“Do you think about suicide?”
“Or harming yourself? Or anyone else?”
“No. I don’t think any of that has ever crossed my mind.”
The questions asked and answered, we move on. Almost every conversation where I share how sad I get goes this way. Do I want to kill myself or hurt anyone? No? OK, great, let’s move on.
What no one asks me is if I ever just want to quit.
Quit work? Yes.
Quit writing? Yes.
Quit marriage? Yes.
Quit parenting? Yes.
Quit friendships? Yes.
Quit life? Yes.
Not die. Just quit. Walk away. Live in a cave (one of the kinds without spiders and dragons and whispered lies).
I am sitting here this morning, almost two hours into the day already, my hair unfinished, still in the shorts and tank top I slept in, one leg unshaven, an hour to go before I leave for work, a 45-minute commute where I sometimes think about driving right past work and on into the west toward the ocean.
I have everything to be happy about in life, and I am, I truly am, but I also struggle. More, I had to sit down in the middle of getting ready this morning to put down words because my head is full of emotion and ideas and things to get done and people to text and a diet to follow, and all I could think about is, I am so tired of censoring myself. I am so tired of shoving down the words I want to write, that I struggle, that I’m human.
The other day, I found my breaking point while sitting in the overcrowded, noisy waiting area of social services. I was there to pick up our food stamp card. I didn’t realize how much pressure I was under until that very moment, listening to people complain about the wait, about how they just needed that one thing (we all need just that one thing), how they are tired of the system trying to take advantage of them. I felt the tears threaten almost the moment I stepped out of the elevator and into the chaos.
I haven’t been in a government assistance office — or in need — in near about 20 years. Humbling doesn’t even begin to describe the crushing weight I felt. I don’t at all look down upon those in need, and we are in a place of need – temporary need – but I also have worked hard to never have to return to this place in life. So yes, I felt ashamed, and I felt overwhelmed, and I felt grateful, all at the same time.
I also wanted to just quit. What’s the point? Why am I working my butt off only to have to sit in the welfare office and get a food stamp card? Where is the payoff? Why is this all so hard?
The thought rattling around in my head is this: I’ve been censoring myself. My words, my abilities, my growth. Despite changes over the last couple of years, I have also gotten too comfortable with just getting by. A friend recently remarked that this other person thrives on drama, and all I could think about was that maybe I thrive on getting by and the struggle that comes with it.
That’s a hard thought. A hard truth, if it’s truth. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I really have just been getting by, and when my husband recently said we’ll be back on our feet soon and we’ll get by, I felt a strong tug in my heart that we just cannot accept that anymore.
Just getting by means bare minimum effort.
Just getting by means living paycheck to paycheck.
Just getting by means accepting we cannot change.
Just getting by means struggle.
Just getting by means censorship.
Just getting by means we accept weakness.
Just getting by means not taking care of our health.
Just getting by means death, even if our hearts continue to beat.
I cannot accept that. Nor can I continue to censor myself — my words, my heart, my life.
This isn’t about getting government assistance. This is about saying I will not accept that as a solution to my problems. It means I will get up and do what I ask so many others to do — to give myself the effort and time I deserve to rise above this struggle, to stay put when I want to run, to hold on when I want to quit, and to accept that of all that I cannot control, I can do the work and walk into the direction where I want to go. I can climb out of this place because I am strong enough and I want it badly enough.
I will not accept just getting by. Not anymore.