While out shopping for yarn and fibrefill in order to continue on with my foray into the world of structural crochet, I ran into an ex-coworker from a few years ago.
"How are you doing these days?" she asked.
"Pretty good," I told her. It was much easier to lie.
"Are you still working at the same place?"
"Yep, I am," I said. That was another lie. It felt inappropriate to tell her that I am on leave from work while standing next to a large wire cube filled with plush Santas and reindeer heads. That the Santas were allowed complete bodies while the reindeer looked ready for wall-mounting seemed like a morbid joke.
We wished each other season's greetings, or, rather, I started walking away with a sudden need to stop having a conversation in which absolutely nothing was being said, and we both tried to save it by pretending to some interest in Christmas. I felt bad about that. I really do like this woman.
I am being such a Scrooge today. Forgive me. No, don't. I am a Scrooge today. Screw you. No. Ignore that. I think that I am having an adverse reaction to my once-yearly trek into the fluorescent nation of Wal-Mart. Their greeters creep me out, and I swear that they ration the oxygen. That's probably what makes people think inflatable Christmas symbols are a good idea.
It is strange to have these small run-ins with people from my clerical life. I have been on leave from work for a while now for a variety of reasons, and "pretty good" seems like the simplest way to sum up sometimes-I-rock-back-and-forth-under-a-blanket and I-just-learned-how-to-crochet. It's not that I want to tell them the truth. These days, I barely want to accept that I have to be on leave for the good of me and mine . It just feels so damn awkward to smile and say "pretty good" to someone that I truly like and respect in an aisle at Wal-Mart towering with cheap, plastic symptoms of tacky North American entitlement while my fingertips buzz and zap because my psych medication has decided to assert its less welcome side effects over the last couple of weeks.
It would be easier, more tidy, less complicated, if the mould of adulthood I was given to believe in as a child existed, and, if so, I had shaped myself accordingly; to grow up, to go to university, to have a career, to get married, to have children and holidays and a house and savings and a God, to have grandchildren and a home with closets and drawers with decades of family history tucked inside that smell quiet and musty-sweet: the achievement of an assumed line of divine progress like a simple 1950s chronological map of history to a present day filled with comforts and wealth of spirit and amenities would have made "pretty good" seem a reasonable answer that, under the circumstances of my realized today, I cannot give.
It breeds a sense of disgrace in me that I have been unable to shake despite my many successes. I have not followed the line; I cannot feel the comfortable outlines of that old mould around me; I do not yet know how to map myself out within a clean, linear framework which relates also to points beyond my person. "Pretty good" points nowhere; it is a stand-in for the places I do not know how to travel with you; it says I do not belong here, because I feel too much shame for not having understood the process I should have followed, for not being someone who could, and now I am in a position that I feel I cannot share. It tells me that I am not successful, and further, it tells me that all my previous successes were not enough.
This is where the sense of linear progression that was taught to me in history classes and bible studies which followed prominent men at odds with other prominent men falling like dominoes fails me: the perceived singular moment in which I find myself becomes the end-point on a simple graph, the end result of all its preceding points. This is a lie, but a lie whose apparent simplicity drags me back again and again. It is easier to believe that than dig out the intricate webwork within the map and accept the responsibility of moving forward. I am done, I am already the future, I can lie down if the end-point on the line graph is the destiny of all that came before. This misconception of time and events puts all of my personal history's weight on the present moment. As much as I know this view is both apocryphal and impractical, it sits inside my chest and burns hotly up the back of my neck.
It's kind of a major drag.
Life is not simple.
And I am doing "pretty good".