This may be controversial – but I didn’t make any resolutions for 2018.
I didn’t want to.
Setting lofty goals and harsh guidelines (let’s face it, that’s what most resolutions are) fills me with an exorbitant amount of anxiety. The pressure to perform is too much. I worry about failing and disappointing others. In the end, I end up disappointing myself more than anything.
This year, I just want to continue. Keep moving forward.
2017 was a year of hardship and heartbreak (for me and so many other people). But it was also a year of achievements and accomplishments. I’ve spent a good portion of the last few weeks looking back on this year, and previous ones before that, and I have to say, I’m proud. I made serious changes to better my body, my mind, and my heart. I moved back home, got a new job, put myself first. Finally. For once.
And I continued to do that last night. I spent New Year’s Eve with my family – going over to my older sister’s house where we played Mad Libs and drank champagne and colored in coloring books. I squeezed babies and sang terribly. We laughed and ate and took a group photo. It was the perfect end to a less than perfect year.
Imperfect though it was, it was still useful, necessary. If I could label it, I would say that the last year was “The Year of Transition.” It was uncomfortable at times, making me stretch in ways I wasn’t ready for, even if they were necessary. In that discomfort there was growth, real and measurable. Nothing really turned out the way I expected it to, but, truthfully, that seems to be for the better. I’m proud of where I am, grateful for where I was.
At first, it was the Christmas music. I had been so ready to listen to it, but it wasn’t able to hold my interest. It didn’t move me, I didn’t want to hear it. If anything, it bothered me – all the holly and all the jolly – grating in my ears and on my nerves.
Then my appetite started to wane. My usual need to eat every few hours seemingly vanished. My meticulous menus, so often thought out and planned, were replaced by substandard snacks and last-minute meals.
Next, it was an inability to sleep. My body restless, my mind ruminating – going over and over old memories, new worries. My legs began to ache, from the inside out, down deep. Getting comfortable became a fool’s errand.
Without rest my memory began to suffer – previous conversations and commitments began to slip through the cracks, refusing to take root. I’d wander upstairs on a mission to retrieve my glasses, only to forget what it was I wanted the moment I reached the top of the flight.
Not sleeping and not eating led to not being. I didn’t feel like me. I don’t feel like me.
Work is overwhelming – the sounds of the kitchen panic me; too much, too loud. I seek refuge outside – dragging deep breaths among the snow banks. Blinking back tears, counting cigarette butts on the ground to focus on something, anything, else. I look at customers without seeing them, their faces fading into one another. I can smile, of course, and do what I have to do. I serve drinks and run food and deliver checks with a Cheshire grin. Stretched tightly across my face – it feels foreign, forced. It doesn’t reach my eyes. I wonder if they can tell.
It’s hard to describe depression. To explain exactly how it is to be too empty and too full all at once. To make someone understand the feeling of not feeling. The inability to express what’s going on inside for fear that it may get out. Like a weed, growing out of control, where it isn’t wanted. I suppose that’s where the isolation comes from. It’s easier to cancel plans and not return texts than risk being found out, figured out.
But it was figured out. I figured it out. A while ago, in truth. I felt it coming on, having experienced bouts of depression before, both more and less severe. I knew it was coming when I refused to answer my mom’s question of “are you ok?” honestly. I lied to her and to myself. I hoped it was a fluke, a bad day (or week or two or three or four), something explainable, something controllable. There must be a reason, right? Everything has one. A reason why I’m ashamed running into old friends, unable to meet their gaze, hollowly answering questions. A reason I daydream about becoming weightless, like fog, drifting into the air, a crystalline mist – so different from the leaden limbs I’m carrying. A reason for the tears – uncontrollable and unending. A different reason, surely, than the one I’ve known before. Than the one I know now.
But no, there’s not.
I didn’t (and don’t) want to be depressed. Not after a year that has focused so much on finding and pursuing my happiness – adding and subtracting variables in the hopes of solving this difficult equation.
But, I am. I have depression. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s nothing to be afraid of. To quote Amanda Shires, “when you name a beast, sometimes it makes it less bestial.” So, I’ve named it. I’ve accepted it. I’ve vocalized it to family and friends. And now I’m vocalizing it here. In the hopes of helping someone else who may be experiencing the same thing. In the hopes of taming the beast.
I’ll wax far more poetically about the blur of 2017 at a later date, when I’ve recovered from the shock that is this month.
There are positives to this month, no doubt. The official beginning of winter, the Christmas season, birthdays, birthdays, and more birthdays.
There are five birthdays of special import this month.
That’s a lot of cake.
I’m getting a head start by practicing. Baking, frosting, photographing. It all needs work. Messing up my mom’s birthday cake to the point of disrepair and a deluge of tears kinda hammered that point home.
“Hey, can I talk to you for a second?” I shifted in my kitchen clogs, staring at the mixer and not my boss, unable to meet the gaze of his blue eyes.
“Sure,” he said. I left the contents of the mixer and followed him out into the dining room, the lunch rush nearly done. We sat at the community table, his son at the head of if playing a game on his phone, a bowl of half-eaten mac and cheese beside him. I tried to look anywhere but at him, not wanting to say what I was about to.
Taking a deep breath, I stared at my hands, “I’m m—“
“Moving back to Wisconsin,” he finished.
I whipped my head up, tears already springing to my eyes. “…yeah.” I stammered, struggled to understand. ”How did you know?”
“I figured it was about to happen,” he smiled, broad, genuine, his head tilting in the way that was completely unique to him, to Alex. “That, and I saw your house listing. I wasn’t sure at first, I thought I recognized it, and when I got to the picture of the garage and saw my weight bench, I knew.”
Of course, the weight bench. The weight bench he’d given me a few months ago, when I decided to turn my garage into a home gym. When I was still hell bent on remaining where I was, who I was.
“I wasn’t going to tell you until I had accepted an offer on the house. I didn’t know how long it would take. I certainly didn’t think it would happen in a day. I thought it would take a few weeks. Or maybe a few months.” I rambled on. I thought I had more time with him, with this place.
We talked some more. He asked about my plans moving forward, how close I’d be to my new twin nieces, if there was anything he could do. We decided on an end date, when my last shift would be. I fiddled with the corner of my apron. Neither one of us ready to move from that table, that moment. His son’s game continued to whir and whistle. I continued trying to hold back tears. I continued to fail.
“You have a gift, Amanda,” he told me. “You should keep doing this. I know you say you don’t want to own your own business, but you are the kind of person who should. You don’t just make food that tastes good. You make food for people to feel something, to move them. You put emotions into everything you make,” he paused. “I feel like somewhere along the way, I lost that thread.”
The tears were free flowing now. My chin quivered. I tried to wipe away the water. We shared a small smile. Eventually, I returned to my corner of the kitchen, to the contents of that mixer. He returned to his son, to the business he was running. Both of us finishing the day, both of us moving forward, the only way we knew how.
Looking at these pictures is a very bittersweet experience for me.
These are the last food photos I took in my house before I moved.
Back to my family. Back to my roots. Back to Wisconsin.
But to tell you about where I am now, you have to know about where I was then. And where I was was a grocery store parking lot. On a Sunday morning in May I was sent to the store to restock on yet another item we had run out of during a particularly brutal brunch service.
I couldn’t get out of the car. It was too hot. There were too many people. My heart hurt too much. I didn’t want to be there anymore. Not in that parking lot, not in that city, not in that state.
Chest heaving, eyes blurred by tears, I frantically texted my sister-in-law.
“I think I need to move home.”
I ignored the niggling feeling that I was stranding my coworkers, leaving them waiting and wanting. I waited, I wanted. She responded.
“What does your gut tell you?”
My gut was telling me to go home. I had left leeway in the text; wiggle room if she thought I was being dramatic or that I just needed to stick it out. But I knew. Deep down. My gut, my head, my heart were all saying the same thing. In unison. My everything had been trying to tell me for weeks, months. It was time to go home.
And that was it. I finally verbalized what I had been feeling for so long. It was liberating and lightening. All this time I had thought my broken heart had been the result of romance gone wrong, that all I needed was a little more time to adjust, to heal. Truly though, I don’t think my heart was ever going to heal so far from home. There was a brokenness there that wasn’t the result of love lost, but of a loss of self.
I tried. I really did. I tried for over three years in South Carolina. I got a job (an amazing one, actually, best I may ever have). I made friends (close friends, actually, some of the best I may ever have). I fell in love (God willing, not the best I will ever have).
But see, here’s the thing – if it had been right for me, if Greenville had been my place, my home, I don’t think I would have had to try quite so hard. It wouldn’t have been such a task to see the beauty around me, to feel at peace in my heart. Hell, to even function. But I couldn’t. I didn’t. I wasn’t. It was such a task to try and be myself, to find myself. Honestly, the decision to move home was one of the most “Amanda” choices I had made in years. It was right. I knew it, deep down in my bones.