28 February 2019

February hates me.

Three years and three days ago, my mother passed away. And the most salient lesson I learned was that in Britain, friends are the people who kinda stick with you in the good times only to totally and completely desert you in the bad. Since pretty much all of my British friends were from an Anglican evangelical church, and I've seen the same pattern before - several times - maybe the same also holds true for evangelical Christians. I vividly remember trying to teach one last class as I knew the end was near, while Kim arranged flights, then breaking down in front of a couple of colleagues, and the chat with the head of department in the leafy square outside the office. And then the bad news arriving at the gate in Heathrow, the long flight back, and then the car ride to my childhood home. My dog waiting forever by the door for her best friend to come home. The funeral - torn between joy at seeing so many family friends and the stark realization that Mom was really gone. For at least a year, I was haunted by dreams of Mom, in the latter stages of her illness, and needing to convey some message of utmost importance, but knowing that her chemotherapy had ravaged her mind to the extent to where she couldn't comprehend. At some point, though, the dreams changed, to happier circumstances, and Mom in better health.

A year ago today I nearly killed myself. I can't recall much of my thought processes leading up to the event or really much of the several months - year? - prior. I stopped feeling - joy, peace, happiness, pain. I guess it was a combination of increased administrative and student-welfare duties for which I was never trained or prepared, with a deterioration of administrative support over two years, along with unresolved bereavement. All I recall of the day is feeling a bit annoyed that I wore my Tudor Black Bay instead of my favorite watch, the Slim d'Hermes, and realizing I'd need to remove it before slitting my wrists. The only reason I didn't was that my office mate walked in unexpectedly because he had a meeting with a student I knew. The seminars I taught that evening were completely unreal. I recall bits and pieces of the aftermath. The most vivid memories are of the side effects of the antidepressants as I adjusted to them. The perhaps perverse joy I felt in response to the memory loss, nausea, headaches, dizziness, and other problems just meant to me that I could feel things again. It was like making the transition from black and white photography to color, or from silent film to talkies.

Much of the year since has been one of self-realization and self-discovery. I've worked hard to find a better work-life balance. The end of my administrative term helped, as has sabbatical, and I've been able to focus more clearly on the things that matter for my career. Outside of work, I've rediscovered hobbies and passions that had fallen by the wayside. My mood has steadily improved and its volatility has diminished. Here's to hoping this trend continues throughout 2019.


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