by Jennifer Sey
Late afternoon, Sunday, and the blues are setting in. It is inescapable, this Sunday blue. It starts descending just a few hours after I wake each and every Sunday. I enjoy the morning hours, read the newspaper, have coffee with my husband, breakfast with my kids. And then, like a fog closing in, heavy and murky, the angsty ugh of Sunday envelops me.
I have no reason to feel this way. I like my job. I admire the people I work with. I'm not fearful of any of the projects on the docket, in fact, I tackle each one with gusto, a challenge to be met with fervent mojo. Each challenge broken down into a series of doable steps, no single step overwhelming in and of itself. I laugh often at work, because I get to work with friends. It is not like entering a tunnel of doom, my workday. I spend quality time with my family each evening. Dinner, reading, perhaps a movie. And yet, the blues persist.
It started when I was young. As a child, I was a very serious gymnast. The worst of the blues began when I moved away from home at 14. Each weekend I'd go home to see my parents and brother and then, on Sunday evening my mom would drive me the two hours up the Pennsylvania turnpike to my home away from home. I usually hid my tears when she left me there because I didn't want her to see my sadness. She would have stuffed me in the car and taken me with her back to New Jersey. And I didn't want that. I wanted to train in this nationally recognized facility. Despite my Sunday blue.
This “home” where she left me - a room in a coach's house - was not comfortable. There was no dinner time chatter, sibling banter or bickering. There wasn't much food. It was cold, heat a luxury not indulged except on the very coldest Allentown winter nights. Mostly the dread came because I missed my family during the hard weeks of training. And the work was grueling, filled with physical pain and fear of injury. Current injuries were to be endured during practices. My coaches were not empathetic to physical pain. I trained with both ankles taped into near casts, done and redone many times during a workout. Each time the tape loosened due to a rough landing, another layer was added. I gobbled advils like candy to stave off the excruciating throbbing of unhealed fractures. There was screaming, insults hurled by hard driving coaches. We were yelled at for falling off the beam, gaining a half pound.
The Sunday dread intensified as I matured as a gymnast, became a high ranking national competitor. Expectations were higher. My body fought to gain weight when my coaches (and the sport) preferred prepubescence. After two days off over the weekend my body held on to the little bit of food I allowed it. To avoid gaining even a fraction of a pound caused by the indulgence of a family meal on Saturday night, I spent Sundays wrapped in a plastic sweat-inducing suit, jumping away to Jane Fonda videos for hours at a time. Fasting was a must on Sunday. Anxiety over the Monday weigh in was ghastly. The blues, in these days, were furious.
Even after I finished gymnastics, I held on to the penchant for Sunday blues. It was deeply embedded in my psyche. Habitual. At first, it was because I didn't like the work I did. Or I wasn't sure about it, anyway. I felt I'd sold out, taking a job at an advertising agency in my early 20s. It was during a recession. Jobs were hard to come by so when a friend of a friend got me an interview, I wasn't going to decline. I did not yet know my professional intentions and a paycheck was not to be scoffed at. I'd become accustomed to eating the free food at local happy hours. I needed a job. So even though I didn't think advertising was my calling, I didn't know what else to do.
The fact that I thrived in my job did not alleviate the feeling that I should have been doing something else, more weighty and important. More creative. Life affirming. Yet, I stuck with it, because the success fed something in me. I didn't yet realize that work could satisfy my need to be part of a team, to be social, a leader. I didn't yet know that this particular work balanced my abilities: a fairly keen cultural awareness, organized creativity, a logical mind, a taskmaster's attention to detail. I was not yet aware that I didn't have to choose between a creative avocation (writing) and a professional career that brought in a regular paycheck. And so, I rued Monday morning. It reminded me that I was too weak to go find my passion.
When I was on maternity leave, twice in my early 30s, I found things went topsy turvy. I actually hated Sundays still, but for an entirely different reason. The weekdays were lonely. Everyone went to work. I was home with a baby – or two after my second was born – which I loved but could prove tedious by late afternoon. The first two months were always great. I basked in the glow of new motherhood. I didn't even mind being tired all the time. I came to equate the disassociation of extreme exhaustion with a fluttery kind of energy. But by month three, I missed adult conversation. I got lonely.
For the last three years, I've come to embrace my work. And I no longer feel the pull of “something else” as I have managed to cobble together a bit of a writer's resume as well. And still...the blues persist.
My husband always looks at me at around 2pm on Sunday with an “uh oh here it comes” furrowing of the brow (he just did it). “What, I'm fine!” Hah. I'm not fine. I feel the weight of it constricting my throat. It suddenly seems gray and chilly, even in the summer (it is San Francisco afterall). The evening hours will pass too quickly. I'll try to extend the weekend, staying up too late. I used to watch “Intervention” on Sunday nights. The perfect depressing show about spiraling addicts. The desperate alcoholics, meth addicts and anorexics depicted in the show were the perfect salt in wound fuel to enhance my own death spiral. My husband would go to bed early. He couldn't bear my self-defeating depression. I got mad at him for leaving me there on the couch to cry alone when the addicts inevitably relapsed. Mostly I was mad that he wasn't feeling as bad as I was.
“Intervention” moved to Mondays, thank goodness. Life is good, work is fulfilling, writing makes me proud of myself in small but important ways. I spend a lot of time with my kids.
And yet, here I am, on Sunday rounding the corner into blues-ville. Maybe its just part of the cycle. I burrow down, get nice and sad, and then psych myself up for the week. As soon as Monday morning hits, I'm fine, motivated to tackle the day's tasks. Inevitably I get all blissed out on Friday with a few days of freedom – kid time, writing - stretched before me.
I think the key might be to just accept the moods for what they are. To know that for every blue Sunday, there is a happy Friday right around the corner. With acceptance in mind, I'm going to excuse myself to wallow in something gray and heavy hearted. Time to jerk the tears and cleanse the soul and will the self back to happy for the work week ahead.