The Downside of Up

How much I write is an accurate barometer of my mental health. When I’m depressed, I become more introspective, more wrapped up in my own personal headspace. The world seems more hostile, the air thick with antipathic fog. And so I analyze and dissect and organize and wonder. Hemingway had a great quote about writing: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Psychic wounds must bleed easiest.

Another thing: when you’re down – or maybe it’s just when I’m down – it becomes that much harder to deal with mediocrity. It matters more to get a word choice that fits just right, like a carpenter setting a support beam. The slightest mismeasurement can bring the whole house tumbling down. Melancholy hoists up a counterintuitive need for perfection, whereas happiness can shed shortcomings like a bulldog shaking off the rain.

And there’s the rub: I’ve been happy lately. I emerged from a three-month monsoon season and, to my surprise, found it easy to pick up and move to a friendlier climate. Bouts of sadness come and go, sure, but always with an identifiable cause, and in the last eight or nine months, none of them have last for more than a few hours. I used to measure them by days.

All that to say, I’ve been writing less because I’ve been thinking about other people more. I’ve been living outside my head and have enjoyed the gentle breeze. That’s the downside of up: writing has felt less like therapeutic bloodletting and more like dragging a mule up a mountain. Or maybe it’s like that first week of spring at college, when we all start playing Frisbee again but almost everybody is out of shape from a long winter. So you sprint a few times but mostly it’s just walking around, enjoying the sunshine, and hoping that nobody notices how completely out of breath you are.

Hemingway

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