Maggie Neal Doherty

Numb

In Stories that make up a life on February 11, 2012 at 12:25 am

Dear Friend,

I am numb. And it has little to do with the pain medicine I’m currently taking (with a glass of red wine, against doctor’s orders but it is necessary to sustain life and a somewhat calm and collective demeanor) from yet another ski induced injury.

While I have all the reasons in the world to be happy, to be proud, and to be kind to myself, this past year, with all of its blissful joys, I feel numb. It’s not to say that I don’t feel love or happiness or laughter or giddiness. It’s just that between the many moments of sheer joy: saying yes to Cole’s proposal in Glacier’s high country or feeling the weight of my acceptance letter to graduate school, in the hinterlands of my psyche, I feel numb. Fatigued. Like my smiles only last for a few days and then the blankness creeps in. I fill this void — now bordering on an addiction– with dumb activities like spending hours on the Internet, namely Facebook. I waste ungodly amounts of time on the site, manic with my keystrokes  clicking between photos of dogs and babies and pathetic status updates. I fret for hours over exactly what witty and cool thing I’ll post on my own page. I spend an inordinate amount of time crafting replies and jotting messages to distant friends. I am numbing myself in failed attempts to connect with others in an atmosphere of nothingness, just a blinking computer screen.

And it’s not just Facebook.

There are many other “smart” things I could be doing on this wide world of the web. Things like writing a new post on my blog. Or reading intelligent and inspiring posts about writing. Sure, I do spend a fair amount of time on NPR’s site scrolling through well-crafted articles on culture and politics, but while doing so, I most certainly open another tab on my browser and interrupt my reading with glances at clothes and shoes and other objects that I must consume.

Once again, instead of doing the things that are good for me, like exercising or writing (gasp!) I fill this void with cheap, meaningless searching. I have traded in my dirt-bag lifestyle –there was a time I lived without electricity and this overwhelming  desire to open Google and search. Search for what?

There have been little lifelines that have kept me afloat. Helped me rise, albeit momentarily, from this numbness. But I have to admit, something at my core has changed in the past year. Shifted. This past summer, I opted out of many hikes, claiming that I was too tired to enjoy a walk in the woods, only to sit in my log house, look at the mountains in the distance and ignore their calls. I’d flip through a stack of catalogs, my desire for new clothes, new anything building while I blocked my most elemental nature — the girl who truly loved (whether it was men, the North Fork, skiing powder, or bonfires and PBR) and was really happy in just her old long underwear.

For the girl who got the guy, got the dream house, got the great job, and got into grad school, there really isn’t much to complain about, right?

Is it laziness? Fear? Numbness? Or another form of self-sabotage?

These are truly, as they always are, questions that I alone have to answer.

But the other day, I returned home from work there was a package at my door. An early birthday present from a wonderful friend and I could not resist. I was wallowing in self-pity, anyway. It was Pam Houston’s new book, Contents May Have Shifted.

Another lifeline.

Another brilliant and thoughtful lifeline.

Oh yes it is love and it is the written word that fills this void.

Computer, off.

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