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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Smile - even if you are faking it.

Since my move to Boston, I've been less and less inspired to write, exercise, or get together with friends.  To be frank, some of it has to do with the rough transition. David, my husband, and I moved here for my new job at a local nonprofit.  I was so excited with a passion for their work and a desire to make a difference in a new type of nonprofit work for me.  Sadly, the entire thing fell apart within two weeks of my arrival. Unfortunately, in spite of my love for the nonprofit and their work, the job itself and work environment were a really bad fit.  David and I had already quit our jobs, moved everything here, and signed a lease on a very nice, expensive apartment.  Instead of giving up, I decided to put more hours and effort into making things work at the new job.  No matter how hard I tried, things just got worse.

Concurrently, David was trying to find a new job and not having much luck.  The public transit system in Boston isn't as far reaching or convenient as New York.  The people here also have been much colder toward us and harder to get to know.  We've felt both overt racism and homophobia where we least expected it.

Fortunately, after six weeks, David found a job in our building renting out apartments.  This helped David try a new profession and helped us with a rent discount, health insurance, and an easy commute.  Six weeks after he got his job, I ended up leaving mine.  There was no way I could make the job work and still be happy.

The entire thing gave me great pause to evaluate myself and my life.  I became very depressed about my future, my ability to take care of my family, my ability to do my job or work in my profession.

Not one to give up easily, I began looking for work again within one week of starting the job that was a bad fit.  One week after leaving my job, I was offered a new one.  The new job is at a college directing alumni relations.  I love alumni relations and know that this is good work in my field.  I will miss the fundraising aspect of my work certainly, but know I can impact fundraising daily at the new job.

photo from C. Estes-Schwartz
Even with this job lined up and the paperwork signed, I still could not motivate myself to dig out of this depression.  I took five weeks before starting the new job hoping that I could use the time to do things to elevate my spirit.  Unfortunately, my body and mind did not cooperate.  David and I went camping, I visited my family, and I read some books.  Still, all I wanted to do was sleep in a dark room all day and night.  I tried to smile and have fun through all the travel and social time while I was screaming in agony inside pretending to everyone that it was ok.  



My dog kept me company in bed, but also made me get out of bed to go for a walk on a regular basis.  This is my first dog and I think he was one of the main reasons I never sank too far.  He just wouldn't let me.  He greeted me at the door with a smile and licks every time I came back even if I just went to toss the garbage in the garbage shoot across the hall.  




My friend, the Reverend Diane Ellis, said something to me that has stuck with me for a long time.  I can't remember her exact words, but know she mentioned that it is important to let yourself be in the bad feelings and sit with them for a bit in order to help you get out of them.
If you don't let yourself feel bad once in a while, those negative emotions haunt you and never let you truly experience the height of goodness and joy.  
I'm glad to have let myself experience this down energy, but enough is enough.  I know what I need to do to get out of it, and I refuse to let the demons of depression become the dominate chords in my life.

I am fortunate to have so many people that love me in addition to Casper (my dog).  I have been speaking about this with them and that is one big reason I can say things are getting better.  My husband, mom, brother, college friends, Brooklyn friends, Hartwick friends, and people in my life have given me hope that I'm not alone in going through this and that there is a way out.  

I started by starting a running club in my apartment complex.  At least I will be running once a week, even if I'm the only one who shows up most nights.




I know that cooking makes me happy and I have a new office full of people who love food.  I started trying new recipes every week and building up my pampered chef stuff again. Although I don't spend the time to build it into a huge business, it gets me cooking for my family, trying new recipes, and reaching out to my friends to ask them to host parties.  In fact I just bought a quick cooker (Pampered Chef's better version of an instant pot) and have learned a bunch of new delicious recipes for quick dinners.  I've also learned some recipes that I'll never make again and suggest my friends don't try them either (healthy apple bars yuck).  Peach cobbler muffins though, below, are definitely going in to my regular rotation when peaches are local in the market.



I'm also doing what I can to be social.  Just because New Englanders seem to give their cold shoulder at first doesn't mean I should give up.  Between making sure to spend time with my friends, David and I are trying to meet new ones.  I visited my alma mater for homecoming. 

original photo by Vernon Burnett at Hartwick College

I also went to see my sister who now lives an hour away.  Even just walking on the beach with her sometimes gave me the peace, time to think, and conversation that lifted me a little beyond where I was.  


David and I also went on to meetup.com and joined some groups.  We don't know that we've found the ones that are a good fit yet, but we keep trying and going to events.  

Things are better.  I am blessed.  I'm not feeling down every day any more.  This took time though, and energy, thought, and lots of talking, texting, Facebook chatting, crying, sleeping, running, cooking, and not always being my best self to the world around me.  

Through it all, I've had my friends and family listening, supporting, and usually understanding.  I'm grateful that David, in spite of his own challenges here, has been my rock. 



With my current state of being, I'm limited in my wardrobe.  I cleaned out my closet yesterday to get rid of things that I can't wear any more and found that I needed one or two more pairs of pants that fit around my belly for work.  This was part of doing what I need to to dig out of my depression, find clothes that fit and I like as well as donating still awesome clothes to people who need them.  While there, I spent quite some time waiting for a dressing room.  The woman at the counter scowled at everyone and was anything but polite.  I tried to be overly kind, but let my snarky self get the best of me when I walked away saying "thanks for smiling."  As I drove back to our apartment, I started wondering what her day and life is like and that maybe she was struggling. I wonder how often I gave my jerk self to people during the past six months.

I like to smile even when things are down.  I try hard.  This has helped me a lot in life and in my work.  I'm not always successful at it, but when I am, the world feels like they are getting the attitude they should from me.  It also helps people treat me better which in turn lifts my mood.  May I always find a way and a reason to smile.

I hope you find reason to smile today, lift yourself away from the bad feelings, even just for a bit.