Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tales from the Road - Lycia, Day 8 (Monday)

When I awake, my spirits are languishing at the bottom of a deep, dark well. The somber thoughts that followed me into sleep the night before have festered into something dark and ugly overnight. This morning I am stupified by an overwhelming sense of futility and purposelessness in my life, by the sense that this earthly path is far too long, tedious and sorrowful. The feeling is debilitating and terrifying. What the hell am I doing here in this hotel room? In Turkey? In my life, for that matter? How many years have dripped away while I obsessed about the things that really didn't matter; what do I have to show for any of it, except for a growing list of ex-boyfriends and some really nice photographs? I can feel Depression take my arm and gently but firmly begin to pull me down, down, down the old path, whispering to me in its familiar seductive tones. Gritting my teeth, I practice the drill I have grown so familiar with over the years, the emergency-brake self-talk in a desperate attempt to stop the further downward descent...but I feel so precarious, my grip on the sunlit world so very tenuous. Long minutes go by where I bury my face in the pillow and breathe deeply and try to stop the crash...I don't want to even move...and it is finally only the conscious calling on memories of triumph over adversity in my life -- marathons, mountain climbs, honors classes, public speaking -- that I can finally feel the strength and perseverence that lies buried somewhere in my soul. Holding tight to that, I get up.

The courage doesn't last long. When I emerge into the breakfast room, E., the manager of the pension, whom I'd met before and didn't like much, takes a long look at me and says, "You look old."

(....!) A long pause while I try to control the sudden white-hot rage that boils up from my spleen and makes we want to scratch this man's eyes out.

"Excuse me?"

"You look old," he repeats. Oh my god. Suddenly in my head it's a cacophany of racing ER doctors and defibrillators and shouts of "She's crashing!!" Forget the marathons and the mountain climbs and the honors classes! I mean, that was all about accomplishing a specific goal.... The analogy doesn't fit! I cheered myself up under false pretenses!! We're talking about life here, babe, which you can't 'accomplish;' it's a different sort of game altogether, you can do it well or badly...and oh my god mine is slip-sliding away, and I suspect I may be doing it very badly indeed...and what's more, I look OLD. Might as well go hurl myself off a cliff now.

"Ah. Thank you so kindly. You are indeed a gentleman."

"I just mean, like, you like you haven't been taking care of yourself."

"Once again, thank you so much."

"Hey, come on, I'm your friend, you want me to lie to you?"

To my surprise, tears have sprung to my eyes. "Didn't your mother ever tell you 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all'? And for the record, you are not my friend," I add, with more vehemence than I had expected.

And then, not knowing what to do with this sudden impotent rage born from grief (when I lived in San Francisco, a co-worker told me once, "baby, you got the existential blues") that has surfaced out of nowhere, I march up to the counter, wiping the corners of my eyes, and ask for the bill. I want to check out. I want to get out of this hotel, out of this town, out of my own life if possible.

The man is shocked by my reaction -- I had told him that I planned to stay a while. His friend, B., tries to console me, look, he didn't mean anything's just a language problem. Really, he's a good guy. And you look great, by the way.

The words fall on deaf ears. I want out. I don't need to put up with this f*cker, not today, not ever. Nor anyone else who makes me look at my life and hate it, for that matter. I pay and leave, having not even breakfasted.

It is time to get out of Dodge. My one thought as I trudge down the street with my duffle slung over one shoulder is to get to the bus station, get to Izmir, get to bed and sleep for about a week, to sleep until I can wake up and manage to find something to smile at.

On the way to the bus station, I pass a hotel that I've passed a zillion times before, and it occurs to me to wonder why I've always chosen to stay at the crappy pension on the hill with its overinflated prices and managers who like to insult their customers. I wonder what prices elsewhere are like...and so just out of sheer, idle curiosity, I pop into this hotel, where the staff is gracious and smiling, and, it turns out, the rooms are 10 YTL cheaper, and have sea views, balconies and air can I resist? Before I have a chance to overanalyze it, I say I'll take it, and once again, my homeward-bound intentions are derailed. Miraculously, too, the combination of the smiles, great prices and views act like a vaporizer on my black mood until all that's left are a few scattered little puffy gray clouds.

It is sometimes a beautiful thing to be a grown-up, with a steady job and paycheck. This big white bed, the lovely harbor view, the heavenly A/C...I realize suddenly that if I want, I can have this until the end of the holiday, when I REALLY have to get back to earn more money. I stretch out on the crisp, blindingly white sheet, the sea-light pouring in through the balcony doors and the A/C whispering sweet, cool nothings into my ear...I will sleep today, I will thoroughly justify the rent of this room, I will spread on lotions and mud masks and paint my toes and read books and wear lingerie and I will, goddammit, I WILL feel good.

Amazingly, I succeed. The day is a delicious cycle of intermittant dozing, book-reading, lotion-applying, sauntering out onto the balcony in my lingerie, feeling totally happy. Totally. Happy. Unusual for me. But not altogether unpleasant. Welcome to my bi-polar life.

I also take the opportunity to do a little thinking, which is pretty much impossible to do fruitfully when in the grips of depression. M. is a yacht captain. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I'm drawn to him. There's something incredibly appealing in the idea of man as captain -- the man who is in charge, who knows where he's going and makes decisions with cool expertise and authority. Captaining, obviously, is a skill that I admire, and yet it occurs to me, sprawled out on my cool white bed, that perhaps I have never quite donned the captain's cap in my own life. Certainly I have traveled and taken certain career risks, but at the same time, it seems that I have always depended upon the idea of the MAN who would rescue me, make it all so that even if it all went KABLOOEY in my face, I'd still have the safety net: the MAN, the man who loved me, the man who would take care of me. And it was always, which man? This one, or the other one, or the one I haven't met yet? Where will they take me? Did I ever stop to think about where I wanted to take myself? Or did I unwittingly buy into the fairy tale every little girl knows by heart from the age of four, where the prince on the white horse comes and saves her from a life of hardship? What we (or I, anyway) failed to ask was, where did he take her? What did her life look like then? The story tells us she was happy -- but what made her so? Her rich and varied life? We are given no such details, and therefore it is dangerously easy to make the unconscious assumption that handome man + money (he was a prince, after all) + white horse (or yacht) = happiness. Oh my god, was I that much of a sucker?

Lying under the heaven of the A/C, thinking these thoughts, an entirely new feeling begins to come over me: here I am, in a hotel room paid for with my own money, thinking of two men but belonging to none, and suddenly, strangely, I am okay with that. Happy in my own skin and glad that I am alive, that I am here, and that I have a good job that enables me to finance all of this. Good stuff. I could go outside now and talk to anybody; I could go out and salsa dance, dive from great heights into aquamarine sea, sit and drink a beer, alone, and watch the sun in its marvelous trajectory across the sky, and be quite content throughout it all. Wow... is this what it means to be a grown-up, I suddenly wonder? Being comfortable in your own skin? Acknowledging that you alone are in the driver's seat?

That evening, as I wander about the restaurants, bars and beaches, I enjoy this new sensation that is the gentle weight of the captain's cap on my head. I'm in charge of this life, more than anyone else on this planet. And hey, I'm kind of starting to like that idea.


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