It’s therapy 101 to let your problems just be your problems, to not apologize or justify that it could be worse. Everyone’s battle gets to matter, even in the midst of such national sadness, even in a drought, even when it’s 65 degrees outside in the middle of December. And yet the voice that’s as old as a scar still shouts that I have no right not to be grateful, that complaining drains the room and the page. Sometimes I nod in feeble agreement—oh right, right, sorry about that— and sometimes I picture myself hitting that voice with a baseball bat until it splatters against the wall and breaks the bat in two. So there’s that.
I haven’t been writing. I sit down to write and try to start from where I am but the voice that emerges is either 14 years old and annoying as all hell or empty like a shallow well. I am scared of posting something badly written, and so I censor the words because the voice that’s trying to get out is just sad, and I’m just not sure I can do much with sad. I like to write from the place of redemption and hilltops; I like to be relatable insofar that I can still offer sage wisdom at the end. But I feel watery and raw and homesick, and though I know that joy comes in the morning, the night is the night is the night.
I understood that moving was eventually going to become sadder and somewhat more demoralizing than just being difficult. I knew that at some point unemployment or loneliness or familial disappointments or root canals would become the points of punctuation in this winter of our best efforts. What I didn’t expect was such a drought of strength, such a desire to withdraw from my family and this place. I’ve never believed that we have a set limit on how much we can handle, but lately I’ve felt like my ability to give has been slowly chipped away and depleted by worrying about Austin, by trying to manically please my parents and get out of their way, by reaching for optimism in the midst of rising prices and thwarted tries, by watching too many home videos of a lonely little girl, by missing Seattle friends but desperately wanting to love this place.
It’s times like these when I’m so grateful for my therapist’s voice in my head, for the fierce permission and solidarity she always offered. I’ll imagine taking these thoughts into her office like I always used to, and then try to imagine how the conversation would go—how she would listen, what she would be feeling while sitting with me, what she would challenge to go deeper with, what she would give, what I would let myself receive.
It’s okay, more than okay, to be sad, she would say. I am not responsible for anyone’s reactions to me or my emotions; I am free to express what affects me, regardless of how it makes anybody else feel. It’s still okay to be sad. Treat the tears as I would a rainy day: a warrant to curl up and hold hot tea in my hands, watching the steam rise and stick to the inside of the window as rain bathes us all.