I visited my BFF in New York recently and shared with him and a friend about this depression stuff and my recent depressive episode which, thankfully, I am coming out of.
On the move for mental health
I mentioned how happy I was when I was in Costa Rica in February for two weeks and how happily I flitted from one adventure to the next last fall.
First, I took my 14-year-old out to Denver and visited Pike’s Peak, Buffalo Bill Cody’s Museum and Burial Ground, and listened intently as an archaeologist told us how Dinosaur Ridge was the first location where things like stegosaurus and allosaurus were ever found. We meandered the majestic red rock formations at Garden of the Gods south of Denver and climbed in the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.
A month later I was meeting up with an old friend and her daughter in New York, exploring the Guggenheim and striding the city sidewalks like we did when we lived there 30 years earlier.
Then I was off to Dallas with my 17-year-old who, fascinated with JFK, wanted to see The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. From there we made a hardcore road trip to Jasper, Arkansas, to see an elderly friend of mine and my mother’s whom I hadn’t seen for many years, and whom I knew I’d never see again. My son was game when I coaxed him into the long drive with a promised stop in Oklahoma to learn about the Chocktaw Nation at an indigenous cultural center. The visit was sweet and poignant; a month later the friend passed away.
Next, I was off to Phoenix for the wedding of my college roommate. There, I reunited with our other college roommate—the three of us hadn’t been together since 1993—and instantly bonded with my friend’s new wife as well. It was profoundly sweet, fun, hilarious at times, and wonderful.
An Ahh-Duh moment
Relaying some of this to my friend in New York, he interjected.
“I think travel is your best medicine.”
I looked at him like he had just reminded me of who I was, and I have somehow been oblivious to what brings me to life. Maybe it’s just the way things have gone. The way the ball bounces. The routines I’ve gotten into. The work and home life I have chosen.
I think travel is your best medicine.
I should know…I’m a traveler. It has always been my spark. He should know. We’ve traveled the world together.
“When you’re depressed,” he said in halting English (he’s Thai). “You go inward, right? Travel, you go out.” He motioned doors opening with his hands.
I couldn’t have gotten it any better from any therapist or psychedelic experience.
Off I go.
It's just life: Toil and strife (what my father wrote to me 20 years ago that applies right now)
Since I've been working on this memoir and sifting through letters my father wrote me over the years, certain wisdom strikes me differently than it did when he first delivered it.
At the time he wrote this missive in 2001, it was the year I got laid off from the print-on-demand book publishing company I worked for in Philadelphia. But I had also decided to start my own business so I struck out on my own⏤the same year the Twin Towers were downed in a terrorist attack and the world stood still. Either way, I must've written to him of my struggles, whether with writing or outlook, and he wrote back.
I understand your pain and disappointment. BUT It's just LIFE. You didn't ask to be here but you IS IS IS."
Dealing with depression so much in these later years, there's something about the simplicity of that statement, and maybe⏤as I'm learning more about dialectical behavioral therapy and the idea of "this exists" while "this also exists"⏤a faint experience of acceptance of my existence. Jokingly, I recently told my therapist, "Yeah, I guess if I'm not gonna off myself and I'm gonna be here, I gotta figure this shit out."
Poem excerpt from East of Nowhere, my father's unfinished novel, and words of wisdom to me
These are the good times
Another line in the poem struck me, reminding me of Carly Simon's "Anticipation" when she sings about "these are the good ol' days." My father writes that these are "finally the good/s times. I never knew that many that bad." And if you knew the kind of shitstorms my father would find himself in, you might wonder how that could be. But that's one thing about my father, in spite of severe alcoholism and oftentimes impaired rationale, his optimism persevered. As my brother once said, good thing Daddy wasn't all woe is me and sad sack. He would've been miserable to be around. He just kept looking to the dawn.
Check out more Chowanisms (Stuff Ed Said)
Navigating the psychedelic medicine universe as a sober person