By Jack Canfora
It feels like a long time since I’ve posted on here; it’s likely you, with your busy lives crammed with saving democracy, binging various food-themed shows, and (if you’re like me) binging on actual food haven’t noticed my absence, but I certainly have. Much of it has been for a happy reason: I’m the Artistic Director of a new online theater company, New Normal Rep (follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, he plugged crassly), and we’re about to launch our inaugural season, and so: too busy to do much of anything else.
But despite this sense of hope, gratitude, and purpose this project feeds me, I’ve also been battling what Winston Churchill called “The Black Dog” a great deal recently: a gnawing, visceral, unnameable certainty in the complete futility of, well, anything. In less melodramatic terms: depression. Or, in slightly melodramatic terms than used in the previous sentence: Depression.
This particular flavor of Depression has featured an unaccountable irritability at the world and its populace, with the occasional surprise visit from volcanic, formless rages, and a deep sense of numbness and distance from those close to me with a simultaneously attuned sensitivity to the sadness and indelible loneliness of strangers and animals. I saw a man on a subway platform at Penn Station this week accompanied by a ragged menagerie of animals he was selling for “adoption.” Both the man and the animals alike were dirty and careworn, and one dog in particular looked at me with such a piercing and forlorn hopelessness, that I boarded my train with my face mask salty and wet. That poor dog still haunts me. For all I know, she feels the same way about me.
But it doesn’t take objectively pathetic sights to press the trap door button on my emotional armor (See? I’m mixing metaphors. THAT’S how bad). The most prosaic scenes can set my spiraling. There ought to be a word for the ineffable sadness that’s sometimes aroused in observing otherwise ordinary things. For all I know, there is. I can’t imagine the Germans haven’t got that one covered. That seems right up their alley, no?
Anyway, I have no sense of what brought on this deluge of Sad, but I’ve found that it’s often very hard to comprehend the most basic truths about myself, in the same way the simplest and smallest words are often hardest to define. Just as words like “an” and “the” can stump even the most articulate of people to express their meaning, the necessary bits of myself that glue my basic narrative together often glide by unnoticed.
I sometimes feel like a jigsaw puzzle of a solid gray background. As Yogi Berra once explained, “There comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.” Objectively, I have much to be grateful for, and much to look forward to. I know that, and remind myself hourly. At the moment, however, I’m not returning my calls to myself. But I will.
Anyway, I’m back. And still here. Sometimes, that’s enough.
Follow me on the Twitter @jackcanfora and @NormalRep
Follow my blog: http://www.thewritingonthepaddedwall.com
25 thoughts on “Been A While”
Hang in there. Love the sound of the new theatre company.
Take that big black dog for a walk. Maybe he’ll run away. We’re all in this. Hang on.
I get this. The words, “This particular flavor of Depression has featured an unaccountable irritability at the world and its populace, with occasional the occasional surprise visit from volcanic, formless rages, and a deep sense of numbness and distance from those close to me with a simultaneously attuned sensitivity to the sadness and indelible loneliness of strangers and animals” need to be put on a t-shirt or flashcard that I can show to people when they ask me how I’m feeling. I’m sorry you’re there. I hope you feel ready to pick up the phone soon. 🙂
Thanks. It’d have to be a pretty big t shirt.
It’s okay. I like big and baggy. 😉
Wonderful post 👏🏿
Congratulations on your new assignment!
It’s good to read from you after so long!
Thank you so much! That means a lot.
There you are! I’ve been wondering and waiting for one of your posts. You’re showing great strength in this time, and thanks for sharing with us animals. These are sometimes known as the Hungry Times, when Winter stores (of everything) start to get low, and it’s still a long time before Spring. How can we help? Round-robin stories? Ideas for the Perfect Hero? Pictures of poodles? What would make the hungry times less gaunt emotionally? Whatever it is; I’m in!
Haha. You’re very sweet. This comment alone helps 🙂
I’m in as well. I can so relate to you and the Hungry Times.
In addition to my above comment, I wish you much luck and success with your new adventure!
Thanks so much!!
I totally understand the black dog! I became acquainted with the notion that certain vitamin deficiencies can create or exacerbate depression or sadness. I researched vitamin B complex, magnesium, vitamin D, as well as CBD capsules. For me, I was deficient, and taking them really helped me. If you don’t have an answer to to cause, perhaps some research may be good?
Blessings to you!
I’ve missed your brutally honest, yet humorous, penmanship. I think many of us can relate, myself included, sometimes it feels like it will take an exorbitant amount of effort to write something worth publishing. And it’s never good to force yourself. 🙂
Great to hear from you Jack. I too have missed your posts. The black dog is a difficult beast to live with. Having the strength to show up is everything during such times. Wishing you all the best with your theatre company. 🙏
Lets mix some more metaphors -sensitivity is a two-edged sword and when it is sheathed it acts like blotting paper. We are not islands.
Oh jesus, I know hw you feel only too well. Hope it picks up for you. I fear there is no reason behind it other than the physiological. That is my view having struggled with 64 years of intermittent blackness.
The mind’s a mystery. 🙏
This is just perfect, Jack. You describe it all so well. What a mixed bag this life can be, eh? Sending you good vibes, my friend. 🕊
Good to have you back, Jack! I hope your new venture is giving you joy, and something to look forward to. I listened to a podcast this morning by the UK psychologist Richard Nicholls , about Anhedonia – or why everything feels so ‘meh’ at the moment. To paraphrase (probably badly), he said that a lot of the pleasure we take from our lives comes from a sense of anticipation – think of planning a surprise party or holiday for someone we love – but when we’re largely unable to make plans for the future, it’s hard to experience any kind of anticipatory pleasure. Is this anything to do with how you’re feeling? I’m currently trying to think of things that might be possible, later in the year, such as a cycling holiday within the UK. Then, I’m allowing myself the pleasure of thinking how nice it really would be to go there…
Congratulations, Jack, on your new position. Maybe you have SAD. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow…!” Feel better soon! <3
The fact that you are able to acknowledge what you are going through, you will be all right. You will be well.
Welcome back and good luck with the theatre company