Sitting dockside on the waterfront one evening in Beaufort, NC watching the sunset. A local musician was playing Jimmy Buffet tunes while my boyfriend and I continued our never-ending argument. I sat, twisting my grandmother's onyx ring round and round my finger, wondering what was going to come of us. Distracted by my emotions and Jimmy Buffet's lyrics, not paying attention to what I was doing, I twisted a bit too much and off my ring went—right between the wooden slats of the deck.
My grandmother had always been one of my best friends. She knew all my secrets…and loved me anyway. She knew how much I admired her onyx ring and when I graduated from high school, she gave me one very similar to hers. I knew that it had been somewhat of a financial sacrifice for her, which only deepened the sentimental value of the ring. I don't think I had ever taken it off…until that night.
We used a flashlight to search among the slats but were not able to find it in the dark. We returned the next morning to look again. The owner helped us loosen up some of the boards around where we had been sitting, and we searched for anything shiny, anything resembling a ring, but had no luck. It seemed like a “sign” to me…stay in this relationship and you'll keep losing parts of yourself. Eventually we gave up looking. And eventually I gave up on the relationship.
Two years later I was visiting Beaufort again, this time with some close girlfriends. I found myself sitting out on the same deck…listening to the same guy playing the same songs. I began to tell my friends about that night, remembering how lost I had felt in that relationship, how much I had hated losing that ring and how it had seemed symbolic at the time. Sitting on that deck, I realized how much my life had changed since that night two years ago. I was graduating from medical school in a few months, had been accepted into the surgical residency I wanted…I felt as if my life was finally coming together. As if I were beginning to find myself. As I glanced down, I saw the sunlight reflecting off of something from between the slats of the deck. Leaning over, I saw something shiny lying in the sand a few inches below the deck. Using two straws like a pair of chopsticks, I patiently and carefully lifted my grandmother's onyx ring up out of the sand.
I could not believe it had been that easy. And yet, it really hadn't been. After all, it had taken two years. Maybe finding that ring was yet another “sign.” An indication that maybe I had not and could not ever really lose me. That I, like the ring, had been there to be found all along.
Kim Mallin - Charleston, SC
This story was originally published by Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay.
YOU'LL BE FINE
In the winter of 2005, I became very depressed. I am a manic depressive and was isolated and having suicidal thoughts. I couldn't concentrate and was burdened with many roadblocks that seemed huge at the time. A friend had suggested lithium which I found on the internet without a prescription, read all the literature on it, deemed it safe and ordered it. Within one day of taking a capsule, I felt better. I started calling friends and they came to my rescue, calling, visiting, keeping in touch. One friend simply said ..."You'll be fine." I took that to heart. I went to a therapist for a few sessions but one day, I met a woman who said she could help me. She is a retired MD who practices acupressure and chigong. She offered me treatment free of charge. I met her at a solar festival where I was doing puppet shows.
I introduced myself, we sat down and talked for a few minutes, and I knew that I had met a powerful woman who could help. I made an appointment and met her at her home. I walked out an hour later knowing that my depression was a thing of the past.
I decided to volunteer at an organic farm as a farm hand. I thought that being outdoors doing hard physical labor would help. It did. I became friends with the farmer. I began to write essays about farm life, and our relationship deepened into one of deep friendship. I had no idea that this would help me so much. I have continued to work at the farm, sometimes being paid, but always being healed.
Now I am helping two people who are depressed and have confided in me. I decided to write a major essay called BODY WORK to mention all the people who supported me during the time I was depressed. This became a long process with interruptions. I devoted a half page to each person and there were dozens. The essay grew to 25 pages. I made copies and sent one to everyone who stood beside me. I learned how to love myself in the process and love others. The depression turned out to be a blessing, a gift, a chance to stop and rebalance. Along the way, it seemed like every day, something came my way. I prayed, and worked hard to climb back out of the black hole that I was in.
Today, as a 66-year-old male, I look back and know that the depression was necessary for my personal growth. I had a dream while visiting my daughter in California that I founded a men's safe haven for healing, talking, support and love. I'm about to start that journey.
Tom Stock - Manorville, NY