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  • Laura Perry

The Zombie in the Sandbox

I have some friends who are going through it lately. I mean, GOING THROUGH IT. As in, if the challenges they are dealing with were all sort of cobbled together into a human being, I would punch that human being in the throat and feel righteous doing it.

Their challenges, like all of ours, run the gamut: difficult family relationships, the self-worth monster, financial worries, overwhelming personal burdens. I have wandered the terrain of many of those wilderness areas myself, so I'm familiar with the topography. I know how much it sucks, how desolate it feels, and how the path out isn't clearly marked.

And because my closest friends and I are all a bunch of maladjusted introverts, we all kind of deal with our challenges and perceived failures and worries the same way: we push them deep, DEEP down inside, avoid human company, deflect attention to someone or something else, and, if pressed, make jokes about it until people stop asking.

I know you may find this hard to believe, but this approach, this "bury it and hope it goes away" approach, works about as well as burying a zombie in a sandbox and hoping it goes away. It's UNDEAD, people. It's coming for your brains before you've finished tossing handfuls of sand onto its twitching corpse.

There's this quote that makes the rounds of social media every once in a while, which says, "Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." This quote pisses me off, because it's crap. Not everyone is fighting a hard battle (I'm looking at you, Ivanka Trump). Not everyone is struggling. Or, if they're struggling, it's with stuff that really shouldn't count as struggling - like with which hairstyle to favor for their French poodle, or with whether their housekeeper did an exemplary job of packing their favorite clothes for their month in Europe. My empathy reservoir dries up immediately when meeting people who are "struggling" like this.

But this much is true: some of the people who seem like they really have it together, people who appear to have all the answers, who exude confidence, who seem to have the "perfect" family or career - those people may be milliseconds away from having a complete breakdown. Just because they're smiling doesn't mean that their world isn't collapsing. One of the kindest, most upbeat and encouraging people I know has a spouse dying of a terminal, debilitating neurological disease - and you would never, ever know it from talking to this person.

So, this is for all of you who are pushing or pulling the giant rock up the hill, those of you who feel like you are moments away from crippling tears, who are smiling because otherwise you'd scream, who feel you have to hold it all together because if you can't nobody will; those of you who lie awake at night staring at the ceiling wondering how the hell you're going to manage tomorrow, who feel like nobody has any idea that you're holding on by your fingernails and every one of those fingernails is starting to splinter; those of you who have buried that zombie in the sandbox and can hear its nasty undead self starting to shamble onto the back porch.

This is for you.

Do not try to do this alone.

Yes, I know you're tough. And you've always "managed" somehow. You are unbelievably strong and capable and you have survived incredible things. You are so wonderful, you really are.

But you do not need to do this alone, and you shouldn't try.

We are wired for community. From the days when we were all sharing caves and fires to make it through the winter without falling prey to starvation or much larger animals with scarier fangs and claws, we've relied on one another for survival. And now our survival needs are more complicated and involve things like deductibles and spark plugs, but our need for community has not changed. I know, when it gets super, unreal amounts of hard the most tempting thing to do is to hide in the closet and plot how to fake your death, but resist that urge.

Text someone. (For example, Charles. Text Charles. His number's on the website. He's the minister, and he actually really wants to hear from you.)

Okay, hell, text me.

This one sounds totally bonkers, but call someone, like, on the phone, with your voice and everything.

Sit down in an actual room and drink tea or coffee with someone who loves you. Not one of those shitty, half-ass friends who are secretly gloating that their life is better than yours, but a real friend who can affirm the validity of your feelings and also help remind you that the darkness does not last forever and even fast zombies can be defeated.

Go to a play or a concert or a book club or a workshop. Spend time around other living human people.

Your community does not need to be huge. Sometimes my community is only two - me and my husband, or me and my best friend Nancy (who has never once gloated that she is secretly better than I am). Sometimes my community is comprised of all the lovely families that make up the theatre company I run.

Sometimes my community is my therapist.

Sometimes my community is all the people who come out to run stupid long races on Sunday mornings.

The point is, your community can be as small or as large as you like, but you, by yourself, are not a community. You are one person. You are a wonderful person, but you are still one, and it may be trite, but it's true that a burden shared is a burden halved.

So, find your tiny, awesome little community and tell that community your truth. Tell them about the zombie in the sandbox, keeping in mind that zombies are more easily overcome when more than one person gangs up on them.

Together, I promise you, you wonderful, glorious soul with insomnia and generalized anxiety and more worries than you have time to list - together we can get through this. But we're gonna have to do it together, because none of us can do it by ourselves.


by Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking

Last night

How to find my soul a home

Where water is not thirsty

And bread loaf is not stone

I came up with one thing

And I don’t believe I’m wrong

That nobody, But nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires

With money they can't use

Their wives run round like banshees

Their children sing the blues

They've got expensive doctors

To cure their hearts of stone.

But nobody

No, nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely

I'll tell you what I know

Storm clouds are gathering

The wind is gonna blow

The race of man is suffering

And I can hear the moan,

'Cause nobody

But nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

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