In Tegan & Sara’s song “Where Does the Good Go?” they ask “What do you do with the leftover you? / And how do you know when to let go?”

Some losses and transitions bring you to your knees.  When you’re staring down depression, or just a Grand Funk, it’s easy to get lost in the pieces or cling too tightly to memories of what’s behind you.  So “Where does the good go?”  Maybe the answer is “nowhere.”

Think about it.  Maybe someone or something contributed to your good vibes, but nothing could have cranked your mood to Extra Fabulous unless you wanted to feel that way.  No external force can bring out your inner Suzy Sunshine unless that’s what you want to reflect back into the world.

Two years ago the rotten cherry on the top of my heartbreak was the realization that I hated my job.  Individually, either event may have been manageable.  The combined destructive forces unleashed an identity crisis I hope to never see again.  My problem wasn’t just that someone very special to me had opted out, or that I wanted to mount a paintball gun on my desk and blast any co-worker who tried to speak to me.  My problem was a total loss of direction.  I had – without realizing it – defined myself by a relationship I had never even been able to commit to and a career path I didn’t want to be on for another step, much less a lifetime.

The waves of sorrow and resentment were compounded by the knowledge that I couldn’t take a step forward because I couldn’t find “forward.”  Instead of being a person who charged into the unknown, I became a person who cried on the couch with tedious regularity.

One day I went to the doctor’s office to see about changing a prescription, and when the P.A. asked if I was okay otherwise I burst into tears.  The Total Eclipse of my Mood came on so quickly she thought I was nuts.  At least she was polite about it.  “Are you going home after this?” “Will anyone be there for you?” “Do you feel comfortable leaving the office?”  The only thing she didn’t ask was how many knives I had at home.  I think she was busy wondering if she would lose her license if she let me go.

The tears just kept coming.  Within a couple of weeks I started walking 5 miles at the park every day before work.  My MP3 playlist was carefully edited, my speed was up, and I still felt so lost and hopeless that I thought I would float away on the river I was crying.

I was sitting at my desk one morning, maybe about six months in, staring at the trains shuffling along nearby, and it hit me.  If I wrapped a box in shiny foil, lit it up with a string of chili pepper lights and found a way to have a cymbal-crashing monkey inside, dancing its paws away under a disco ball to Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb,” I would always have a reason to laugh.  Who doesn’t laugh at dancing monkeys?  I’ll specify that I’m talking about fake monkeys, so PETA’s constituents can have a good laugh, too.  And shiny stuff like foil and disco balls?  Seriously, any one of the items in my fantasy crate is enough to make me laugh, but shiny makes me HAPPY every time.

Gradually, as I spent more time focusing on the “shiny stuff” in my life, I saw that the “good” that had lived inside me didn’t leave with my ex or my job satisfaction.  It just recoiled with the losses.

Every day is an exercise in patience with myself.  I have so many old thoughts to sort out.  So many questions to answer.  I want the answers now!  But this process doesn’t come with immediate gratification.  I am examining every piece of me, deciding which ones I want to keep, and figuring out how to reassemble the leftovers.  I’m slowly letting go of the past and the soul-ache and filling in the gaps with shiny, confetti-sized building blocks of “shiny stuff.”

I’m writing this so I have a place to sort out my pieces.  I’m hoping that the public record will make me more accountable.  I want to keep moving forward, even if my blindfold still keeps me from seeing which way that is.  This is a road trip.  My mile-markers are the random moments, objects, and interactions that make me smile.  You’re welcome to come along for the ride.  I’m happy to share the notes from my trip if they make yours easier to navigate.