Sculpture by Uwe Henneken, Boros Collection (Berlin, Germany). Photo by Alicia Lutes.

Well, first thing’s first: it doesn’t. Not always. Not when you’ve been depressed for two years, medicating for a year of that, and just off a job that—for the last little bit of it—has really pushed you low. Like really low. Like down deep into the worst parts of yourself, triggering every worst reaction, childhood ritual, and mental malfunction you’ve ever had or known. And all of this goes double when you feel some sorta way about it, not wanting to sound petty and spiteful but also maybe that’s exactly what you are. Right now at least.

You weren’t always, though. But the past two years have taken a lot out of you. They’ve ground you down into dust and dug deep into your heart, making you feel cynical and defeated, calcifying a bitterness and anger you’ve NEVER allowed yourself to feel. But this isn’t you, you fret! You’re everyone’s favorite sunshine-y rainbow blossom of fun and earnest excitement! “Where’s my happy girl?” the adults used to coo, and you’d laugh and smile and clap your tiny, chunky hands together, smiling like the real-life Cabbage Patch doll the little kid neighbors always thought you were.

It wasn’t one particular thing that made this time harder than the last. Not really. There’s the obvious, universal stuff— Politics! The economy! A culture war against women and people of color! The slow march towards inevitable death! — and the inconsequential bullshit that dots everyone’s life, but it’s hard to pinpoint any one thing as The Moment You Lost Your Spirit. There was just a dread that set in, immediate and with a thunk, on a long bus ride home from San Diego in 2016, and nothing’s been right since.

You tried, for awhile, to get it back. But the trying made it worse. You put your heart and soul into something, only to have it snatched away. You feel worthless, lost, a bit hopeless about the future. But you know it’s the only thing that truly feeds you, these wishes and wants and written words. And it’s corny, but it’s true: you’ve been missing a part of yourself for years now, but there was never a period of mourning. And now that there’s the possibility of bringing it back to life, the worry of what it may look and act like in this newly realized form terrifies you. Your frankensteined creative spirit has gone rogue.

But those worst parts of you — the self-hatred, the anxiety, the impenetrable self-doubt, the emotions (why are there so many? and why won’t they stop?) the never-ending hypothetical scenario de-bunking, the worry (always the worry) — did they break you this time? Has your biology changed? Are you chemically capable of being the person you once were? All smiles and creative bursts and self-assured ideation? Can you ever really go back?

You’re trying to do it differently this time — because therapy, because age, because what the fuck else do you have to lose other than more self-inflicted insanity? — so you think macro, not micro: don’t over-analyze, just do what feels good. It’s okay if it creeps back slowly (much to your chagrin). You want to make the change now! And fast! Show them you’ve still got it — you can write words pretty sometimes. And you’re a hustlin’ queen—but that’s not how this works.

You thank whatever shred of foresight you never listened to before a day in your life that led you to booking the most kismet-y vacation and you go on it. You take things slowly. You laugh at the Richard Curtis of it all. You get a massage. You feel guilty at spending the money because you never do. You forgive yourself the indulgence. You make a (self-deprecating) joke to yourself but genuinely laugh.

One step at a time.

It feels preachy at first. Maybe it still is. You forgive yourself that, too, because it’s not about doing the thing perfectly every single time. It’s about allowing yourself the space to get there. To try. To do. To be enough as-is and not have to post it all on the god damn internet all the time.

But maybe you will. It’s a journey, to live and learn, after all. So you jump back into it, blind.

Professional numpty & flibbertigibbet

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