Proceeding with caution

When waking up to a wonderland, of such extraordinary beauty no longer staves off the feeling of impending gloom, does it mean you are depressed? There was a time when I would have thought so.

Pulling back my curtain this morning, I saw my favourite tree standing bravely in the new snowfall and I thought I had never seen her look so fine.

The World was a study in white. So many different shades of what is not even really a colour, just light.

As I threw on some clothes, I heard the front door open, and I knew Grant was equally mesmerized by this spectacle.

The cats all sat bemused, demanding to know what had happened to their breakfast. One of them got locked in the coat cupboard when I grabbed a jacket to go outside.

Tinkerbell was even less impressed with me than usual.

“Since when do they come first?” She asked.

Whatever the cats may think, there really is no hard-set routine in this household. But people being creatures of habit, some form of organization usually helps to ensure things don’t get forgotten.

At this time of year, I feel there are too many things inclined to slip the memory cells. Birthdays, for one. Too many of those. Was everyone born in these first two months?

Each time I find myself in a card shop I add a few more to my collection. So, how do I never seem to have what is appropriate for the person concerned? And what should you do, when that person has had a great drama in their recent life?

Usually, then, I fall back on a plain card. But what words do you write? How do you convey an optimistic message of support without sounding inappropriately cheerful? My mind goes round in circles and my messages just seem to get shorter. There must be a minimum number of words, beyond which a card becomes not worth sending?

“It’s the thought that counts.” They say. Not so sure about that. I got a card once that said two words: “Thank you”. It seemed a little economic on feeling.

So, these cards are pre-occupying my mind. As well as those interminable bits of paper with numbers, that you have to carefully collect, the ones you hope someone will make into a tax return.

Except last year, if you were me, because I had done THE BAD THING, by cashing in most of my IRA the year before.

I knew, of course, how that would turn out, but it didn’t make me any more receptive of the final amount owed when the figure was calculated.

Even in a normal year, I am full of anxiety until all that paperwork turns up. I am always afraid there is something I will have forgotten that will get me in trouble.

Trouble. Maybe that’s it. So afraid of being in trouble, of there being unpleasantness of some kind to deal with. A throwback, I am sure, to my childhood. I have a constant fear that people are going to be angry with me. Just why, I can’t imagine. All I do is sit here with my cats. Who could I offend? So I can shelve this anxiety, if that’s what it is, as something imagined and unimportant.

But other things are important.

My move to Cambridge marked the emergence of a new “me”. This is not something I imagined. It’s a fact.

It’s fair to say that I had a reputation, before, of being a trifle gloomy. I tried not to burden people with my woes, but I found it hard to ever sound what you’d call “cheerful.”

Then, to everyone’s great astonishment and some considerable criticism, I announced one day: “I’m off!”

Which stunned people even more than the first time I did it, when I went East to West.

Now, I was twenty years older, semi-disabled and I had 13 cats, for goodness sake!

“What? How? When? Where? Why?” etc

After my arrival here, I got a few phone calls, and word got about that “CSmith has had an epiphany!”

Everyone knew it was the wrong word, for me, but they didn’t know what else to say about my transformation.

“She’s making cakes!”

“She’s talking to people!”

“She’s laughing!”

“She’s happy!”

It is true that it was pretty amazing, not least to me.

Having felt downcast for such a very, very, long time, I could not believe that the weight had lifted, so suddenly, so unaccountably. I was profoundly grateful and decided to accept it as an astonishing gift and continue forward with caution!

My first coast-to-coast move had started well. I remember feeling a “lift” then too, a pleasure in greeting each morning. And back then, I was still employed, facing a whole raft of overwhelming work-related changes that would have had me stiff with anxiety in New York.

But the euphoria didn’t last.

2019 began with bad news. Not for me. Everything is still good with me. But one after another messages arrived of loss and sickness and sadness and troubles of all kind. I was still the new cheerful Carolyn and people were telling me that my happiness made them feel better, that I must continue to enjoy it. Which of course I do, but with this feeling of….not guilt, certainly. What should you feel when you are doing well but everyone else is falling to bits?

The normal thing to do, I suppose, would be to offer help, but the most I can do is listen and express concern. These problems are not the sort I can do anything about. If people are telling me that it makes them feel better to know I am happy, I must work hard at staying this way!

What I have to do, so I’ve been told, is stay away from my “triggers”.

Sometimes, though, it’s as if the Universe is waving a big red flag at me: “HEY! Remember THIS? Don’t forget it again!…”

I had one of those last week. A big reminder.

It made me very sad.

But I am not depressed. I am just proceeding with caution…

Roses from a dear friend who just lost his brother.

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