When I am melancholy
by Jon Kay
When I am melancholy a word I prefer to "depressed", the last thing I want is advice. The first thing I want is for the other person to tell me a story about their own experience. In the first person. With plenty of “I statements”.
In my own case, I have had a very gradual descent into isolation and loneliness. A big part of this was physical. Starting with my wife leaving me, and receiving divorce papers as my first big clue she was gone, I started a pretty massive descent. I didn’t know where to go, so I went nowhere. I watched TV.
Gradually my activities took the form of survival. I became almost one hundred percent sedentary. This started its own vicious cycle. My weight gain took off with a velocity I could scarcely imagine. From obese to morbidly obese.
The obesity, in turn, compounded the arthritis in my knee. Visually, catching glimpses of myself in the mirror, I saw a freak who most people would decide to avoid just on general principles. If I met the guy in the mirror, I would avoid him too.
Pain spread, by compensation, to the other knee. Now the only way I could shift from a horizontal to vertical position was extreme pain. My image of myself is that of a young man who delighted in taking my German Sheppard on two hour walks every day. Very quickly the point came where I was incapable of doing fifteen minutes.
Now to face the ugliest reality: How am I going to get the basics done? Like laundry, shopping, putting out the trash. What happens when I can’t even go to the toilet independently any more.
Still I have my mind. But there was no reason to get out of bed in the morning; and no quality to what happened after that.
My first tree limb to grab as I am swept down stream in the torrent is some magic ideas I came upon many years ago, on an LSD trip: “accept - open - let go”. I also discovered, the hard way, that I could get no mileage out of the dark/negative side. The fashionable angst that used to work so well in college… No one wanted to hear it any more.
This is not completely accurate. I could wring out a little sympathy by appealing to the pity of others. But it was a pretty thin gruel. Short lived.
One question that was helpful: What was I born into this world to do? Have I done it? Who am I, really?
This state of affairs has turned around to some extent. Still a fur long piece to go. Another great milestone has been discovering my one true exercise. Exercise really helps, as you can imagine. The trick is getting motivated enough to go out the door and do it.
I discovered that aqua jogging was IT. On multiple levels. First off, getting into comfortable warm water… and it must be comfortable and welcoming… at the pool of the Athletic Club, took the load bearing off the painful joints.
Instantly, with a floatation under each arm, I could do two hours of activity again. I discovered other dividends. If I came with friendly attitude vibes I could strike up conversations with the other regulars, breaking the social isolation. I gave myself carte blanch PERMISSION. Conversation made the time fly by much faster.
Usually I hate the boring repetition of exercise.
There was another dividend. After two hours aqua jogging in the pool I felt fresh and new. I started appreciating little things more. Like a flock of birds, or leaves blowing in the wind.
And I felt more like eating tasty fresh food as opposed to convenient junk. Comfort food still has its place. However… now I ask myself, “Why am I eating if I am not the least bit hungry?”
I have started shedding some weight; and recovering some humor. Granted it started with “gallows humor”. To my way of thinking, dark humor may be the birthplace of humor. And I have been getting some signals from the external world that I am “going in the right direction.”
Expectations are like land mines. Thinking we are “entitled to a happy old age” can be a real killer. Maybe we could assemble a space for first person story telling with a ground rule against condescension.
Ego has a way of popping in there, despite our best intentions. I know that I barely keep a lid on my own “show off”.
Oh what a good boy am I!
Famous Last Words
Wendy: Kudos to you, Jon! Lots of life left to live...
Wendy's other site... because Aging Matters!