Register Sunday | December 9 | 2018

When Things Go Pear-Shaped

In One of My Downer Times

The downer right now is that I’m in one of my downer times. They come and the go, but they can hit like a hammer. No, not a hammer. That’s too violent. More like a train with no whistles, just the rumble as it draws close, then a turn of the head and impact. It’s probably one of the more recognizable genetic connections I have with my mother (aside from, you know, my dashing good looks), although she rides a much more violent roller coaster ride than I do. (Look at that, a train and roller coaster metaphor, both in the same paragraph. Good God.)

I’ve never much minded the down times. Only twice have I really struggled with drawn out periods of severe depression, and I can’t imagine that I’ll ever get lower than that. Most suicides, and this is just me spit-balling really, have to come from that first, deep, horrible depression. The one that catches you off guard, that lasts a little longer than you’re used to, that, at some point, seems like things might not ever get better. I remember when I hit there refusing to open my eyes in the morning until I could think of a reason not to give up that day. Just that single day. Sometimes that took a few minutes, sometimes it could last an hour or more. But in the end I could always come up with something. When I hadn’t been happy in so long it wasn’t even worth trying to remember, I took a razor and shaved my head. I decided that this would start to mark my progress. A way for me to mark the passage of time. As my hair grew out, I would get better. Since then, every time the clouds are not going away, it’s lasting too long, I’ve shaved my head. It sounds stupid, simple, but it’s worked for me.

Saturday I woke up and took a run. I needed to. Get out, sweat, clear my head, just think, listen to music, pound the pavement, end it all with a sprint out till my lungs hurt. When you run in Brooklyn Heights, you pass every possible type and style of person. Rich, poor, color, or colorless, society, pauper, name it. Within a three mile circle you’ll see all of them. I know this is overreaching the point, but it’s important to me. I look as I run by, just to see how everyone is doing. It’s all going on around me; if I don’t stay out there it’s going to happen anyway, so why not drag myself out of bed. The rest of the day was mine, to myself. Just me in my apartment.

This morning I woke up and went to brunch with my father, step-mother, step-aunt, sister, and sister’s boyfriend. My sister and her boyfriend were about 45 minutes late, and between the 4 waiting the thought, “Model Shooting,” passed through our heads a couple of times. They showed up, though, everything in the right place. After brunch they all came up to my apartment for a few minutes, then I strapped on my roller blades and headed into Manhattan. I was out for about 4 hours, rolling through downtown traffic—cars, cabs, trucks, in and out of traffic—up the West Side Highway, in at 59th Street to Central Park, and then a huge loop around the park and back down 7th Avenue, through Times Square—tourists, tourists, everywhere—and then over to 2nd Avenue and down to City Hall Park and finally back over the Brooklyn Bridge to home. Bob called this evening (as one respondent to a former post, he is my alleged lover? Really?), and we caught up on his ten year high school reunion. The Magnificent Geebs went along, and was apparently a legend, as always. They drove down to Jeff and Amy’s afterwards to meet their new child, apparently he's also a legend. Tonight, my dad and I have been exchanging frequent phone calls throughout the Lakers-Pistons game. “This is awful,” he will say. “What a boring game,” I’ll tone in. This is one of our rituals, a peccadillo of our relationship that I love.

All little connections for me, little things I steal from when the road dips down, when things go pear-shaped. My family, my friends, a run, a blade, time to myself, just little ways I keep connected. Riding the up and down is a bitch, but as I said, it’s my genetic gift. Once you’ve hit the bottom, though, you’ll never let yourself get there again. It’s the most important lesson there is when you have this type of personality. The cycle ends, the circle closes, you recover. In Swimming to Cambodia, Spalding Gray talked about searching for Perfect Moments. Instances when the universe would open up to him, Life would take him under its wing, and he would see how he was connected. It’s an instinct I more than understand, but one that I find ultimately dangerous. You can’t search for the Perfect Moments, you can’t live your life in wait for them. They come, through the tiniest moments or the most happenstance occurrences, but they are not yours to control. But if you don’t recognize them when they hit, then you are a fool.

I feel a little sorry for people who don’t understand what it’s like to be at your worst. Because I also get the reverse. When things go well for me, I recognize it. I pause. I don’t try to hold on to them, but rather open my arms.