I’ve been trying to write this post for 5 weeks. Time keeps slipping through my fingers, like the drifter I’ve become. The concentration required to gather my thoughts is too great, so my thoughts remained scattered and unvoiced. That’s depression for ya – the art of being physically alive without actually living.
I don’t know why this is such a hard post to write. I do know that these two events sparked something in me that has been dormant for many many months as I navigated the worst of this depression: hope.
That is worth writing about.
5 weeks ago I had supper at P-dot‘s. It was the first time I saw her, or her family, in 2018. #badfriend.
I met P-dot back in uni. My first semester as a full-time student, following tumultuous years dropping out of engineering, putting myself through night school, working full time. I didn’t like the accounting students I’d met thus far. They wore suits for fun, and only seemed to possess a wardrobe of white, grey and black. Then I saw P-dot, across the classroom. She was sitting next to the window, in a home-made knit sweater, with a purple reusable coffee mug that had butterflies on it. I saw her and I knew: she and I were gonna be friends. At the end of class I introduced myself to her and asked her to be on my team for the term project. Months later she admitted she’d had the same feeling about me, and had been planning to do the exact same thing but I beat to her to it.
When I first met P-dot, her son Mackster was a toddler, still wobbly on his chubby baby legs. I fell in love with him. Auntie Vanilla spent many evenings chez P-dot, getting my cuddles with Mackster, reading him a goodnight story, before talking late into the night with P-dot and her hubby, bottles of wine as hydration.
Behold Mackster at the age 3-4. We were making cookies.
6 years ago Mackster got himself a punk of a little sister, Bee. The monthly bedtime story ritual continued on each of my visits. But my monthly visits became bimonthly, and then quarterly as P-dot and I struggled to balance career, social lives and drastically divergent lifestyles.
In early December 2016, I invited P-dot and fam to my place for supper. It was the first time ever we didn’t have supper at their place. Bee and Mackster were so excited to see where Auntie Vanilla lived. Mackster and I talked about his studies, what he liked best about school: reading. Now. My Ma loved to read. She never gave a present to anybody that didn’t include at least one book. Good books, any age group. When I moved out, I had to give away the vast majority of my book collection that I’d accumulated over the years, but I kept 2 shelves of children’s to young adults fiction because they were so unique and solid. I was sure they would come in handy one day, possibly with my own family. Not all books stay in print forever, and most of these books had serious merit without being literary classics; they’d shaped my character as all good books must. When Mackster told me he loved to read, I invited him to pick any 4 books from my dusty collection. He picked all of the Roald Dahl books he’d not heard of before, eyes sparkling. Not to be left out, Bee picked out a bedtime story book. Both kids solemnly nodded that they understood that Auntie Vanilla was loaning them these books, it was important they take good care of them.
That was December 2016. 2017 flew by, kids were always busy, away at sleepovers when I’d visit, which wasn’t nearly often enough.
March 18, 2018. I finally made it to P-dot’s. Merry Christmas, P. Happy New Year! Oye. I hadn’t even finished taking off my winter coat, Mackster came bounding down the stairs, out of breath, and shoved something into my hands, chattering all the time, “Vanilla here you go, I have them…” Slow down kid. Deep breaths, what’s going on? And then I saw. He had my books. He was returning them to me, because that was the first most important order of business. He wanted me to notice how they were still in perfect shape, just like when I loaned them to him.
I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten I’d ever loaned them. This kid, who hadn’t seen me in 15 months, clearly hadn’t. He remembered so well, nothing else, not me even taking off my coat, could occur, before he’d discharged his library debt with me. He thanked me at least 20 times, he’d really enjoyed them, had read them many times, but was now reading *insert some other series here*.
Bee waltzed by, to give me a shy hug. I told her I really liked her outfit, and P-dot told me that it was her favorite dress, that she had gotten all dressed up especially because I was coming over.
15 months I couldn’t make time to see these kids. 15 months, and yet I still mattered to them. And let’s be honest, for children, the notion of time is a little wonky. 15 months for a child is close to a dog year. Or so I thought. Wrongly.
On January 7, 2018, my dance school held an open house. Loads of fun. There was a cute little girl who accompanied her mama who was checking out the school. Girl must have been 10ish. She was very well behaved, staying quietly to the side. I invited her to join me in some of the tasks I was doing for the school, which she did with gusto. She stayed close to me that day, helping me out, and always down for a high five. She made me smile.
I’ve since see her mama in kizomba class.
Then, on a nothing special Monday, April 2nd 2018, as I walked into my kuduro class, who do I see? Cutie and her mama, working up a sweat and busting out their dance moves. I was so surprised and happy to see Cutie, it must have showed. Before I’d even taken off my coat (I swear, this seems to be a recurring event in my life!) Cutie had bailed on the choreography to launch herself at me with a powerful tackle-hug. It took me a second to master my rush of emotions to be able to hug back the little bundle of energy whose arms were wrapped around me, waist level.
I had a happy smile plastered on my face the entire class. Cutie busted out all her moves, but always kept an eye out to see if I was smiling because of her dance. Child, yes. You got the moves, and you make me happy. You get all the smiles and all the high fives.
These two incidents, with these two different sets of children, humbled me. In both cases, my throwaway actions had made a difference to them. My actions mattered to them. I mattered to them.
This brutal depression had convinced myself that I was worthless, and that which is worthless does not matter. These children, these wonderful sweet children, taught me that nope, that is not true. That makes me wanna fight this suffocating shadow. For them.
Mackster has more books he needs to read. Cutie has more dance steps to learn.
I have so much to learn from them.
Recap of this most recent, scary, depression that tried to blot me out:
- Moment of reckoning
- Phase 1 feels like capitulation
- Phase 2 feels like consternation
- Phase 3 feels like humility
- Phase 4 feels like resignation