Yes, I am back at OS, now that it's working again, but the real reason I haven't been posting has been that I was too depressed to share my thoughts with anyone. I did write posts, but I didn't want to expose the wretchedness I had sunk to. Luckily the holiday season is over (and all of the expectations and habits that go along with it) so I have moved beyond those depths and am thinking more positively.
Most people are making resolutions and looking forwards to a new year. I'm going to look backwards first and purge the darkness. I'll reprint two of the posts that I wrote but didn't upload, one just after Sandy Hook and one just before Christmas, both pretty depressing, so be forewarned. Next post I'll be able to look at 2013 more clearly.
December 10th, 2012
Walking down a long, spiral staircase into the dark, dank basement of my mind this winter. I’ve taken the first several steps already, starting with spending Thanksgiving alone and then getting terribly sick a week later. Spending a wretched day in the emergency room, visited by fears and hallucinations, uncontrolled shivering and skin that wanted to crawl off my body. Now, as my body recovers, my spirit sinks, with the onset of the grey days and the slow countdown to the holidays, made ominous by the drastic lack of sales in the gallery and the complete absence of any reason to celebrate anything, much less anyone to celebrate with. God, I hate the holidays. And I haven’t even gotten the hospital bill yet.
Oh, I’ve been depressed during Christmas before, and I’ve done a decent job of pretending it wasn’t so. I haven’t been actively suicidal, but I’ve seen the logic of it. But this year, I’ve made no effort to be positive. I’ve given up on finding anyone like me here in my town, this quaint little, picturesque town that I had no idea was filled with wall-to-wall Christians that I have nothing in common with. It came to me in my hospital fever dreams that I am just waiting to die here, nothing is happening, and nothing will happen, and I will meet no one that I want to meet, just a bunch of old people who have thought all the original thoughts they will ever have 50 years ago, and now they’re done. And if I stay, I will be done too.
Update. Yes, I’m damn depressed. And I wrote this several days ago. Now with this spate of shootings, I am even more appalled at the cesspool of hate, avarice and self-aggrandizement of my fellow citizens. Normally facebook is my bastion of liberalism, protected from the stupidity of the other side - I get too angry to be exposed to the abject ignorance that is so pervasive among the right-wing. But guns, apparently, are the glue that holds the right and left together. Preserve gun ownership at any cost, including the lives of 20 kindergarden-age children. No, that arsenal in your closet is sacred - never let a word pass your ears that will threaten your right to own and wield deadly force. And you are making sure that I also have the right to own a semi-automatic rifle with hundreds of rounds of capacity, to make sure that in my weakest moment, I can come after you and your children.
... OK, it devolves from there, threats, rages, calling down curses, etc. No need to reprint the worst of it.
Two weeks later...
December 23, 2012
~~ After several months of not posting, I am sorry to make this rather depressing entry. Not exactly in the holiday spirit, so be warned.~~
I am at work today, the Sunday before Christmas, just two days away. No one has come in the shop, and I have the chilly grey weather, the lack of tourists and my downstairs location to blame. This is one of the worst months I’ve had in the nearly two years the shop has been open. For it to be the gift buying season is humiliating, but I have to face facts.
To be explicit, none of the finished goods have sold this winter, even the less expensive ones. No amount of money spent on advertising, festive decorating, signage or word of mouth can change the fact that people aren’t spending money on gifts this year, at least in my part of the world. I’m not surprised - I’m not paying for anything other than food, mortgage and utilities this month.
The paradigm-shifting concept that comes to mind is that making pretty things to sell to people who have disposable income is not a way to make a living anymore. This is pretty harsh, you might say, things will improve soon and then people will have money to spend. Not many of us who do this kind of work have time to wait - I certainly don’t. I have one more year of investor support left and if this business doesn’t start to improve in that time, it’s just an expensive hobby.
Not that this is a surprise to anyone who does the same work. I would bet that anyone who is continuing to do art or craft has a Significant Other with a “real job.” Absent that, it’s a road to poverty.
So I think, What’s next? I usually have a Plan B, and yes, I do. I plan to finish out and rent out my downstairs apartment, close the shop, and save for a big move. But where to go where the same conditions are not in effect?
And here’s the next paradigm-shifting concept - I can look all I want for a place where people are secure, healthy, working a decent job, free of corporate despoiling and government corruption but I won’t find it. It’s not a matter of geography, it’s a matter of chronology. I may remember better times, cleaner water and air, verdant fields, good neighbors, happy faces, but while I wasn’t looking, those things have disappeared across the globe.
Every location I can think of has extremists, suspicion and hate, laws that favor greed and graft, once-beautiful lands that are now polluted and foul. Foods that can’t be eaten, choices that can’t be made, careers that can’t be chosen. Unfortunately, I am trying to escape to my own fantasy world, that may or may not have existed anyway. I was just younger, more optimistic, and more focused on the path I had chosen. Changing paths without that youthful viewpoint isn’t quite so easy.
I don’t have to tell anyone my age (61) that competing in a depressed job market is really challenging. Forget a fulfilling career; I’d be lucky to get a convenience store job now. I couldn’t get a job in another country - most countries have higher unemployment that we do, and restrictions on outsider employment. Working for myself has been my choice for the last 30 years, but that included long stints in graphics and web design, now outsourced to Pakistan or insourced to high-school kids for pennies.
Having chosen the artist path for the last 10 years (that choice made when I had a husband with a really good tech job) I don’t have anything on my resume that will even get me an interview. Most middle aged folks I know work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet, but at my age I don’t have that kind of stamina. I am waiting for Social Security to kick in next year, but it will be miniscule, and again, I’m at poverty level.
Yes, I am damn depressed this holiday season, but things could be far far worse. I haven’t lost a loved one to violence or illness, I don’t have a debilitating disease (yet), I have an ex who is helping, and I do have a house and a business. I’ve tried over the years of my life to build assets, and though I never cared that much about having a large income and flashy things, I believed that slowly building equity and good business practices would help me when I got to this age. But I also expected that the US economy would be stable and that what I grew up with would still be in place. Paradigms shift, worlds collide and surprise, surprise; Waking up to life in the new millenium hasn’t been as fulfilling as billed.
Notice that I'm trying to climb out of the pit there at the end. I'm all the way out now, so don't worry. But here's the thing, none of this is new. I've probably written this same post every Christmas since I've been on OS... and it's always helped to write it. It sucks to be alone during the holidays but OS has always made it better. I should have posted these (though I did hold back three that will never see the light of day.) These are the same closed-system fears that everyone has and needs to express to someone. I think because OS was broken and OurSalon didn't feel like home yet that I felt I didn't have anyone to talk to about these things.
Next post, I'll be able to look ahead, running a little late on Janus' timetable, but still moving on. I do have a plan, delayed a bit by the hospital bill (oy) and family issues but I'm not sunk in the pits of despair. And that is enough to build a year on.