The Practical Sedan in the Waiting Place

The road is nondescript. Just your typical road on a fall day with leaves falling in a kaleidoscope of autumnal glory. The bright oranges and yellows land on the road and scatter across the hood of the car sitting there. Its a practical sedan, as nondescript as the road, really. Not old enough to be a classic but not new; it shows its age in the faded paint and the handful of door dings gracing its sides and bumpers. Its the kind of car you see everyday and never think about. Why is that practical sedan just sitting there?

The car shows no reason to be parked there, going no where. No tell-tell raised hood or flattened tires offer up proof of the car’s immobility. Most passersby don’t even slow down on their way past because without obvious signs of distress, well, it could be anything at all.

A closer look reveals an interior–not tidy enough to be the car of either the childless or the compulsive, but definitely not the moveable hoarder’s nest sometimes seen in parking lots. The doors are locked, the windows rolled up. There is no way inside the car without force but then, why bother? There looks to be nothing of real value just lying about.

But then the keen eye sees the problem. The car is in neutral. Not park as one would expect. Putting a car in park infers a pause, a stopping of the journey, an intentional act by the driver. Much like putting the car into gear also demonstrates the intention to move forward or even backwards.  Either way, there is intention.

But this practical sedan is in neutral. It is going nowhere and looks to be abandoned here by the side of the road.  And this is the curious bit. Just why would the car be here and stuck in neutral with no hope of moving and rejoining the other cars? Who left it like this and why? Were they simply careless and that’s why the car is in neutral? Or is there something wrong with the car that keeps it from staying in gear and moving along as it should?


Today is my 43 birthday and that practical sedan? That’s me. Nothing flashy or even very interesting aside from the fact that I am stuck. I’m in a slump and as Dr. Seuss so aptly explained, “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”  Once I thought there were places I’d go, but now I’m not sure. Because I’m in that dark Waiting Place. And because I’m going neither forward nor backward, I’m just here, stuck in neutral doing nothing.

This is not new for me, unfortunately. This getting myself stuck in neutral has been part of my life as long as I can remember. Most folks think of me as funny and witty and the first one to tell a joke. But laughter is only a distraction. And when I’m not being funny or witty or telling jokes and instead show my real feelings on my real face, most tell me to “cheer up” as if that is all it takes. Oh how I wish it were that simple. Because we who struggle, who know the taste of depression and self-hatred and rage and all the other bits and pieces that mean we never see the sunshine without also seeing the shadows, we would love to have an easy, authentic way to not feel like this.

I feel empty. Stuck. Left behind on the side of the road. Playing games against myself that can never be won, only lost. I suppose I am lost in this place.

And the hardest part is knowing that the only way out of this horribly dark and terrifying place is through.

Thank goodness there are people in my life who hold a spare key and can help me get unstuck, get out of neutral and on my way again.  And they understand that I’ll need their help again before my journey is over.

13 thoughts on “The Practical Sedan in the Waiting Place

  1. I understand the Waiting Place well, as well as the depression that is transient, sometimes for no reason at all. DO surround yourself with bright things, real people and those who love you. Do things that make you happy and surround your with meaning. And, one day, you will ‘awaken’ and find you’re no longer in that Stuck Place but you’ve been moving all along. 🙂

  2. Big hugs hon.

    And you’ll never be completely stuck, because me and your friends are going to grab your hand and help you through it.

    Depression and self doubt suck. No way around it. It isn’t as simple as getting over it, or plowing through it, because it lingers and oozes through your heart and soul. But it doesn’t have to hold you back.

    Take one step, celebrate it. Enjoy it. Then take another. You don’t always have to look at the big picture, the goal of life. Sometimes little steps are the most profound changes we can make.

  3. I apparently don’t remember turning 43. We were driving along one day and the kids asked me how old I was and I said, “42.” And dear husband informed me I was actually 43. Really? When did the years start running together like that? I turned 44 a couple weeks later and I still feel kind of cheated by 43. Granted, I did accomplish a lot as a 42-year-old, but 43 remains a dim memory.

    So for the sake of this 43rd birthday of yours, I’m pushing. Thank God you’re in neutral because there’s a hill coming up and I plan to ride the bumper until we both get wherever it is we’re going. Sometimes life is just a ride and sharing it with friends is enough.

    I’m here for you.

  4. Two things, neither significant nor enough, really:
    Happy birthday. & *hugs*

  5. Yup. What you said. For someone who is in neutral you sure write pretty. I know, it’s not enough, but it may be the best I can offer.

    Obviously I don’t know your exact configuration of woes, any more than you could know mine. But the neutral is still neutral, no matter what make or type the vehicle. The fog is still the fog, no matter who’s standing in it.

    We’re all here – and here for you as much as we can be. If one of us can’t fit the need at any given time, there are others here who may. Don’t believe me? Try us.

    Hugs, kiddo(I can call you that – I’ve got ten years on you) 😉

  6. I do not know you but I am sorry that you are in pain.

    I hope you find comfort in writing. You write beautifully. As the person above said, that’s not enough. It suggests to me, though, that you are a sensitive, introspective person with a lot to offer. That doesn’t mean life is easy. I hope that when you do feel joy, you feel it strongly. I hope you feel joy soon.

    Maybe you will feel a little better once your birthday is over. Those days can hold some kind of expectation that doesn’t always get fulfilled.

    Please take care of yourself and know that other people care.


  7. Spent most of last winter in that place – scared of winding up there again. You are not alone, and there are a number of us more than happy to assist with the unslumping process. Hang in there. ~hugs~

  8. The thing about neutral is that you are not stuck. You can roll, forward or back with help. If the parking brake were on, then there would be trouble. So, let me wrap this rope around your front bumper and gently tie a knot, and pull you forward for coffee this weekend? Name the place, m’dear. Saturday morning?

    You are a terrific writer and a terrific person. I’m sending lots of birthday good wishes your way and sending a great, big, birthday HUG.:) 🙂

  9. I’m so glad you are brave enough to share Kristina. Perspective is so interesting, because from the outside looking in, your neutral looks like a whirlwind of life and activity. I would love to share thoughts and advice, but don’t want to sound trite. Anyhoo, my heart is with you.

  10. I am 67 and who’s counting any more?

    I have suffered from clinical depression and have read about it and thought about it a lot.

    First of all, be careful with your genetics. Choose your parents well. I suspect that both my mother and father suffered from it (though never formally diagnosed or treated as far as I know).

    Second, pay attention to your health in terms of diet and nutrition. An excellent book in this regard is The Depression Cure by Stephen Iliardi. (I have no connection with the author or book.) It’s well-researched and has fine advice. You run vigorously; that’s excellent. Make sure you get your sun and take your fish oil.

    Third, try to avoid misfortune. Don’t be born in Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Sri Lanka or the like. Avoid marrying someone who beats you, avoid being struck by drunk drivers, and the like. These events are likely to depress you.

    A lot of people depend on children and grandchildren to console them. This is a high risk strategy and not one that applies to everyone. It’s been pretty good for me so far.

    Finally, and this is pertinent to your musing about your age; we all have to deal with the “existential dilemma.” It’s most aptly and concisely put as, “Life’s a bitch; then you die.” [I apologize to any women who are offended. You are welcome to say, “Life’s a bastard, then you die.”]

    Over the ages, the most persistent approach to dealing with this is to turn to some sort of religious faith. In my case, for reasons I won’t expand on, religious belief has the opposite effect. As is the case with people such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (and the like), I consider religious belief as the least effective way to deal with our inevitable mortality and decline in an apparently cold, indifferent, and pointless universe, where at best we create our own values, meanings, and purposes.

    I am worse than an atheist. I describe myself as an “ethical nihilist,” and my personal motto is “cheerful despair.”

  11. To all of you who took the time to respond, thank you. My husband asked if writing this helped, if it was cathartic. And it was. But even more helpful than admitting to the struggle is the reminder that I have very wonderful people in my life — some I know in “real life” and some I’ve only known via the inter webs, but I know them regardless.

    I have two good ears, two broad shoulders, and two strong arms. If you ever need to talk about your pain, a shoulder to cry on, or to be carried through the darkness, please let me know.

    Together we can all be better.

  12. This may seem as a bit odd — what does a 26 year old have to say about “waiting in age”? But you see, mid-twenty somethings (22- 28) always have been under an enormous amount of pressure: graduate college and establish a career (esp in a jobless economy), move out of your parents’ house, obtain insurance when no one wants to insure you, find a mate to share your life with, and on and on.

    23 was hard – realizing this whole “full-time career” thing was going to have to be accomplished via monkey bars instead of using a ladder. 24 was a solid year. 25 was realizing that my values are different than most of the people around me and what that means for me. 26 – well my philosophy is: I am admitting I don’t know have all the answers, take it all in and work on building meaningful relationships.

    A trend? Odd years are just that, odd. My advice to you? Embrace the fact that everyone is facing their own challenge. There is something reassuring in the fact that we are not all in this alone – regardless of each of our individual uphill battles.

  13. Aw. *hugs*

    Sorry I missed this yesterday. I have The Crud, and my brain isn’t working properly. But a belated Happy Birthday, anyway. Maybe not so happy right now, but, since you’ve been through it before, at least you know you’ll get those wheels moving again soon.

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