The year also brought a whittling of the self, especially a recognition of my limits. Time expands beyond the moment to the far reaches of age where, if I’m lucky, I’ll look back fondly on slow walks down the stairs, on the lines of schoolgirls in long, bright yellow hijabs like flocks of canaries, on the hot stacks of loxoox in the kitchen each morning, on the frigid hop from bed to closet on winter mornings. I think about my aged years as though I’m already there, ruminating over a life well lived or not, observing wrinkled, spotted hands, remembering when they were smoother, tighter, and when I took them for granted. I feel fullness, and a gentle longing, and fullness again.
What matters are the earnest embraces of greetings and farewells, the unique infusion of scents that accompany the people you love, the sparks of energy that scatter with their laughter, the loving gaze of those who know your story and bear witness to the triumphant and crushing steps on your upward spiral. While living overseas amplifies the magic of those moments it also rarefies them, detaching you even when you most need them.
At times, I can feign a decent rock. But I am in essence, and unequivocally, a leaf. We marvel at the fortitude of our rock friends: even in the most challenging moments, their certainty shone bright. Whether their choices turned out for the better was irrelevant; they were confident in those decisions, and that made all the difference to their state of mind. Lately, I’ve been responding to life’s knocks and turns with a a stonier veneer: unmoved, unimpressed, essentially not giving a f*ck. I’ve been more solid in my stance, I don’t brace for impact as much, and criticism doesn’t knock the wind out of me in the way it normally would.
Somewhere in there I lost myself, I tipped into the darkness that comes around every now and again, pays a visit without invitation, overstays its welcome. The darkness of old would shock me into submission, steamroll me to the point of immobility. And, looking for something to blame, I’d get lost in arguments with myself about the origins of my own depression – circumstance, coincidence, fate, dumb luck, or my own mistakes and missteps. I’d resisted the shadows as best I could, thinking I could hold them back. Once I realized I could not, I opened the doors and welcomed them: Let’s have a go, let’s make our way down the stairs, and sit for a while in the darkness at the bottom.