I spent my entire 40th year looking forward to turning 40. I was never 39. I was always almost 40. I was truly, sincerely excited by the idea of being 40. I was under the impression turning 40 was going to propel me to greater and greater heights. At the very least, I could settle into my wrinkles a little easier.
I had plans. In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I thought about writing an inspiring essay on all the ways turning 40 was going to change my life. Turning 40 would allow me to embrace myself more fully and to care even less about outside perceptions of who I am, I thought. I would be able to shake off all those things holding me down — insecurities, fears, errors in communication, the inability to hide feelings from my face.
In the month since I turned 40, I’ve entered what can only be described as the full-on-mid-life-melt-down-when-is-this-over? stage of life. As I entered this stage, I went to the forest. I thought, if this is what my life will be now, I might as well bathe in the redwoods. And so I did and I bathed all the way, which is to say — I got naked in the forest. Dancing naked in the redwood forest is a worthy way to celebrate, even during meltdown. I believe this is something like joy. Others may call it insanity.
In the weeks since my birthday, I have spiraled into a new kind of abyss. Depression has reared its ugly head at an alarming intensity and I’m finding it more difficult to question its legitimacy. Maybe it’s just the pandemic? Well, yes, the past year has been depressing as hell, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also have actual, clinical depression. The one thing I look forward to most these days is getting myself back into therapy. I’m ready:
Me: “Can you scan my brain and tell me what the problem is?”
Therapist: “Let’s talk about why you feel that way.”
I keep thinking of all those lies depression tells and wondering how many I’ve been believing and for how long. I keep remembering mentions of shadow work from others and wondering what it looks like to meet my shadow. I think of little-girl-Lindsay lying on her bed, writing “I don’t want to live anymore” in pencil on the wall, and wonder if that’s where I should start.
Oh my God, I just wrote that out loud. For anyone who reads this, please know this is not a cry for help. I would not be here writing this if I was in that place. I would be crying out for help to the people in my life who will tell me to go to therapy and drink some water and go outside and put some music on and dance.
And isn’t it time for it be normal for us to talk about this stuff? Life can be really painful and seem really hard to do sometimes. I know people who feel the same. I also know that little girl writing those words on the wall in pencil, heard those words from someone else. But I can’t be sure if that’s the only reason why she wrote them. Maybe she was exhibiting depression already.
No, this is not a cry for help.
This is a reckoning.
I’m not sure where to go from here but it seems like inward is still the answer. Further and further into the Self. Like Alice in Under-Land. I’m scared to get back into therapy because what if I find out I am clinically depressed? I already know one answer to this problem is to take anti-depressants. I have a strong aversion to this. I’m not judging anyone who takes anti-depression medication. I just don’t like the idea of doing it myself.
But then, what if I find out I’m just… normal? Just a human who’s feeling how hard life is? Just a normal, American human? That would be worse. I don’t think we know how to do this. I don’t know how to do this. How to live in the world we’re living in right now. The 2021 world where technology is god and human connection is increasingly more difficult. Among other things. God, am I really going to put these words out there?
So this is 40. Staring depression in the face.
Until I find a therapist, this is what I’ve got. I’ve got the rawness of my own heart. The willingness to stop running away from the scary parts of myself — Hello, Shadow. The few people in my life I’m not afraid to admit these things to out loud, who continue to walk with me in the dark.
I still have my voice, though it feels so shaky at the moment. I have the ability to tell my story, though I may still struggle to tell it well. I have my physical health and the ability to go outside and play, as little-girl-Lindsay loved to do so much. I have yoga and oxygen and music and this beautiful place I call home. I have hiking boots that give me blisters but remind me how alive I am. I have a functioning vehicle I can drive to the canyon in, whenever I want to.
Yes. The canyon.
Last year, as I was on my way to 40, someone gave me a new name:
I received this name at the end of my yoga training, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Primroses are self-seeding, flowering plants, and canyons are deep incisions in the earth. I know the canyon part of the name was inspired by how deeply I went into learning about yoga, but the primrose part wasn’t explicitly explained to me.
So I’ve been thinking. What does it mean to be a self-seeding plant? Can I relate? I’ve had to rely heavily on myself in life, to keep living and growing. I am both proud and resentful of this. I resent how awkward this makes me. I know it’s hard to do life alone and I want to lean on others so badly, but I’m scared of losing them.
The pain of losing others is the worst part of life. And no matter how hard I try, I keep being, human. And with this condition comes, inevitably, loss. I look back on these last 40 years and see the patterns. Community come and gone in waves. Friendships started and friendships ended. Romantic love — a string of failed attempts at forever. And the one person I’m always left with is, myself. Maybe there is something to this self-seeding thing after all?
Self-seed | verb: to sow itself by dropping seeds or by natural action, as of wind or water or birds.
This just makes me think of that Cat Stevens song. “I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul. Where I’ll end up, well I think only God really knows.” And if all I ever receive from the experience of being named Primrose Canyon is to be reminded of one of my favorite songs, I’ll take it.
But can you imagine? A canyon filled with self-seeding plants that grow flowers? Seems like a beautiful place to be. It seems like a safe place, too.
And this, more than anything, is what I hope to become in the next 40 years: a safe person for others to be with.