Saturday, May 16, 2009

Vacation time's over ... and then depression sets in

Back when I was working – How long has it been now? A month? – I often dreamed of all the things I would do if I didn’t have to work.

All the books I’d read. All the fiction I’d write. All the walks I’d go on with Kristin. The mornings I’d spend working out. The evenings I’d spend sitting on our patio, relaxing in the cool spring air.

I’d revamp my resume. I’d get a Web site going. Heck, I’d learn to create my own Web site. I’d learn to play the guitar.

Oh, the plans I had.

As I complete my fourth week of unemployment – yes, I had to look at the calendar to make sure – my list of post-Sun accomplishments is barren. I’ve done none of the things I dreamed I’d do if only I had the time.

That realization sank in this week. Maybe it was the rainy, dreary weather. Maybe it was my ever-growing frustration with my unemployment benefits. Maybe it was listening to Steve Earle’s new album, Townes, too much.

The late Townes Van Zandt wrote some of the most darkly beautiful songs ever composed, including this one. Listening to Earle’s tribute album isn’t exactly uplifting, but I found it comforting nonetheless.

Whatever the cause, I’ve been fighting off a heavy dose of depression in recent days. I fear I’m drifting too far from a sense of purpose in my life. As bad as conditions were at the newspaper, I still had a purpose every day.

Some of those days that purpose wasn’t very stimulating – writing stories about games so parents and grandparents could fill their scrapbooks. That isn’t exactly the type of journalism they make movies about.

But those other days, the days when I found a story subject especially inspiring, those were the days that made everything seem worthwhile. I can’t explain it because I don’t know exactly why a good subject made me feel better about myself. But it did.

A few jump out. Brian Muniz, the former drug dealer forging a new life as a quad rugby player. Tom Schlegel, the Neuqua Valley assistant football coach who succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma but not until after showing everybody that life is good no matter what. Casey Deegan, the 30-something guy with Down syndrome who took up skydiving so he could be just like his dad.

Those were among the stories that touched me. And I tried to relate them to the readers as best I could.

At some point at the Sun, writing became difficult. The very act of writing paralyzed me. I worried about whether or not I was doing a good enough job. Was this story as good as one I wrote last week, last month, last year? Was I using the right word here? I began to wonder, what kind of writer are you if you don’t want to write?

All that returned to me this week. Then as the weekend began, the cloud of self-doubt began lifting. It certainly was related to the warmer, sunny days we had Thursday and Saturday. But it was more than that.

It happens every time I sink into those pits of writer’s block – or whatever you want to call it. Eventually I do write something and I like it. Maybe it’s a sentence. Maybe it’s just a word that fits so perfectly. If I’m really lucky it’s an entire story.

It turns out this entry is what began lifting me up. It’s certainly not my best piece of writing, but it felt good. I like the way it reads. I’ve come to find this blog serves a purpose for me, even if it’s not truly My Purpose.

I still haven’t finished reading a book since I became unemployed. I haven’t written much of any fiction. The Web site is still a ways off and the guitar is gathering dust next to the TV.

But I don’t think I can say I haven’t accomplished anything anymore.


  1. I'm glad that you're connecting back to what really makes you happy. It makes me happy that you're happy. Because when you are unhappy, I'm not happy either.

  2. Hey Paul,

    Thanks so much for writing this. I've had the same experience - the plans and the depression. Feeling like we have a purpose is so important, even as we figure out what our "real" purpose is. I'm glad you're feeling better.

    Sista Julie

  3. Hey Paul,

    We all need a special purpose. Just watch "The Jerk" again. Steve Martin can put things in perspective for all of us.

    Had a link to your blog from puck daddy over at yahoo sports. Great blog. Have enjoyed all your posts. Especially the Bob Probert one.