Last month I read a spectacular biography of Abraham Lincoln that left me in love with the man, to the point I wept openly at a Subway when I got to the part of the book that detailed his assassination. What I like about him is that his personality and qualities were a combination of the things I like most about myself, and the things I wish I could be the most. There are more of the latter, of course. As I say often, I’m not really that great a person. However, today I want to talk about one of the former, one of the things about him I recognised from my own self: melancholy.
By all accounts, Lincoln was a grave man. Except most of them. There’s an odd conception of Abraham Lincoln as a mostly depressed, solemn man, but he was actually an incredibly entertaining, amusing storyteller. Those who met him walked away in awe of his seemingly endless cache of amusing anecdotes, and his very good nature.
However, he would occasionally carry himself with a sad, pensive look in his eyes. This is what would deceive people into thinking he was a grave man… right up until he opened his mouth and his eyes twinkled with amusement at the joke he was about to share.
When I first read about this, I was shocked. Here was a description of something I’ve spent years trying to figure out, conveniently explained by the biographer. Lincoln wasn’t as miserable as he seemed, he just had the appearance of it. What’s more, under that serious mask was someone who didn’t take things very seriously and could find reasons to smile no matter the circumstance.
That’s always been one of the things I like about myself the most. Reading about the way Lincoln could balance a very serious exterior with an almost child-like mischievousness.
It went beyond that, though. There was a few pages in the book actually dedicated to explaining melancholy. It isn’t depression, despite making the bearer of it look morose as all hell. It’s just… melancholy.
Melancholy makes you thoughtful, quiet, and gives you something that is too bittersweet to be sadness. It doesn’t drain your emotional energy because, and I feel the need to state this repeatedly, it is most definitely not depression. It’s simply a form of temperament. Just like some people are very cheerful, and others are perennially sad, there are those who gravitate towards melancholy. It’s home.
Next month I’ll have lived a year as a woman. 12 months will have passed from the day I broke my parents’ hearts, and was forced to leave home. It’ll be the anniversary of me breaking the chains of misery life and circumstance had me locked in.
I’ll have been happy, for the only real time in my life, for 366 days (it was a leap year, after all.)
You’d think I’d be deliriously happy. Joyous, excited to mark a year of living life on my own terms. Cheery, jumping off the walls.
I’m not. I’m just… melancholy.
I’ve spent all week looking as if my dog has died, despite not actually feeling upset. I’m just… sigh. It’s weird, living a year so incongruous with the rest of your life. While I don’t regret for a second deciding to come out, or starting my physical or social transition, I’m still very aware of what huge decisions they all are, and that I am walking the path laid down by my choices.
Next month it’ll be a little under a year since the last time I spoke to the person who was once my best friend.
It’s not that I miss her all that much anymore. Time is the great healer, after all. However, thinking of the happy anniversary reminds me of losing her friendship. And another close friend. My home. My job.
And so much else.
I’m not sad. I promise.
I’m just… melancholy.