Sunday, July 26, 2009

Little souvenir of a terrible year, writing and depression

It's that little souvenir of a terrible year
which makes my eyes feel sore...
from Here’s Where the Story Ends by the Sundays

Adapted from a letter to a good friend

… the work and adrenaline keep you from thinking too much. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. It’s the down time, you’ve got to watch out for, the slow-growing doubts and anxieties that creep in the void. After 5 years of building a company--eating, sleeping, living and breathing that entity, and caring a lot about a lot of the people we worked with, selling it felt like selling a child. If the purchasing entity’s culture is radically different from your own, and (you may feel in your less charitable moments) represents everything you built your company as a reaction against...that feeling is compounded. You can out-do the haters, writing your own epitaph. Not that this maudlin navel-gazing will generate much sympathy among your friends and acquaintances, either. You sound like the jilted ex-wife, complaining about the new wife coming in and redecorating the house and yanking the children out of their expensive private schools, etc. People's reaction is pretty much "Take your big-ass divorce settlement and move on." One person, in the industry, to whom I wrote, could relate. He wrote that selling his first company felt that way, but that "it gets easier each subsequent time..."

…my experience (with the meds) is that they don't "make you happy"--as I thought they would, until I tried them. What they do (when they work) is "take the edge off" and "help you cope." When I think about how I feel now versus back then, the biggest change is what (now) seem like relatively small things, used to really upset and overwhelm me. I couldn't let go or put things in perspective. I’d seize on some issue or thought pattern and gnaw away at it, like a pit bull with a bone. Things still upset me and I still get the blues, but the difference is that this is occasionally, not most of the time. Mostly, my baseline mood is a lot more calm, at peace…I don't necessarily like these people, but now I can accept them--along the lines of "They is what they is; and they ain't what they ain't…"

It's not just the lows that are more infrequent, but I can also recognize and appreciate more frequent moments of happiness…it hasn't been easy...I can recognize some of the bad old bad habits coming back. Maybe this will work now, maybe it will work later, I don't know. The good thing is that I know that, at least, there is something that will work.

What helped me a lot were two changes in my life: moving and starting a new creative project. Home was very connected in my mind with the productive start-up years, so living here felt very anti-climactic once we sold the company. Right now, I like the detached feeling of living in another country. Nobody knows you or gives a damn who you are. And, even if they did, nothing about who you were or where you came from in X is relevant in Y. This doesn’t just work with geography, but changing industries or careers, as well. Ironically, having strong roots and family ties makes it easier to let go of everything and feel at home in totally foreign places...because I can (and usually do) always go back. A cheesy reference, but the line from the movie Fight Club: "Don't let the things you own, own you" makes a lot of sense to me.

As for writing a play, I am somebody who is essentially happy when doing creative work. In my case, what I enjoy is writing. I think I read and write, in the words of C.S. Lewis: to know that I am not alone. I wrote the play with a new friend--who like so many people living parallel lives that I passed on a daily basis, I’d never gotten to know before. Working on a new creative/collaborative project has helped pull me out of my isolation, feel like I am moving forward with a positive, fun, totally different phase of my life…I am unhappy when I cannot control circumstances. What I like about writing is that I have complete control of this entity and can take all the things that have frustrated me in my them out on my own terms, and have the last laugh.

it's that little souvenir of a colourful year
which makes me smile inside
so I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way
surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
here's where the story ends
ooh here's where the story ends

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