There is a phenomenon that occurs at least once a year in Portland, Oregon: Freezing Rain. Basically: it snows, then warms up just enough to turn into slush and rain, then freezes overnight and sometimes for days at a time and everything gets layered with a thick coating of heavy ice.
Somewhere between the joy of light fluffy snow and the depression of endless rainy days, there are these strange ice storms which literally shut down the city. Schools close. Public Transit stops. Businesses shut down. People stay inside. Because, in snow you can put on chains and drive, or walk to the park with your kids and your sleds and enjoy a snow day.
But Ice Storms.
Even with chains it is hard to get around. The streets are covered in ice, and it becomes very risky to try and go anywhere. Tree branches get entombed in ice, like giant icicles creaking under the weight of frozen water and just waiting to come crashing down to the world below. The sidewalks glisten, like a freshly cleaned ice skating rink after the Zamboni has done it’s duty, awaiting the prideful who think they have what it takes to run on ice.
It is a strange phenomenon. It is cold, isolating and lonely.
It is a little like getting sick. Your world shuts down and you are forced to stop normal routines and sit with yourself. Whatever fluid “self” you had been ignoring or disregarding or unaware of because of your busy life, now coagulates and rises to the surface and you are forced to acknowledge its existence. Like the ice outside, your life becomes frozen, like a photograph, and there is nothing to do but sit and stare at it.
This stillness is a good thing, for the most part, if only for a while. These ice storms are not that bad, unless they last for weeks, at which point one might go mad from the lack of movement and activity. But in small doses they are essential for being able to slow down, stop, and focus on the person who dwells in your body. The voice which is used to congratulate, console, condemn, and conjure. The facial expressions we have mastered but are completely unaware of (which our children read on a daily basis). The body language as well; the sighing, the slouching, the sagging, the defeat.
The “D” Word
It has a name, you know? This invisible poison that only becomes visible when we stop and look for it. It’s name is: Depression.
I know, what a dirty word. What a downer!
“I am not depressed!”, I know YOU aren’t. But I think I am, and you know what? It’s okay. It happens.
It happens when, for 9 years you have been in constant movement; literally and figuratively. Having kids, moving states, changing careers, having more kids, moving states again, having another kid, moving states again, working alone, volunteering, working, working, working.
Movement. Constant, movement.
Have you ever lost yourself in activity? Music. Shows and Movies. Facebook. Roller coasters. Long drives. Painting. Puzzles. Video games. MOVEMENT.
Because, god only knows what will settle and appear when we stop and the dust clears.
The Great Melt
Nobody does it on purpose.
Well, I didn’t. I just kept swimming. Which is good, for a while. Until the ice storms of our lives occur, these strange phenomenons, which unveil the soft underbelly of our constant moving selves, and we are pierced by the realization that we are sad, we are lonely, we are getting older and the reality of our irrelevance becomes paramount, and we weep or just stare into the void searching for meaning and significance.
But eventually, as I have learned countless times in my life, the ice melts. Warmer weather (health) returns and we start moving again. And it is then that we have choices: Ignore the revelations and let the constant movement of day-to-day life cover any track of that dirty little “D”-word, or take a snapshot and carry it with us, in remembrance of what was revealed in the ice, who we really are under all the layers and the reality we carry with us beyond the facade of normalcy.
With this entry, I choose the latter.
The ice is almost melted… the movement is returning. Here’s to a new beginning.