37

(I’m writing this a day early. I hope nothing bad happens in the intervening time.)

37 is not a very interesting number. It’s prime, and that’s about all it’s got going for it. Oh, and it’s one-third of 111, which is cool, I guess.

Becoming 37 isn’t much more interesting, as far as I’m concerned. And the last 12 months have taken a lot out of me. They’ve worn me down, as anyone who dares to look through the PPC archives will attest. My depression reached new depths at numerous points over the past year. Worse, it stayed there far longer. These weren’t the two or three days of past episodes, but sometimes weeks.

For most of 2020, I felt like I was living through a waking nightmare, and I just wanted it to end. The bad dream, the year, my life…whatever worked. I wasn’t suicidal at any point, mind you. Nor was I a danger to myself or others around me, apart from the negative mentality and lifelessness that I’ve felt so often since March. But there were days as a 36-year-old where I would lie in bed and just not care what happened to me, solely because the effort it took to get up, to live in this fallen world, was too much for me to bear. I became something else, someone else.

I hate that someone.

I’ve been in therapy for about two months, though the primary phase of it ended a couple of weeks ago. It’s helped, as I’ve described in recent posts, but I know there’s a long way left to go. As I attempt to celebrate the 37th anniversary of my birth, I’m hoping for a rebirth, a return to the man I once was. Or a better man, even, one who is wiser with age, but also with the experience of knowing what it’s like to go all the way to that edge and step back.

The world is still broken. My county remains under effective lockdown indefinitely, and there’s the very real chance that, two and a half weeks hence, a man will be elected whose goal is to extend that to the entire country. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people suffer just as I have suffered, some of them pushed as far as taking the ultimate step I have refused. Cities burn in what the media calls “peaceful” protests, while those defending themselves and their liberties are labeled as murderers and extremists. 2020 is Bizarro World writ large, and it seems as though it will never end.

I don’t often talk politics on here. The subject is too demanding, too demoralizing, especially for one such as myself, someone who doesn’t take sides in the grand game of Red vs. Blue. For this birthday reflection, though, I have to look at the state of my life and see how much of it is dominated by politics, by forces beyond my control. That, more than anything, has contributed to my depression, I feel. And it has soured me on entire swaths of the political spectrum. I never fit on that to begin with; now, “a pox on both your houses” is too mild to describe my feelings.

On a more personal level, I feel like I’ve been set up to fail. This time last year, things weren’t great, but they seemed to be improving. I’d finished writing a great novel, I had others on their way, the job search was picking up, I had made friends…I was starting to get a small but perceptible feeling of positivity. Then I began to falter. My relationship with my beloved got rocky, to say the least, and mostly because of my mental health problems. Last December, I endured a sickness that, I now recognize in hindsight, was most likely caused by the Wuhan coronavirus. A month after that, my uncle passed away after a long struggle.

Then came the pandemic, which we now know to be greatly exaggerated. For seven months, a normal life has been denied to all of us outside Sweden and South Dakota. I took that harder than most, I think. At times, I felt as though everything in the world was arrayed against me, all its forces singling me out as their target. I may try to be rational, but in this case, I started wondering if I’d been cursed, if this was my punishment for stepping out of line by trying to reach for the life I wanted, rather than the miserable existence I’d been given.

Today, I still can’t definitively say that’s false. By the law of averages, I should have some positive results, right? As far as I can tell, I have one, and I can’t keep making her wait. She’s not getting any younger, either.

So, while I may have other goals for 37, they all come back to that. Getting my life back on track, taking it where it was supposed to go before the world went mad. Becoming the man I want to be, the man she deserves. Living, rather than simply existing.

“Happy” birthday. Yeah.


Addendum: I wrote this around 2PM on the 15th. A few hours later, I learned that my mother’s best friend passed away. I…think she was 60? I’m not certain, and I can’t find an obituary online yet. Strictly speaking, that doesn’t go down as yet another awful thing to happen on my birthday, but it’s more evidence in favor of an October curse.

I didn’t know her well enough, but my mom and aunt both considered her the next best thing to a sister. Despite her failing health, she stayed with my uncle in some of his final moments back in January; if nothing else, she deserves to be remembered for that.

Although I’m not as affected by her death as someone who was closer to her, hearing about it, especially on the day before my birthday, shocked me more than I expected. One of my first thoughts was relief that she hadn’t waited another day. Then, when I realized what I was saying, I felt incredibly selfish. What right do I have to ask that another human being die a day early to spare me hearing bad news on my birthday?

More than anything, that has left me troubled as I write this at 9:20 PM on the night before it posts. I’m not shedding tears for a woman I usually saw once or twice a month. They’re for me, because what kind of monster have I become?