projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 27.
If you added up all the time I spent driving in SW Portland and it’s neighboring suburbs over the last couple decades it wouldn’t come close to all the time I spent out there this week. I drove to and through and around all those places that are usually just signs on the highway: Beaverton, Forest Grove, Multnomah Village, Bethany.
A surge of new massage patients were referred to me this week when I started working with a second hospice organization. Suddenly, this work that I’d only dipped my toe in back in November, has become a full-blown job. While this might have gotten me flustered at one point, it all felt so perfectly like where I needed to be that it was nothing but joy. The patients were all lovely and my work with them felt both well-received and useful.
I might have let all the driving get to me, but I decided to cut myself some slack in terms of getting lost and allowing time to explore. So what if this cuts into the already reduced per hour rate I am making. This new adventure is more about purpose than it is profits. So I stopped at the McMenamins that was next to one of the assisted living centers and was treated to one of the first magnolias to finally find their flower. I took the longer route home down TV Highway or maybe that part of it is just Canyon Road, names I hear regularly on traffic reports but had no idea where they actually were. This could have been awful, but I was enjoying my music and was enjoying seeing all the old strip clubs, tire stores and Chinese restaurants. It was nice to wander through that old dullness compared to the dullness of new strip-mall routes.
This surge of new clients and new parts of town was about all I could wrap my head around this week. It was all the newness I needed because at the same time I was succumbing to the first real feelings of depression that I’ve had in a very long time.
Ask anyone around here and they’ll say it’s been a rough winter. That can refer to weather or illness or politics. All three have hit me pretty hard this year. This week I added the wildness of peri-menopausal hormones into the mix and it knocked me for a real loop.
By mid-week, I’d already bawled about a car crash my boyfriend just missed getting into, our current government’s seething hatred of everyone and everything but the rich, white businessmen of this country, and these lines of poetry that open Safia Elhillo’s book The January Children:
verily everything that is lost will be / given a name & will not come back / but will live forever
So I didn’t submit myself to more inevitable tears at a reading I’d been eager to attend the week before. I also didn’t manage to finish the single load of stubborn laundry that was currently sitting in the dryer, still not completely dry. After work, I sat on the couch for hours and hours and hours not caring about the cat hair covering me from head to toe. I peeked at the news, then pushed it away. I swore bitterly at the temperature and the unrelenting rain while loathing worked its way from the inside out through my lackluster diet, weakening muscle and tired skin.
The tears aren’t anything new and I almost revel in these bouts of emotional release now, taking them as part of a necessary balance. A bit of winter sluggishness is also par for the course. But then I woke up Friday in such a deep depression, I kind of scared myself. It was the kind of darkness that makes it almost impossible to leave the covers. Every thought was full of disaster and loneliness and desperation. I know plenty of people who face this kind of thing on a regular basis and I was reminded of how fucking hard it is. I was also reminded of how lucky I am.
Something happened mid-day, some silent, internal shift of hormones that suddenly wiped the misery away in one quick scrub. It was truly baffling to witness the instantaneous transformation from hard, physical ache to cheerful ease. I am in awe of the way our bodies work. And I’m both grateful to be on the lighter side of things now and more prepared for the shifts that will come in the future.
Nothing is static. As I finish writing this, the sun is peeking in and out of the clouds and I just pulled a petal from this tree out of my hair: