All that separates me from my neighbors is a line of blacktop driveway. I hear them get in and out of the car, I know when they have friends over or do some gardening or their kid has a tantrum. I mean, not to be creepy about it — I can’t help being able to hear them. They probably hear me, too, when I have tantrums.
Even that line of blacktop is bigger than the distance I kept from New York apartment building neighbors over the years, whose arguments could be heard from across the hall, whose kids seemed to roller-skate upstairs, or who fell asleep with the radio on and the window open.
I’ve gotten used to this proximity to others, but I can’t say that I like it. Combined with my quiet temperament, it creates a straight-jacketed reluctance to make my own noise. Plus, there’s always the risk of small talk on the sidewalk.
Through lockdown, I was constantly aware of people because they were all always at home, too, right alongside me. No vacations or day-trips, no days at work. Even on some safe outdoor excursion I might take, everyone else was there, too. I’ve craved silence and a deeper privacy than the suburbs can provide since the pandemic started — but if I’m honest, also since well before that.
When things opened up a bit and my partner and I had the chance to travel, we were happy to go, despite feeling doubtful that the rest of the world was as careful as we’ve been. With our hiking boots and vax cards, we flew to Las Vegas, rented a car, and set off across the desert.
When depression started for me, it was as an atmosphere, a sort of ozone layer on my life. With healing work of different kinds over the past twenty years, it’s lifted quite a bit. When the depression comes now it’s like a weather system, sudden storms that come and go, fast and intense, flashes of summer lightning instead of that perpetual grey.
In the absence of depression, I’m noticing that I’ve had anxiety for at least as long. I’m really high functioning and mostly didn’t notice. I’ve adapted my life to suit anxiety in a way that I couldn’t with depression. In fact, I could argue that it’s helped me get a lot done and made me really capable. Super organized. A go-getter. That’s one of the potential side effects of coping with low-level fear all the time: you…