Looking Back to Move Forward

This is the next installment in the ongoing saga of Me, a topic which (at the moment) I actually don’t find that interesting, but it seems important to share with those of you who have also struggled (or are struggling) with depression…if only so’s you know you’re not alone on the High Seas of Funk. (And to remind me that I’m not, either.) Like all good daytime drama, if you don’t have time to watch today’s episode, you can pick it back up three weeks or three months from now and it won’t take you long to catch up. (Oh my God! Jack & Jennifer are back together? Again?)

It’s crazy to realize how profoundly things which have happened in one’s past shape one’s present. I don’t even have that glamorously bad of a past, but still the bad bits have managed to get their sticky fingers all over the Play-Doh of my life and leave a disturbing, syrupy-brown residue. (I was one of those kids who was meticulous about not tainting the pure, salty goodness of the Play-Doh by mixing it with other substances, so this realization is doubly upsetting.) My therapist is helping me recognize that while I thought I was over the bad bits, had worked them out and made my peace with them, really I’ve just swept the interior fallout under the rug. We all know — Pop Psychology Generation that we are — that ignoring pain is about as smart as blow-drying while soaking in the tub, but apparently my Emotional Intelligence skipped that day of class. (Or leaving the hurt unexamined seemed like the best option at the time, given the thorny situation and my kid brain.)

Whatever my reasons for suppressing the suffering (and I’m quite sure those reasons will not be allowed to rest unplumbed by my zealous therapist), suppress I did. And quite well, might I add, since at the end of the day, I am my mother’s daughter and we don’t like to do things half-assed. But though I did my level best to tamp it down and cement over the evidence, the boo-boos have lurked with their viscid fingers and sneaky ways, sullying each new brightly-colored sculpture of me that I make until I have to scrap that one and start again. It’s taxing work, re-making oneself all the time, and I think I just got tired of it (hence, depression), while still panicky that what’s left won’t be worth keeping (hence, anxiety).

Here’s my point: the past makes us who we are. Not completely, of course, but more than we’d like to think. We’d like to believe — in our hyper-individualized, choice-driven, Protestant-American consumer culture — that we’re in the driver’s seat with the irresistible force of our wills, but the truth is that our “free” will isn’t that free…at least not until we’ve taken loads of time and energy to discover what unhealed wounds and unanswered questions and unmet needs are navigating the drive, whispering or shouting or crying directions from the back seat, managing to make themselves heard even over the road-trip playlist we’ve got cranked to 11.

Which is what I’m doing now. I’ve pulled the car over and asked the crowd in the back to please disembark. Let’s stop here for coffee, I say. Bring your maps. Let’s talk about where we’re going and why, and who might be good company for the journey. Let’s chat about why you think secondary roads are better than the Interstate, and why you always suggest putting the top down in the rain. I don’t understand why you want to try a Thelma & Louise (just once), and I think your hope that this car will fly is naive and irrational. (But I still respect you and affirm your right to be a little crazy.) Let’s just sit here awhile and get to know each other before we get back in the car. Then maybe we can get somewhere and enjoy each other along the way, instead of driving around in circles screaming at each other to pass the turkey jerky.

25 thoughts on “Looking Back to Move Forward

  1. Grammy

    Yeah, sweety, it’s like that. And I know how difficult it is to gather the energy to articulate your thoughts when they’re so dismal that you’re pretty sure the response will be mass suicide. Thank you for putting it into words. There are more of us who relate than you would guess. It’s just that when we’re in that dark place, we’re very, very quiet. Love you, darling girl.

  2. gretchen

    Aly you are expressing yourself so beautifully. I am always so enraptured with how you create imagery and paint a word picture. Man, I know you’re in a hard place, but your gifts are still shining through. Thank you for sharing with us. I love you.

  3. harmonicminer

    One of my all-time favorite comedy skits is where the guy stands up and starts reciting, “I am the captain of my fate….”, etc., and before the end he’s dissolving into a coughing fit and has to be carried off the stage.

    I have free will. I DO! (sound of stamping feet) I DO!

  4. aly hawkins Post author

    Phil – I’ve tried the foot-stamping thing. It’s quite empowering for about 2 and a half seconds, until the crew in the backseat burst out laughing and throw car snacks at my head.

  5. Paul

    Wow… This is a keeper — wonderful, insightful writing on a tough subject. We’re with you every mile of the way, and want to hear more about the trip as it unfolds

  6. june

    As Gretchen said, your skillz are shining through!

    I’d enjoy seeing this post written in Dr. Seuss style. (Remember when I said reading “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” made me think of you? I’ve refrained from quoting it here to you as I’d prefer you were willing to speak to me again.)

    Whatever the non-annoying version of “hang in there” is, do that!

  7. aly hawkins Post author

    June – You realize, I’m sure, that I now have no choice but to Dr. Seuss this thing.

    All the yous who sit in back
    And all the yous who whine for snacks
    And all the yous who love to go
    ‘Round in circles, ‘gainst the flow…
    And don’t forget the yous who sit
    And cry and night or throw a fit
    The you at seven
    Or at eleven
    Or sweet sixteen
    (Not a beauty queen)
    The you at thirty who’s starting to feel
    That maybe emotion is quite a big deal
    More than you ever had thunk it before
    ‘Cause ignoring the funk seemed like less of a chore.
    But…surprise! Ignoring is only a myth:
    Feelings need feeling or they get really pithed!
    So all the yous you’ve been shooing and shushing
    And hushing and crushing and flushing…
    Let ‘em out! Let ‘em shout! Let ‘em pout!
    Ask ‘em to tea (or whatever they’d like), but for heaven’s sake:
    Just let them be.

    Consider my depression Seussified.

  8. june

    The really charming and dare I say, sublime (in a Seussy kind of way) thing about it is that this much:

    All the yous who sit in back
    And all the yous who whine for snacks
    And all the yous who love to go
    ‘Round in circles, ‘gainst the flow…
    And don’t forget the yous who sit
    And cry at night or throw a fit

    could apply to me and my life with my tots at any given moment of most any given day. (And yes, these same darlin’ tots have nearly sent me into the land of funk a time or two.)

    And again I say, WHOOOO-HOOOO to you!

    Oh, and the great thing about “Dr. Alyeuss” is that no one will ever know how to pronounce it…so you can start off future NPR interviews by correcting the befuddled newscaster, which will make you appear both exotic and gracious all at once! (Not that you aren’t genuinely exotic and gracious, but it’s handy to have a nom do plume that can provide such impressions immediately, yes?)

  9. aly hawkins Post author

    That’s funny…I read it as only two syllables – much more exotic: Al-YOOZ. Could be French-Algerian?

    Thanks, ‘rise. It’s actually pretty embarassing how pleased with myself I was when I wrote this.

  10. michael lee

    The beauty of the seussifying is how easy it sounds …. once it’s actually been written!

    “But…surprise! Ignoring is only a myth:
    Feelings need feeling or they get really pithed!”

    Best … couplet … ever!

  11. june

    I’m going to tell all my mommy friends that an expert I’m in touch with, Dr. Alyeuss, says it’s ok to say “pithed” in front of one’s children. I can hardly wait to start incorporating it into my vocab…give me about 7 seconds and one of my children will do something that will justify using it…

    Aly, this really is so very genius. You should be proud! I hope you’ve printed off a copy for your portfolio!

  12. corey

    Look at that, Al. You stumbled head first into your calling. Like falling down the stairs and landing on your feet… to be met with only the standing O and all 10′s from the judges.

    So here’s the pitch… nursery rhymes for depressed adults. In some way, it all goes back to childhood anyway. Why not meet foks there to doctor their needs where it’s most appropriate?

    Who’s with me? And by “with me” I mean “with Aly”.


    *check… check…*

    is this thing on?

  13. june

    Or, how about a writing biz where Aly Seussifies ANY written piece?! Wouldn’t it be gobs more fun to read Seussy instructions for furniture assembly (especially children’s furniture)….and how about an Aleussified version of Proverbs? Ok, maybe not Scripture, but in the spirit of taking something far too far, I’m now wondering what Dr. Alyeuss could do with the Song of Solomon, given her familiarity with the material and all.

    (Please Aly, don’t be pithed at us…it’s just that you’re so good…we can’t help it.)

  14. michael lee

    dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty,

  15. aly hawkins Post author

    I can’t do it, guys. I’ve tried for about 20 minutes, and I got nothin’ that will make it past the censors. The first line kept coming out as

    My lover is mine and I am his
    But we make our living in the porn biz.

    Sensuality just doesn’t lend itself to rhyming, unless you go to The Bad Place. I think I’ll stick with emotional breakdowns and leave the adult entertainment industry to the professionals.

  16. june

    Aly, I’m thinking of you today…I’m having a hangnail version of what you’re going through (see “Whoa.” at http://blogmamas.blogspot.com/ if you want…but ya don’t hafta.) and while my self analysis is surely minescule by comparison, nonetheless, it has brought you to my mind and I wanted you to know that. This lil’ blog community is a funny thing…I find myself thinking of people I’ve never met, wondering how they’re doing with any number of things in their lives, praying for them and generally feeling care, concern and interest. How unexpected. Who knew a mere blog could create such a thing? I don’t know if it’s a comfort or not, but there’s a homemaker 6 hours north of you who, while folding laundry, chasing children and cooking endless meals, is also caring about you my dear. I hope this day brings you some light and joy.

    (Oh, and Blog Mamas is somewhat lame. At best, it is sometimes cute. A friend started it. I’m trying to be friendly by writing for it occasionally.)

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