2023-04-30 Cycles of Melancholy and Madness

For months I’ve been trying to puzzle out my problem (ok, ok, years or probably my whole damn life)… but for arguments sake let’s just call it months because that’s how long I’ve been experiencing a growing concern about how I feel on a daily basis. This nagging angst coupled with a deep desire to withdraw from the world isn’t necessarily depression or even sadness but it’s in that realm. 

I’ve gone round and round in my head about it. Literally round and round and each time I feel like I get a little closer to an answer. But it’s not an answer at all. Not to the “what” or “why”, it’s just another possible solution on how to fix the problem—another “experiment” or idea on what to change. 

However fixing a problem without understanding a problem is probably not the best way to go about it. So then I go deeper into analysis of said problem and in that next spin cycle I come away with yet another possible solution, but still no better understanding of the root problem. 

This is all nebulous without examples though. Right? 

So here’s the cycle…  

I get on the treadmill and think about my purpose in life. My self worth. I recognize that not having a job anymore is a factor. You know, a job is something that makes me a contributing member of society AND pays money for myself and my family to live comfortably AND provides an easy answer to the question when asked, “What do you do.” 

I don’t have that anymore. I quit. So what do I have instead? 

A loving husband, financially stable and secure support, and lots of work to do to help maintain our household and ensure our children’s’ success as they become more independent. 

That’s fab. It’s definitely worthy of my time and energy but it doesn’t necessarily translate as well when I think about my purpose and self worth. Nor does it provide an easy answer to the “what do you do” question. 

“What do you do?” 

“I wash dishes and scoop litter boxes and write poetry.” That’s no real answer to anything no matter what the context is. I’m not a writer, because I’m not getting paid for it. I’m not a housewife cuz that’s antiquated and I’d rather have my eyes gouged out than be called that. I’m not even a stay at home mom because the “mom-ing” is really minimalistic these days. Why is it that I feel the answer has to be tied to some salary? 

I suppose I can blame society at large for that but I don’t. It’s a “me” problem. Definitely something I should be able to solve on my own right? 

So to solve it, I become my own boss. I create goals for myself, personally and professionally. I declare I AM a writer. I start a nonprofit and declare I AM an editor. I increase my daily step count goal from 10k to 15k because I can. I should have the time. I’m going to crush it. 

I’m going to lose 5lbs and feel better about the way my clothes fit. I’m going to write a poem a week and revise/submit at least twice a week. I’m going to maintain 50 open submissions. 

I send poems out into the world and yes, totally crush that goal cuz now I’m at 75. Im going to be a good daughter and visit my aging parents once a week despite the sour history. Im going to be a good mom and help my kids get over that next hurdle. 

I’m managing a team of 20+ volunteers. We’re getting lots of work into the journal and establishing our name. I make a goal to make our nonprofit financially stable and something people are proud to volunteer for and to publish at. Things are going great… I’m crushing all that too.  

I return every email in a timely way. I think about it night and day. I might not hit that 15k step goal everyday but that’s a stretch goal so I let it go, 

I don’t write poems because I’m not inspired to write. I’m too busy to write. I was going to read a book but just can’t seem to get into one. I still enjoy doing the elliptical machine while watching the bachelor and master chef though. That brings me joy. 

I take a break sending out my own work and revise my strategy. I’m only going to send to reputable places. I do my research. I have a killer spreadsheet to keep track of everything. My sub tally drops below 50 and I let it go. I don’t need that goal anyhow because now it’s about quality and not quantity.  

Things with the journal get to a stable point, but damn, it’s a lot of work. And there’s not much fulfillment in it. My design person quits and I take over art and design. My social media person quits and I take over social media. I absolutely hate social media. I don’t just hate it—I hate hate it! 

My co-founder quits which is a welcome change because now I don’t have to dance around that co-anything nonsense and just be the boss and make decisions and move the organization forward. 

I decide my current personal goals aren’t working and I try to revise all that. Make things more reasonable. I change my daily step goal to 5000 so I get a star everyday and don’t feel like a failure when I miss the goal. I’d have to be on death’s door not to get 5000 steps a day. Right? 

I change my diet again and am able to lose a couple pounds but it’s not sustainable because I’m seriously addicted to sugar. After two good months (January and February) I throw my hands up and resume my normal eating behaviors (and gain back all the weight I lost plus a few more pounds). 

“Work” on the journal starts to take its toll on me and despite having more help than I’ve ever had (still no designer and no social media person), it still takes up half my days and I begin to really resent it. What are those intangible rewards again? Why am I doing it? Why am I not fulfilled by it? All good questions and I really don’t have answers. 

I get rejection after rejection for my own writing and follow through on all the public appearances I’ve previously committed to. It causes my social anxiety to spike. I start daydreaming about quitting everything. 

That’s not true. I started daydreaming about total withdrawal months ago, but now my brain is actively engaged in strategizing what and how to make it a reality. 

Did I mention my mom has cancer, my dad’s wife and his brother die and now he’s alone, and I have frequent flare ups of chronic headaches/migraines? Did I mention I don’t sleep well ever and wake up every day feeling like I have nothing to look forward to? Did I mention I hate the way I look when I look at myself in the mirror? 

And the rejections keep coming and I say I’m going to write a poem but just can’t. I double down… no… triple-down on sending my work out. Because doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity and I’m clearly insane. I’m now at 100+ open submissions out in the world. It’s insanity but at least I feel productive.

Except that I don’t. I don’t feel productive. I feel like I’m wasting time and procrastinating the hard things and ashamed of how things are going. I begin to resist and resent everything and everyone. 

I make a plan to suspend journal operations for a quarter. Just a quarter, to regroup and revise our operations. And so I can have a break. Good gravy. I’ve been hitting it hard for 3 years and I think I’ve earned a break. 

I think, damn.. if I could just find someone I trust to do the social media stuff so I don’t have to think about it, it would all be so much easier. But nothing is ever what it seems and that’s probably another trick of the mind. 

I’m not agreeing to do any more public speaking, so that’s one good thing. It’s easy because people are quick to forget you. Nobody’s even asking. The last person who asked me to appear at an event was the president of the Nebraska Poetry Society. It was their tryouts for a spot to go to Nationals for slam poetry. She asked how I wanted to be introduced and I said “just keep it casual, low key. Just say I’m there to represent the journal and will be interviewing the winner.” I’d rather not be introduced at all. That’s not what I signed up for when I agreed to take on starting an online literary publication. 

In addition to a designer and social media person, now I need a front woman. Someone who can attend events and represent us. The urge to do this feels key. This desire to withdraw seems necessary…. It feels imperative. 

So that’s the cycle. That pretty much sums up the going round and round and how each rotation just drags me deeper into a space of unknowing, of existential crisis, of despair. 

Oh the drama. /sway and swoon

I tell my friend Sam and she says she thinks that I just need to get a real job. Something that’s just for me where I can use my skills and make my own money. Right or wrong, that might be the “experiment” that’s next up in the cycle. But I’d probably die trying to do that and run the journal so I have to figure that all out first. Yup. That’s what I need to do. Time to write up that proposal. 

Time to shrug off the melancholy, melodrama, and lack of answers and begin again…

Wish me luck, 

~Miss SugarCookie

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