If one lives in one place for any length of time, one is likely to become a regular at some business or other. Being a regular is this weird, transactional, casual relationship. It can feel awkward to be noticed, but it’s also nice to have people be nice to you.
My goal in any retail or service-receiving situation is for the person on the other side of the counter to remember me either as one of their favorite customer for the day or as completely forgettable. I try to be nice and polite to all these folks to make it easy for them to be nice and polite to me, since they pretty much have to.
This means, though, when I fall off the grid for a month or so at a time, people notice. One never goes through life without impacting others and most of us impact lots more people than we think about when we consider the question of our own worth.
The upshot of this is, if one, say, spends the vast majority of January fighting off a depressive episode and wrestling with one’s inner demons to get out of bed every morning, instead of doing one’s usual errands, one is likely to get some questions when one re-emerges.
“I haven’t seen you in a while,” the guy at the sandwich shop might say. And what can I say back to that? Saying “I was locked in a Sisyphean cycle of my brain eating itself” is a bit much to lay on so casual a relationship, particularly one where the other person is supposed to show sympathy and kindness at the expense of their own energy and emotions.
I usually go with “I’ve been out of town for a while,” (true, for the week before my depressive episode began) or “I’ve been sick for a while” (true, for the week after it ended) or “It’s been really crazy at work” (true for several weeks in the middle).
To be open about one’s mental illness is all well and good, but my barista should not have to get into this shit with me just to sell me coffee, no matter how nice and friendly he appears to be.
Retail interactions aren’t where activism lives, is I guess what I’m saying. And while I sometimes do get into identity politics with service folks (like thanking someone whose nametag lists their preferred pronouns, for instance) I don’t usually go beyond a sort of queer secret-handshake-style interaction (when called for).
It’s one thing to be open and honest about this shit. We do need that. Mental illness needs to be de-stigmatized. (Hell, plenty of *physical* illnesses still need to be de-stigmatized, too. The culture of associating morality with illness and disability is a huge topic and one that is too big for this post.) But it’s okay to not tell all of the truth all of the time. It doesn’t undermine your truth. It’s not a failure of will.
So — all this is to say that stuff got to me in January. I always struggle in deep winter (the lack of light especially eats my brain). I’m behind on basically everything in my life and running to catch up. I know it’s late for me to say this, but I’m still hoping to get some good work done in 2018. I want to bend towards action and positive change.
It’s not a resolution, because I don’t make those. Just a goal or a hope. And as always, in perpetuity, it starts today, because that’s what I’ve got.