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My brother sent me a book that reminds me of all the intellectual things I don't do. When I read it, I feel a combination of appreciation for other people's intellectualism and shame for my lack thereof. I think, gee, I should really read more, I should really write more, hey! I know! I could post more frequently and make myself write! But I don't have time, or at least that's what I tell myself, because the reality is that I don't have the strength to face what's in my mind and on the tip of my tongue, that what has spent its time running through my mind lately has been NOT thinking, but turning up the radio on whatever inane station I've tuned into in my car, during the traffic battles that force me to recognize that in reality, right at that moment, I do have time to think. I just don't want to think beyond whatever noise is blaring in my ears because if I do, I have to ask myself hard, critical questions about things like lifestyle, priorities, long-term choices.

If I don't think about self-centered topics like that, the next natural progression is the rest of the world, and damn if I'm going to depress myself further by putting any thought or, god forbid, action into something that might help other people or improve someone else's life in some way. Oh no, I'd rather wallow in self pity for a while, then get up and go to my gas guzzling automobile and transport myself somewhere with shiny plastic crap and bright lights and ways to spend money, because when I spend money I kill two birds with one stone and accomplish both distraction and self-loathing, the two activities that most often keep me from admitting I have time to think.

It's a beautiful system I've worked out, really. Well, I should say it would be beautiful if it worked. But it doesn't work, because my brother sends me books with smart things typed on the pages, and I'm involuntarily pulled out of my distraction / self-loathing machine and beaten to an intellectual bloody pulp, left to cough and wheeze out my last pity-seeking breaths on the imagined Turkish rug of some imagined quintessential intellectual stereotype's gothic library. Dammit, I gasp, why can't you just let me listen to Kelly Clarkson in peace? Why must you make me think? I went to college, I gave at the office, now let me eek out my miserable suburban existence as if this never happened. I would love to be able to blame someone other than myself for my Sybil and Fight Club meet Dead Poets Society crazy-making, but I bring it all on myself. Or rather, I brought it on myself when I picked the comfortable corporate suburban existence over the socially and financially awkward option of moving stepkids and husband across the country for some vague, unknown potential life of urban intellect and some randomness involving dinner parties with eccentric, too-smart friends, old clunky desks piled with paper taking up more room in some small and probably smelly-but-endearing campus apartment than the necessary living and sleeping spaces. And sadly for me, I'm smart enough to know that even if we'd done something as insane as that, life would be even more chaotic and I'd have even more Intellectual Fight Club moments over which to torture myself because hi, I don't like chaos, I like my personal space. Smelly but endearing campus apartments don't afford someone with a large teenaged stepchild and two high maintenance mini-terrorists and a photographer husband whose office resembles a war zone a whole lot of Go Be A Big Smart Organized Intellectual Person space. Also, dinner parties? Yeah. They don't work so well when the hostess comes home and puts on her pajamas. Smart people prefer to discuss the latest Smart People Topics with other adults who wear something other than flannel elastic-waisted pants after 6:00 p.m. And somehow I know that the corporate politics I loathe would look suspiciously like the academic politics I would be initially, stupidly shocked to encounter; I know that my Denial-Anger-Bargaining-Depression-Acceptance cycle of shaking hands with corporate america would look exactly like the Denial-Anger-Bargaining-Depression-Acceptance cycle of crying in disappointment over life in academia. Still, I can't escape the quintessential intellectual in his/her/its gothic library of torture and forced reflection, no matter how long I stare at the blank screen or turn up the radio or rant about traffic, my hair, my job, or some other fleeting and empty topic germaine to my chosen life.

This is a difficult time of year for me. In college, winter quarter was misery on ice, a seemingly endless cloud-filled, freezing day. It was the quarter when the authorities charged with monitoring undergraduate behavior were most concerned about suicide. Each of my three winters there felt like an eternity; I considered leaving the school every single year during that time. No matter how many assignments and responsibilities I had on my plate (and there were always a ridiculous amount), the days dragged on in a dark, depressing haze. For years, I thought this was because of the drastic combination of Chicago weather, the school's demands, and the culture of the campus. Now, almost a decade later, I realize those things were merely icing on the cake for me, because every January and February find me in the same basic funk. Three years ago as my birthday approached, my sister-in-law asked me what I was planning. I had just started a new job after being home with the kids for 15 months. In theory I should have at least felt stressed and invigorated. Instead, I told her I didn't have any plans, I really didn't care about my birthday, I just felt like I was in a funk. "Yeah," she said, "birthdays just don't hold as much excitement as you get older." Huh, no, that didn't seem like the right sentiment, but I went with it. This year, as the holidays ended and I endured the mini-flu from hell and later saw the doctor for my resulting trusty winter sinus infection and hack-hack-hack-up-a-lung-and-forget-ever-working-out-again cough, I realized that the past few weeks of waning blog posts and the vague unidentifiable frustration and the sickness are recurring. I even checked the archives on this site and found confirmation. The blog was still pretty new at this time last year, so the irritability and depression might not come through as strongly, but re-reading the posts was like a swift kick to the head. Hello, seasonal depression, you sly dog, you!! Introduce yourself sooner next time, 'kay? I would have offered you some damned hot chocolate or some Wellbutrin if only I'd known you wanted to hang out and watch Fight Club together!