November in My Soul

Do you have days when you just feel sad, and the color goes out of the world? When you wonder what’s the point?

I find on these days my defensive energy goes, and some strange doorway in my mind opens to allow in all my negative thoughts and memories. I allow myself to re-visit the sad people and events of the past, both large and small, and suffer the attendant blame and recrimination.

Now, I would call myself an optimist. The glass is generally half full for me. But some days are different.

Here are some of the thoughts and memories that swim to the surface on sad days, just for starters…. (And you’ll know, this is just the small stuff.)

When I was a little girl, seven or eight perhaps, I learned to do a cartwheel. We were all learning to do cartwheels that summer. My next door neighbor friend Lindsay and I made a silly decision: to practice doing cartwheels in her parents’ living room. And as my leg went up and over, I kicked my friend in the head. With the tiny metal half moon tips that my Mom used to have the cobbler put on the heels of our school shoes, to make them last longer. I can still remember the cut on Lindsay’s brow. How could I have done that?

My elder sister went to Italy and Greece one summer as a teenage Mother’s Help. She brought me back a pair of 18k gold hoop earrings. She probably bought them on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, where gold used to be comparatively cheap. I loved them, and I wore them as my favorite, favorite earrings for decades. Literally, for almost 30 years. One day in my late 40’s I went swimming. I often swam with the hoops on, because they had a very firm closure. It was hard to get them on and off. But on that day, when I arrived home after my swim, after a long walk along the sidewalk from the pool, after a ride on the subway, after the walk back to my house, I looked in the mirror, and one earring was missing. Gone. I mourn it still. Why didn’t I make sure the earring was properly fastened? Why can’t I go back, and refasten it now? What could have happened to that poor gold hoop? Where was it lying, is it lying, lost?

The time I was leaving a friend’s New York apartment, which she’d kindly lent me and a couple of out of-town friends as a stopover place to relax for an afternoon in the city. I was giving my opinion on what she could do to improve the apartment. The elevator door opened, and there she was, before I realized, listening as I critiqued her decor. What kind of a person am I? What kind of a friend?

Or the time I got into a screaming fight over breakfast with my son, with my nine-year old son, and sent him off to elementary school with harsh words. And then spent the rest of the day feeling like a White Trash Mother.

The time I simply failed to write a condolence letter. To a good friend who’d lost his beloved father.

Or the time, on the first day back from summer vacation, that I asked the Class Mother of my son’s second grade class when she was going to have her baby. And he’d been born several weeks earlier.

Cringe-making memories. And on days like this I indulge them.

Let’s not forget self-blame and loathing. I can do more than I am, be better than I am. For instance – again, just the small stuff – I thought I had learned not to eat all that Halloween candy. Then this year, after the October snow storm resulted in a canceled Halloween, I ate my fill from the leftovers in the candy bowl. I should be probably be volunteering more. Why didn’t I run today, despite the rain? When am I going to develop consistent discipline? Do I have to keep re-learning the pattern and lessons of my life, even now, as an adult?

You know what I am talking about. I bet you’ve been there.

It’s not just me of course. Winston Churchill complained of his ‘black dog’.

Francisco Goya’s nightmarish visions resulted in his ‘Black Paintings’.

Herman Melville’s depressive instincts led him to the sea, and to Moby Dick.

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet …… then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick)

Well, I don’t know about going off to sea.

Perhaps it will stop raining soon. The sun will come out again one day, I do know that.  Perhaps it is that simple. Color will return, and the world will be illuminated.


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