between the woods and frozen lake


My mom once told me about an event I’ll call Her First Major Freakout, an afternoon in 1939 or so when she came home from 4th grade expecting the usual bustle of her mother and sisters, and instead found nobody. It threw her into an indescribable pit of depression, of unanswered anxiety, gave her the horrifying realization that she was capable of such misery.

It’s a special thing, this capacity for depression, and it sets you apart from the others who may feel blue, but lack an all-encompassing dread so thick you can’t imagine it ending. I know it set her apart from her sisters, who all found solace in the capable hands of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and it’s something she imbued in her five kids to varying degrees.

I always remembered my mom’s story about coming back to an empty house and appreciated it as metaphor, while escaping the farther reaches of unfathomable depression myself. Of course, that paper wall was ripped down in 2001, and my solipsistic journey in those minefields has been eye-rollingly well-documented on these pages.

I have not been doing so hot for the last couple of years, for various reasons: geography, chemistry, tummy issues, and a few other things I can’t share. I’ve been concerned that my medication has occasionally not been up to the job, and if it weren’t for the unbridled joy of Lucy and Tessa, I’d begin to feel the familiar clutches of what Andrew Solomon called the noonday demon. Already I know I’ve lost a lot of the effortless… “charm”, I guess you could call it… that I possessed in my thirties when I wasn’t so wrapped up in my own bullshit. Charisma is not like riding a bicycle; it’s a skill that can be lost.

Yesterday I dropped Tessa and Lucy off at the train station in Hudson, NY and set back on the journey home – it was blowing snow with 40 mph gusts, already a foot deep on the ground, wind chill well under zero. I tried putting on music to soothe the violence outside, but I felt myself falling deeper into some kind of awful trance.

The sun set, all of the country turned pitch-black and forbidding, and it took all I had to wheel our car up the icy, steep driveway to the farmhouse. A day earlier, the farm had slept 18 people, six concurrent conversations at all times, air hockey, pool, scotch, woodstove fires. Now there was nobody, a quiet old house nestled in the small mountains, and I was alone. Just like my mom.

I tried to tackle the list of things to do, then tried to rehaul the script expected by the network in a few short days, but I felt trapped by a hundred discordant voices of sadness. In the kitchen, Lucy had left a half-eaten avocado sandwich, and I nearly cried when I saw the perfect half-circle of her bite. Yes, this is what it’d come to.

So I got on the computer and booked a flight home as soon as humanly possible. Just that simple act, and the fog lifted. I finished the script, I packed up all our clothes.

I wanted so much to stay in New York a few more days, to play basketball with the guys on Thursday, to hang with Sean, Jordi, Barno, my mom and the other folks in the city, but I need to get my act together. Sometimes the woods are neither lovely, dark, nor deep, and you just want to bask in the long, sunny glow of blue eyes and nothing notable to worry about.

0 thoughts on “between the woods and frozen lake

  1. Annie H.

    I’m sorry to read this but awestruck by how beautiful your writing is. Glad you will be home soon and surrounded by the most important people in the world. Love!

  2. Bud

    Just kidding. (obligatory smilie)
    Yeah, I have a similar capacity for depression. But wouldn’t we be oh-so-dull without it?
    I guess another cool thing about LA (besides loved ones and work) is that if you want snow this time of year you can drive to it and when you come home it’s still warm, whereas in NY, there is no place warm you can drive to. Unless you want to drive like 24 hours. And right now, I don’t.
    Still, sorry to have missed sledding with you (obligatory ellipses)

  3. Lee

    Do what you have to do, friend. And I still think you ooze with Charisma. But I know exactly what you mean. I feel like if I met myself today, I would bore myself to tears.

  4. Neva

    It is hard, January, isn’t it? Personally I always find the holidays depressing for many reasons and the cold, dark days (even down here in NC) are tough.
    I am listening to Nick Hornby’s book A Long Way Down on CD on my way to work and, even though it’s about 4 suicidal folks, it is making me laugh and laughter is good medicine. I recommend it.
    Good luck Ian and hang in there. Some sunshine and Vit D will help immensely!

  5. scotty

    Arrrgh! I’m supposed to play basketball on Thursday for my own health? I guess yo’ mental health is important, too.

  6. Salem

    The history, the struggle, none of that is lost on me. It’s real, but there is a love story in that emotion. For what it’s worth, being at the farm this week was my ticket home, when my heartbeat was away from me. Thank you.
    As for loss of charisma, suck my balls. Let’s keep our Solipsism in the realm of reality.

  7. sam

    Ian, the time of year and our age aren’t helping, but you’ll make it, I know. Last year was the worst of my life when it should have been the best on tangible levels. The brutal stuff started last January.
    It’s easy to not feel charismatic when smart, wise souls are starting to be younger than us, sometimes much younger. I met an impressive young person in a professional setting recently and then I ran into her at a Cradle show and she told me she’d brought her mother to the show as a birthday present. People used not to take their parents to the Cradle. I asked her, how old is your mother? She replied, fifty.
    Wow. Okay. Shit. It’s official. The early 40s are a weird time.
    Hang in there. Soak up the time with your gals. See you soon I hope.

  8. janet

    i love the fact that you feel you have a home with tess and lucy…………i love my kids so much and it is home with them but that is because i love them…………i show it and give it and they give that back……………..that is not asked for………….i love that they show it to me , but i need a special kind of love too. … problem is that i want to know where do i go to get love on this planet


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