Ephemeris: An Earthly body, a Charted Course

My last bout of depression didn’t flood in after my father died, like I naturally assumed it would. Really, the opposite happened. After he passed, I was grateful that his battle with cancer ended with him in a warm bed surrounded by family and friends who, in shifts, watched him sleep as they held his hand. He slipped away and I dragged one of the large easels from my closet to my kitchen to display the large photo board I had printed for his janaza. I set it up by the window and ate my breakfast a few feet away from it for weeks, chewing my eggs slowly and periodically glancing up at my an image of my father immersed in his horn playing. Often, looking at it made me smile. He did what he loved and was loved for it. Now, when I stare at family photos, listen to audio I recorded of our last conversation, or rifle through the belongings I collected from my big brother after he passed, I think about that simple notion. My father did what he loved and was loved for it, and that’s a privilege not everyone gets to enjoy.

But I still believe I’m capable of it; everyone is. Some of us just have a few extra things to carry along their way. As for me? I have one.

It’s something that’s been there with me for as long as I can remember, perhaps since I was born. I can feel its fingers on my shoulders on days when I stare in the mirror, fighting the urge to quit…everything. Want to know the worst part? It never actually leaves. Instead it lies dormant until I take my eye off of it. Then it waits for me to stumble on it unexpectedly, like glass in a shag carpet.

This time it happened in the last few months of the year just as the days filled with long, energizing hours of healing sunshine slipped away and I found myself in my annual uphill battle with the lengthy winter nights. Usually I’m prepared for it, especially since for the last few years, being in an office made me forget about all conditions outside until I grabbed my keys and headed to my car at the end of each work day. So maybe what made this particular crash inevitable was that aside from dealing with the loss of my father, I spent too much time alone indoors. I was live-streaming and kept an irregular sleep schedule, and I was definitely stressing over things that I (nor anyone) could control.

“Get your stuff out there,” he’d cautioned me between labored breaths. “Because you never know how much time you have.

I didn’t tell my family what my father and I spoke about until much later. Instead, I went home and tried to do what he told me to do. As soon as my brain stalled on one story, I opened another and began working. This went on for days–nearly a week. In the mornings, I’d get up, broadcast on my streaming app of choice for awhile, then return to writing. I took care not to neglect the stuff from my regular gig, so I answered all my work emails on time too. Galvanized by my father’s words, I held this rhythm until he was moved to hospice a week after our family visit. After that, the pace of my writing slowed down a little bit. I’d tinker with each story for about twenty minutes at a time, uninspired. Then, a few days before he passed, my mother asked me to write the content for the obituary and the funeral programs, so I did. But after that I found that I couldn’t write for weeks. Then those weeks turned into months, and just as outside, everything in me had gone cold again.

Since I’m well acquainted with depression and writer’s block, I immediately began to do things I thought would kill them both. I tried my best to manifest some warmth and happiness–or at least synthesize it. I pushed the miniscule amount of inner sunshine I had left out into the world as best I could by chatting, laughing, and smiling until I was utterly depleted. My theory was that, if I could make others happy for awhile it would be gratifying enough to make me feel good too. So, I forced it out of me until the lips and eyes had gone from my smile and all that was left was my teeth.

Once that happened, I felt the urge to began thrashing again. “Thrashing” is how I describe my attempts to self-medicate in harmful ways. (I’ll add that most ways that people self-medicate are harmful, even when don’t think of them that way.) From the outside, it probably looks like a lot of fun: food, drink, extravagant outings, merriment. Those things aren’t bad by themselves without context, of course. But when they’re used as emotional fix-a-flats? They should be referred to by their other names: overeating, crash dieting, overexertion, overspending, and other regrettable compulsive behaviors. Therapy helped me identify them for what they are, but then again, I’m sure I already knew what they were because I’d seen them before in someone else.

When people ask me what makes me think of my father most, I say that it was his music and his piety because both were driving forces in his life. But sometimes, what reminds me most of him are certain parts of myself, and that the imbalance that he lived with is something I’ve inherited. It’s a disorder–and I accept it as one–but what it feels like is a perpetual, internal machine that churns my brain in a way that produces music, prose, chaos, and gloom in intervals. That’s what my daddy had welled up inside of him and he blew it out threw his horn. I have it too. It’s terrifying but not altogether terrible. If anything, it’s just overwhelming sometimes.

“Get your stuff out there,” he’d cautioned me between labored breaths. “Because you never know how much time you have.

At first, those words made me anxious. Now? Less so.

This pandemic has meant many things for many people, and for me it brought a lapse in my care that made it hard for me to stave off last year’s descent. So, after I was done thrashing, I was certain that I would begin to sink. I was sure of it because that’s what always happens. It’s on my chart, and in my path.

Many things are.

Via carolinconjure.com

But this time, I didn’t sink.

The lifesaver that I held onto was the one I was sure would have me undone–the passing of my father. But instead, I feel strangely grounded. Even though I get spun around sometimes, and other times end up flying blind in the dark, I always find my way back because my course has been charted. Even deviations bring me home.

Because success is my home.

Art is my home.

Love is my home.

Stability and balance are my home.

And Tahir is my home.

My last bout of depression didn’t flood in after my father died, like I naturally assumed it would. Really, the opposite happened. After he passed, I was grateful that his battle with cancer ended with him in a warm bed surrounded by family and friends who, in shifts, watched him sleep as they held his hand.

That was the course for his earthly body, and he traveled it well.

My father and my son. ❤

2 thoughts on “Ephemeris: An Earthly body, a Charted Course

  1. Bella Rayne

    Thank you so much for sharing this part of yourself. Reading this made me think of the constant evolving that we must do. We HAVE to but I myself am not really a fan. I’d love for things to stand still at the perfect time forever; guess that’s what death is for. Today I’m going to make sure I celebrate my new transition even of ot does seem tedious and slow💕

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