This Is the Summer of my Discontent

Summers are hard for me, because I have the summer version of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some years, such as this one, it exists in conjunction with a separate episode of Major Depression. It’s a bit like how water damage and mold was coexisting on my ceiling last week.

There’s only so much I can do about my depression, particularly in the heat of summer when the weather keeps me locked indoors. But there was something I could do about the ceiling.

For many people, handling the ceiling would have been easy. Those people aren’t dealing with a storm of depression and anxiety. I couldn’t just walk down to the rental office and tell them, but I had to come up with a plan and a script.

The people who actually did the work on the ceiling came in with a plan too, although it was a plan that had to evolve when they got the ceiling open and realized how extensive the problem was.

What we saw when the ceiling was ripped out

What we saw when the ceiling was ripped out

This is the kind of thing a writer should be very familiar with.

Because of the depression, I haven’t managed to even truly begin revisions on those novels I’m supposed to be revising this summer. But I’m trying to find inspiration in the progress of my ceiling.

The first thing that happened after reporting the mold was that someone came to stare at it. He then got out a towel and wiped the visible mold away.

It would be easy to wipe the mold off my manuscripts. But the mold would still be under the surface, wouldn’t it? What I have to do is rip the metaphorical ceiling apart and discover why I have mold.

It’s not going to be easy, which is why I’m having trouble starting. But I’m trying really hard to do what Daniel Swensen talked about last week and apply the principles of mindfulness in order to simply acknowledge this hesitation without attaching anger and blame to it. Easier said than done, but as they say, that’s why we call mindfulness a practice.

The ceiling metaphor weakens here because I have the option of ignoring those poor manuscripts, whereas ignoring mold would lead to much worse problems. But considering how important writing is to my self-image, one could easily argue that ignoring my work will only make my depression stronger.

The battle against mold has been hard on me. I’m not in a good place emotionally, so my apartment looks like I’m in the middle of moving, even though I’m not. This embarrasses me to the point that I can’t face people and it at the same time, so I’ve spent the last several days hiding in a corner of my bedroom playing games like Style Savvy and watching Gilmore Girls. And, you know, trying to write this…

My manuscripts are looking a lot like my apartment, not like something I would show to anyone. But as my now immaculate ceiling proves, there is hope. I just need to rip some stuff apart, add some insulation, rebuild, and then paint.

How am I going to do this? For the ripping apart, I’m going to get out the note cards I have my outline on and make sure they match what I actually wrote. Then I’ll lay them all out and look for the bits that are moldy. Then I add or substitute cards to repair those problems. Then I rewrite with the new set of cards. It sounds easy enough when I break it down like that, but it is, of course, a huge undertaking. It’s also going to take energy that I may not manage to summon this week, or even next week. But I will summon it eventually.

Andy Brokaw

Andy Brokaw

Andy Brokaw is a novelist. And an advanced dreamer, an intermediate skier, a novice curler, a really bad housekeeper, and a level 14 homeschooling mom. As a Navy brat and then a Navy wife, she’s lived on three continents, in four countries, and in more states and towns than she can reliably count. She has two cats, two rats, a husband, and a fourteen-year-old boy.

Andy is currently living in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s subject to change. As is her hair color.
Andy Brokaw

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