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.