The Dog Days of Late Winter

The glittery, distant urban sprawl, taken at an overlook spot in my area.

There’s something dreadful about the way the latter part of winter drags on. The weeks are filled with seemingly interminable strings of grey days, even when it doesn’t actually rain or snow. The trees are still bare, allowing the skyline to shimmer temptingly in ways it can’t when covered up with foliage. The light in the backyard behind mine is able to make its way through the woods separating the properties and into my room like a dim distant spotlight into my mind, exposing me to myself in a way I don’t like.

Invariably, this time of year fills me with restlessness and I find myself browsing apartment rental websites. I’m not even seeking someplace sunnier or warmer, just contemplating making a new life closer to the shore or to my distantly flung friends (despite feeling guilt about the idea of leaving my local loved ones). But such a change feels impossible to make when I can’t even afford to rent alone in the area where I currently live on my slightly better than average salary, and when I know the housing situations elsewhere are just as dire.

I’ve read so many times about how in decades past people would just decide to move someplace new with nothing but a little money and a few possessions, but I don’t know that such a thing is possible most of the time anymore. Life has too many prerequisites. People need jobs to get experience, but can’t get hired because they don’t have experience. Landlords want proof that you’re employed, but local candidates who can start immediately are often more desirable than the person who has to delay their start date to relocate.

A friend once told me that if I want a new job I just need to make a list of places where I want to work and call and ask if they’re hiring. That isn’t advice that particularly works for my field, but I wish I had that kind of courage, that kind of audacity, the chutzpah that this same friend has told me I have. I wish I knew how to just go for the things I want without talking myself out of them by telling myself the reasons they won’t work. I want my life to change, but feel so overwhelmed by not knowing how to place my first step that I just stand still. Meanwhile the world keeps rushing by, leaving me feeling left behind, and stagnant, and choking on the recycled air in the little bubble I’ve created for myself. Caution served me relatively well in my 20s, but now that I’m in my 30s it feels like just another bad habit to break, if only I were any good at doing that kind of thing.

I don’t know where to go from here, only that I want to. I don’t know how to change from here, only that I need to.

Alone in the Storm

“Does anyone else have something they bought recently that they really like?” asked my friend B while we were on a group video call that was theoretically supposed to be a session of D&D, but which had devolved, as it so often did, into extended chit chat — in this case a game of show and tell. I had recently received a small print that I’d bought from one of my favorite artists. It took several months to reach me, traveling from Finland by the slowest untrackable mail. Even knowing from the outset that it would take a long time to reach my hands, I had to have it. I was drawn in by the oceanic imagery, because nautical stuff is one of my things, but also I looked at the girl alone in a tempest, on a narrow perch in a storm tossed sea, and saw myself. Melodramatic, but true. But when I showed it to my friends and explained that, B joked, “You’re not alone, you have us! You have to send it back.”

But somehow I do often feel quite alone. I’m a bit of the odd duck of my family, the only daughter, bookish and introverted. I also sometimes feel like a tangential person in my friend groups. Yes, I do think I am well liked and appreciated. I consider my close friendships to be solid, and I am grateful for that. But sometimes I do feel like everyone else’s connections with each other are stronger than they are with me. I get the sensation of being on the outside looking in.

I know that I do it to myself, though. When I can’t see friends in person I tend not to reach out as much. This is partly because if I’m not hearing from a friend I always just assume they’re busy living their lives and I don’t want to be a bother, but it is partly out of sheer shitty forgetfulness. I have literally lost close friendships due to these bad habits (although for the record, those people I drifted away from in silence didn’t try speaking to me either — it takes two people to make a friendship work, and I would have responded had I heard from them). However, equally harmful is my habit of withdrawing when my mental health is tanking. I would rather call out sick from work and run away from home for a day than tell my friends I feel shitty and need a pick me up, which is because I am worried about being a burden (despite repeated reassurances that I am not).

I live as the girl on the stony spire, silent as the rock erodes beneath my feet and I am swept into the stormy sea that I have wrought for myself. Sometimes at this point I’ll send out a text message expressing some of my misery, a rope flung out in a panicked prayer that someone will catch it and pull me to shore. I am lucky because someone always does. However, more often than not I allow myself to slip under the waves and be dashed on the sharp fragments of the stone that had been holding me up, preferring to tread water until I drown instead of risking worrying the people around me, because I know I am ultimately the one responsible for maintaining my own well being (although my loved ones are not stupid and can often see me slipping under anyway).

So far I have always managed to outlast my riptide, redevelop my sea legs, paddle back to shore, and start over again. The storm always passes and I find a new outcropping to stand on. As the clouds roll away I convince myself that continuing in this fashion is just fine because, after all, I survived, didn’t I?

(And here, please allow me to read your mind: yes, I know I probably need a therapist, but who can afford it? Blogging is cheaper.)

I fill my nights with my friends so I don’t have to live with the silence that often brings the storm. Two different D&D campaign groups. Watching friends’ streams. Thursday game night and the conversations with the late night crew that often follow. My closest friends just a text message away and more than willing to schedule time to hang out over voice chat. But everyone currently being only faces and voices inside of screens sometimes feels worse than I think it would be to be totally isolated and not have any of that at all.

Their voices fill the space until one by one they log off and disappear, leaving me with only the sound of my own breathing and the wind roaring in the trees behind my house, sounding something like the raging loneliness of a stormy sea. Somehow it feels too silent, too empty, too alone.