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Tiny Revolutions №101: Interstitial
+ Notes on five years of Tiny Revolutions
In the months and years leading up to my mom’s passing, I thought a lot about her transition — that it was imminent, how it might go down, the ways I’d miss her, what it might be like when she died, and so on. And I knew that even though I was doing as much as I could to stay connected to her and be present with the reality of her dwindling time on earth, there were going to be a million ways that I would feel after she was gone. That no matter how much processing and letting go I did, there would inevitably stuff I hadn’t anticipated.
My mom and I were not close in the way that many mothers and daughters are. We loved and respected each other and had what one might call a cordial relationship, but she wasn’t the person I called in a low moment. Or a high one either, for that matter. We were more like buds who chatted on the phone and wished each other well. So when I lost her I didn’t lose my best friend. It just wasn’t like that.
Even so, I have to say that in the months since her passing, what has surprised me the most is how absolutely *unmoored* I have felt. Like, we’re talking prime existential crisis territory here.
Waking up in the morning and having no idea what I’m doing or why, or how I ended up in the life I have now. Ordering too much delivery. Crying openly on the streets of Los Angeles during my many long walks. Bumming cigarettes for the dopamine hits. Carrying crystals around in my purse because why the fuck not. It’s been rough.
I’d forgotten the way grief has a timeless quality to it. You grieve the person or event you’re grieving, but somehow all the other people and things you’ve grieved in the past (and are still grieving on some level) are there as well. It’s not just my mom’s absence that I’m mourning, it’s all the deep wounds that will never heal. The disappointments, the broken hearts, the could have beens, the people I still love who are no longer in my life for one reason or another.
It’s been a lot. And I’ve wanted to write to you about it but have felt just too low.
I’ve also been really busy. Before she died I committed to two big undertakings this spring — serving as caretaker here atwhile our head priest is in Japan on a 90 day monastic training, and then a gig as Head Editor of an ambitious editorial project for Foster, my writing collective. And of course some other client work and stuff I do already.
I love this work but I’ve had to drag myself through much of it. It’s been one of those situations where I didn’t realize until too late that it was just way too much.
I have the people pleaser’s terrible tendency to overcommit to doing things for other people at my own expense — something I inherited from, gulp, my mother. (Mindfuck!)
So yeah, anyway, big time black days over here. Many bright spots, too, though. The deep and restorative conversations with friends and family members, the support from my coworkers, the great lungfuls of jasmine and other spring flowers on my walks, the occasional moments during meditation where it’s obvious that everything truly is perfect just as it is.
But overall it’s been kinda like living under a low ceiling. Contracted, constricted, small panics everywhere.
I’m past the worst of it now, but sometime in early May it became clear to me that I was in a depressive episode. Which is ironic, because this month marks the five year anniversary of this newsletter, which is the last time I was in a depressive episode.
It’s funny how no matter how many times you’ve been through it before, it takes you a minute to put it together. In this case it took me having one really good day where I didn’t feel like I was moving through life with a heavy weight on my chest to realize I needed to make taking better care of myself an immediate priority.
So I dropped a big client. I scaled back on Zen Center duties. I scheduled a trip to the desert with friends. I collected as many hugs as I could and made more of an effort to spend time with people who get me. I wasn’t drinking much but I stopped entirely, forever this time. (I also stopped with the random cigarettes, you will no doubt be happy to hear.) And things are slowly getting better.
As I wrote about depression in the first issue of this newsletter in 2018,
If you are a person who is wired delicately, as I like to put it, at some point you have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be dealing with it for the rest of your life. Because the minute you stop dealing with it is the minute it comes back, sometimes even worse than before.
As I put it recently to a friend, to stay well, you just have to keep getting back on the horse. And as my friend replied, “that horse requires a fuckton of hay.”
So yeah, I’ve found myself in the position of having to get back on the steady diet of hay. Which I probably should have realized would be extra in a time of grieving, but that’s neither here nor there. Like I said, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Friends, I don’t think I have more to say right now than that I needed to send this newsletter to break the seal, because, as I also said in the first issue, writing this is hay for me. I started Tiny Revolutions because I knew that feeling alone in dealing with depression and anxiety is a destructive illusion, and I wanted to be a voice out there saying hey, I go through it, too. It’s normal. We get low and then we get better, and if I can get through it, everyone else can, too.
Thanks for being here for five years. Five years!
p.s. Thank you to all of you who sent such lovely notes in response to my last newsletter about my mom. I am embarrassed that I didn’t reply to many of them, but I also figured you’d understand. I read and appreciated each one.
p.p.s. The editorial project I mentioned launched this week! You can read about it here — it’s an experimental magazine about the wild future of decentralized media and creative collaboration. If you like reading or thinking about future of media type stuff, you might like it — it’s ambitious, weird, interesting work, and I’m really proud of it.
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