I can endure just about anything. Of this, I have always been proud. If you’d asked me six years, six months or even six weeks ago, I’d tell you endurance is one of my finer qualities.
I’ve always known that this too shall pass.
And that’s what keeps me going.
Loverloverman makes a lot of money. A lot more than I do.
This wasn’t always the case.
When we met, he was knocked out by me. I had a brave and thriving blog, speaking engagements, and way more work than I knew what to do with. I’d send an e-mail, go to bed, wake up with $2,500 in my paypal account. I’d go see a new client and come home with a five figure contract. I’d made a beautiful home for myself and my children and my life was a pretty picture.
He was impressed. He was proud. You should have seen his face when I walked off the stage at Pecha Kucha. He looked like he was ready to worship.
He was ready to worship.
I loved seeing myself like that, like a goddess, in his eyes.
You know the endless books and movies and talking heads and full-on cultural meme (Steve Harvey, you bastard!) trying to convince us that men are intimidated by successful women? It is a lie. They are not. At least not in my experience.
When I was dating, no man was ever intimidated by my career or my ability to earn the dolladollabills. In fact, almost every man I dated was attracted by my career potential. I mean, think about it. Most families now are dual-income units. Who doesn’t want a partner who can bring it on home? Who wants all the financial responsibilities for an entire family and The Future on their shoulders and theirs alone?
All of this is to say that my ambition and career prowess and even that I was making more money than him turned my man ON. It still turns him on. The other day I told him that when I get tired or discouraged – and oh, I do – I think of the house we want to build and the places we want to go and I keep going a little longer, a little harder. Hearing that, he got hard.
I got the same kind of reaction from him in a store when I tried on this devilish pair of Sam Edelman heels. You cannot tell this man anything or take him anywhere. And don’t worry, it will happen again. I bought those shoes.
With his money. Because for the last year or two, I haven’t been making much of my own.
I had a baby eighteen months ago and I basically fell apart.
I fell apart even before I had the baby, when I was pregnant, and it wasn’t the first time. Pregnancy shatters me. It’s not just pregnancy, though, and that’s not the only times depression takes me over. So there I was with a beautiful new baby and a brand new family and brand new adventures – we lived in Trinidad for a while! – with the good man I love who loves me back. All was well. I should be well. I was not well.
Oh, there were days and weeks and moments when I pulled it together, had a shower, did my hair, chatted and was charming and said I was happy and wrote sweet stories. But that took it out of me, you know what I mean?
And it wasn’t that I wasn’t satisfied with my life, or that there weren’t moments when I marveled at the miracle my world had become. I have everything I want, more than I dreamed of. There is nothing lacking.
Except meds. This is a chronic disease, yo. It’s gotta be treated.
When depression has me, I go dark.
I go dark. I disappear. I’m right here, but I disappear. People call me incessantly because I’m not returning calls and when I finally do pick up, I lie and say I’m fine, just busy. No one believes me but what’s anyone to do?
I am not fine but I am busy, mostly fighting my demons, which is to say, fighting to get out of bed and get through the day.
So, in the dark, it’s hard to work. It’s not impossible, but I didn’t fight hard enough or go get help, so, hard. But not impossible.
When you don’t work, you don’t make money.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Loverloverman changed careers and started making more money than he ever had and way more money than me. I kept on being depressed and unproductive. Fortunately, he had my back. He took care of our family, and of me. He encouraged me, he put every resource in my path, childcare, coaches, money, whatever tools or courses or software I thought I needed…
…and I did nothing.
Well, nothing except stay depressed and take care of our four children which is way too much for any one human to handle all at once. Especially a depressed human who wants to be a goddess but not a domestic goddess.
I told him, over and over again, I feel like a ghost.
But I endured. I’m good at enduring. It’s an overdeveloped muscle trained by repeated bouts of depression. Even when I’m depressed, I know it will end because it always has. It has to end sometime, you’ve got to believe that, and I do. It’s what keeps me going.
So, I endure. This too shall pass.
And then it came to pass, last Fall, that Loverloverman got badly injured at work. Flattened, mashed-up hand, nerve damage. He didn’t go back to work until February? March? I can’t remember exactly, but it was months and months of recovery. Nerves regenerate at their own pace and won’t be rushed no matter what your bank account looks like.
It looked bad.
But, we endured. He worried, endlessly, and his incessant stress kind of bothered me because I knew this was temporary and we’d get through it and everything would get back to the way it was.
That’s how I endure: I frame The Things That Happen – depression, injuries, loss of income – as storms. They hit, you hang in there, they pass, the sun comes out again and all is almost like it was.
That’s the trick to endurance. You hope things will return to the way they were.
They never do.
Because, like I said, endurance is a trick.
As soon as things change, they’ve changed. Change.
After the storm, after his injury healed and he went back to work and our money situation started to stabilize, we started to stabilize. I unclenched. So did he. I started publishing and working again and that’s the best anti-depressant anyone could prescribe. It just gets better and better. I get better and better. I stopped feeling like a ghost and started acting like the dishes don’t matter* because they don’t matter and that helped me feel more like myself.
And we felt like us. We spent long evenings in bed, holding each other, talking, dreaming, talking, really talking. He told me how happy he was to see me back to work, how happy he is to see me happy (working does that to me), because this lit-up, productive woman is the woman he was fascinated by, the woman he wanted, the woman he chose, the woman he fell in love with. He was so disappointed, he told me, when he got injured and I didn’t step up. He kept expecting me to step up, step in, and I didn’t.
I didn’t. I could have, I could have changed things for us, but I didn’t. Instead, I chose to endure.
It’s a terrible thing to disappoint your lover.
It’s a terrible thing when your best quality is your worst enemy.
Endurance. I believed I was a stoic pioneer woman walking beside the wagon, making tea from dirty creek water, handling things, taking care of us, enduring. We’ll get through this, I thought, we can get through anything. We’ll weather the storm.
The thing about storms, though, is that once you know their paths, you can avoid them. You can get out of their way. You can outrun them. You can refuse to stay where they are.
If you have resources. And I am that resource.
True, we didn’t see this storm coming, but once it landed, we didn’t have to camp out in the middle of it.
And I’m the one who circled the wagons, set up the tents, and decided to stay.
When I decided to endure, I stood us all right in the eye of the storm and let it beat us up.
I didn’t have to do that.
That thing you’re enduring? Maybe you don’t have to.
Persist at the right things but don’t endure the wrong ones. Because maybe endurance isn’t always the wise choice. Maybe you don’t have to suffer. Maybe you can work your way out of it.
You don’t have to suffer. You can work your way out of trouble.
I’m so glad to be working again.
PS Did you see Marta Spendowska’s illustration of Angela Davis that ran on Wednesday? It’s the premiere of our new illustrated series, Women You Must Know. You’ve gotta check it out. Pretty please.
PPS I already linked to it once in this piece but in case you missed it, Danielle LaPorte’s Validating Your Pain Is The First Step to Getting Stronger is a must-read.
The Moral of The Story in Four Tweetables:
It’s a terrible thing to disappoint your lover. click to tweet
As soon as things change, they’ve changed. Change. click to tweet
Persist at the right things but don’t endure the wrong ones. click to tweet
You don’t have to suffer. Ditto, endure. click to tweet
(of course there’s an endnote!)
* Like the dishes don’t matter: Marta Spendowska said exactly that to me in an e-mail this week: It’s so “out of this world” when we focus and create “like the dishes don’t matter”. Yes.