May 15th, 2020. 8 days until I’m 50. Fuck! I got old. Occasionally I harken back to my late teens and the memory of my younger self. As I watch my nieces and nephews have their senior year celebrations deconstructed and reconstructed I am saddened. Would I have been so resilient? Are they as resilient as they seem? Does social media afford social honesty? Should they have to keep their chin up when everything around us is breaking down? With this, I have also been visiting the sounds of my youth and graduation. In the event you have a flair for the dramatic or can be drawn to the melodramatic (like me!) listen to Edith Piaf and “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”. It’s magical. Like 1989 the Smith’s magical. Morrissey off of anti-depression magical- and, she sings dark and deep while she sings triumphant hope “All the things that went went wrong, for at last I have learned how to to be strong.” The pain in her voice contrast with the joy of self-revelation and scar-born knowledge that lifts her. “Neither the good that was done to me, nor the bad. No nothing, no, I don’t regret anything.” Depression, this time of uncertainty and disruption, our political climate and my struggles with my ageing have me searching: Am I living a life where I don’t (or won’t) regret anything?
I have been listening to podcasts and watching some Master Class videos as I sort this out. It has not been easy. This has been a rough year and lead up to 50 has been weird. Did you know we were all going through a collective viral nightmare? From social media, distance socialing to massive unemployment it seems like someone just threw a really big pile of shit into the ceiling fan and we all didn’t realize we were standing under it. The fan is on high! It’s messy. I’m messy. Prior to all of this collective “oh fuck” reality, I was struggling. In his Master’s Class, the author David Sedaris posits the idea that a story worth being told will knock on the door to remind you it needs to be told. I like that notion. Hearing from others that turning 50 is “no big deal” or getting loving coaching that I should “get over it” has not been helpful. I have been vocal (shocking) on that, so luckily this phenom has subsided. Thank you dear friends for listening. For now, I want to stay messy. I’m turning 50 (as are many of my dearest friends) during a panic and pandemic. It sucks. My story, Mr. Sedaris? Knock, knock… uncle Randy is a mess, for now. That’s my socially distant, emotionally honest truth.
This is not to say I am desolate. Far from it. I have more now than I ever dreamed of before and everyone and everything thing I need to be fine forever. I will continue to thrive and post pretty pictures of food, family and friends. I AM fine – Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional? Yeah, I’m FINE. We used to say that back in the AIDS epidemic during support groups. Our friends and family and clients were dropping like flies. How were we? We were fine. But yes, I’m OK. I will continue to be more than OK. I have a life full of love. CoronaTimes have allowed me to circle the wagons around what is core and Chris and I have been in our love bubble in ways that comfort, console and create new levels of love. We plan to spend my birthday alone – good thing, because we technically CAN’T get together in a birthday bash- but luckily for extroverted me, I’ll be exactly where I need and want to be. We’ll do a bash when I turn 60. Fuck COVID-19 2020 and fuck turning 50.
You see, I did not think I would make it to 50. When I think back on my melancholy Morrissey phase, coming out (badly, in some cases) and living through the gay holocaust, getting to 50 seemed like a bridge too far. Why should I make it if so many others were not? Is Corona my new AIDS? Will I lose as many friends now as I did then? Good God, I hope not! I know why I made it AND I have no regrets. I have kids in my life to unduly influence and family to love. I made great decisions and I worked hard. I have sales to make and dreams to chase. I am GLAD I have made it and I am looking forward to a lot more to come. Life is a marathon and I have a lot more of those to run. I just have to work on my achilles.
Achilles? Yeah, it’s that annoying and needed thing that make the foot motion of running pretty or painful. Stretching helps, and technically my running has never been pretty, but both my achilles historically have been strong. Mine have been a problem as of late and especially as I have been leading up to 50. It tabled my 23rd marathon. It sidelined my endorphin rush. It darkened a trough in my depression in the fall of 2019 and it puts fear in me as I lace up my sneakers. Yesterday I ran 5 miles and this morning I ran 4 and right now I have no pain. I have a resting heart rate of 46 bpm still. I can heal. I can run. Stretching helps.
50 has forced me to stretch my mental achilles too. Perhaps it was the Smiths or too much Thayers street as a kid, but seeing a positive path forward has not always been clearly defined, nor finding it my core super power. Corona is creating collective depression and anxiety, so I don’t feel so alone these days. Over time, my mind and heart have played tricks on me, and so if you have not dealt with bouts of depression or trauma induced sadness, I offer this mapping. This has been the story that keeps knocking.
I look in the mirror when I am sad and I see my mother. She was always known generally as a happy and loving person. She saw opportunities with optimism and her family as her abundance of wealth. She loved the spotlight. She love the sound of her own voice and if you needed an opinion, she’d offer it. Ok, she’d offer it even if you didn’t. She would also drift. She would sigh. At times her eyes would go off and she’d come back with a start. This was most often a morning thing and I attributed it to the fatigue of life (8 fucking kids…) the lack of coffee, the joys and annoyances of my dad, or the burdens of the day. She mourned the losses in life. I started noticing this when she was approaching 60, but it had always been there. She had a rough childhood and now that I’m pushing 50, I am sure she had moments of depression. Honestly, that comforts me. I am not alone and hope she knew she wasn’t. There are others in my (and your) family. We are not alone.
Last fall- on a Tuesday, at dinner with Chris, after he had been away, while we were at a Korean restaurant, while we were laughing (back when we used to laugh at crowded restaurants)- I let out a deep distant sigh. I drifted. He caught it. He asked, lovingly “Where did you go?” I had been having a rough month. He knew that. My business had nearly failed. I felt trapped. I felt like I was failing. I was anxious about my 50th. We had just come off the discovery and conversations that my desired and dream birthday celebration was not going to be possible. Life was getting in the way. Smart and correct family decisions had unwanted impact on me. “I went to Friday”, I explained. I paused. “This is how my depression mind works. I am here, joyful, happy, laughing and completely with you. On Friday you leave. I’m not well and you will be gone for three weeks and I know I need to be here and now, present, focused, loved. But the fear of the unknown, the sadness of Friday and the prospect of the treadmill of Monday alone is equally as present. I’m going to be miserable and sad. I know it. I hold both. Both coexist equally and sometimes sadness wants my attention. It’s exhausting. I know I have no control of the future and can’t predict. It could be fine! It takes so much effort to keep negative thoughts at bay, because, unfortunately for now, I’m sad. I’m broken.” I cried.
He was perfect, and crushed. Through tears he consoled, “That sucks. And I am so, so sorry I cannot carry that for you or take it away.” He showed his pain and joined me. I wasn’t alone. Was my dad so helpful as Chris? Were any of us kids? Chris is special, so I don’t think we did much in comparison, but we did well in our own ways. We showed my mom we needed her and she was loved.
I am much, much better since that Tuesday. I am feeling quite healthy, actually. Corona cuddling has help me nest and be at my best. Both my mental and physical achilles are healing nicely. I have to keep stretching, and hydrated. Vodka counts, right? For now, I’m staying on my meds. During my time in AIDS services, I had a posted in my office (and them home) that made people uncomfortable- it’s rough: Don’t Fix My Anger, It’s Not Broken- but it is also clear. It was made by a gay man whose family shunned him. He then later died of the virus. I think today’s poster would be similar in theme, but different in message. Don’t Fix My Broken, It Makes Me Whole. Heading towards a healthy 50 in these dystopian times has felt broken. I am not proud to admit it, but I am OK with not doing this gracefully. I will likely dislike 50 until I am 60. That part is real. I am now, however, more open to thoughts and advice on embracing 50, but what I really like is knowing that I am loved. Start with that. Oh, and once we all test negative or positive, have full PPE suits or have adequate treatments, prevention and tracking, I could use a hug.