with them at their rustic cabin on an island in Maine, easily tacked on to one of the many New York trips. And I discovered that I’d absent-mindedly accrued enough airline miles to get us to Oaxaca, Mexico.
Suddenly we’re spending spring break in Mexico. Suddenly my bowl of pasta is just lunch. Suddenly I’m looking forward to writing again because I get to travel again. Boom. Boom. Boom.
Simply having a plan to disembark somewhere unfamiliar has made me ridiculously happy.
Just like prescription drugs, travel as therapy still comes with potential side effects that include: muscle soreness, leg cramps, vertigo, fast heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, confusion, tiredness, sleep problems, loss of interest in usual activities, severe restlessness, impulsive behavior, unusual risk-taking behavior, decreased inhibitions, racing thoughts, overactive reflexes, weight gain, weight loss, indigestion, nausea — and of course, diarrhea.
I’ll take the risks. The upside of travel as therapy is worth it.
* I also laughed at myself for wondering — and vainly looking up in the AP Stylebook — whether “shit-ton” should be hyphenated or not.
p.s. My birthday is this Saturday. I’m also getting old.
. . .
After a few more Peru travel stories worth telling, get ready for spicy stories from Oaxaca, Mexico!
I totally and completely understand what a difference a trip in the works makes. When we settled down this last time, I began writing about exploring Seattle by bike–it scratched the itch a bit, but it’s not a substitute for getting way out of your comfort zone and seeing some place new and different.
You’ve made me realize something important about my recent change in outlook–I’m planning a trip in the fall to visit my cousin in Asia. (She lives in Shanghai, but we’re going to meet up somewhere else–no clue where yet.)
And suddenly situations that were untenable to me a few weeks back are totally fine with me. I get downright cranky when I don’t have a trip in the works, and I’m definitely overdue.
Enjoy Mexico! And thanks for sharing your thoughts on being a home-stuck traveler. That definitely resonates.
I’m glad something that I wrote nudged a change in outlook, Jesse — and that you have a trip planned to help keep cranky in check!
And, for Asia, one of my favorite spots was Vietnam, and for biking while there, Todd and I had a blast on a bike tour of the Mekong Delta. We’re not normally “tour people” but with just 4 riders and a pretty rural route, it was chill and interesting.
Wow. I have moments when I feel like that too. I got through a lot of pasta before my trip to South America. I find that having a plan and something new and exciting in the pipeline really helps. Not sure how I’ll combat the depression of returning from 7 months’ travel. Hmmmmm, pasta maybe?!
Pasta for certain! If we can’t always have travel plans in the works, pasta can help combat our interstitial time sadtimes.
Wow, thank you for sharing this post. Post-travel blues are the worst.
Have so much fun in Oaxaca! I was there last year and it truly is a magical place. Don’t miss Hierve el Agua, which is probably one of the most relaxing places to sit your butt down on a natural outlook and just enjoy your ALIVEness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierve_el_Agua
Thanks Amanda. I’ve realized keeping my feelings inside is entirely counter-productive. That said, I don’t like to wallow so it won’t become a major blog theme.
I cannot wait to go to Hierve el Agua — after mole, it’s the top thing on my What to Do in Oaxaca list. Here’s to enjoying ALIVEness!
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