An Ode to Willis and His Sneakers

This ode to Willis and his sneakers is meant to be one part humor, two parts seriousness.

Willis is my cousin by marriage. I have a first cousin named Nicole. She is the daughter of Tom and Kathie in upstate New York. Her great-grandmother (and Tom's grandmother) and my paternal grandmother were sisters.  Nicole's husband, Willis, is someone I've not met in person yet but we've chatted by video when Nicole and I are talking. (And in truth, I'm not sure whether Tom, Kathie, Nicole and Willis are first, second, once removed, twice removed or what kind of cousins. I don't get all of that.)

I like Willis a lot. There are many things to like about Willis: he's kind, practical, a professional (he and Nicole work in healthcare), loves jazz and he's very warm and friendly. I don't have the impression he knows many strangers because with a personality like his, I bet strangers become friends pretty fast. I also don't get the impression he has many enemies. The thing I love most about Willis is that he loves Nicole and makes her happy. Tom and Kathie adore him and he's part of their family. Nicole and Willis spend some weekends with Tom and Kathie and they also go on vacation together sometimes.

Paul and I are trying to see how we can spend a week in Montreal next year with Nicole and Willis (and hopefully Tom and Kathie). You know this is a big deal because Paul and I don't leave the farm together for more than five hours at a time, so a week is huge!

Now you know Willis and if you meet him, I bet you'll like him. Moreover, I bet he'll find something to like about you instantly. It's who he is.

I Haven't Been Myself Lately

Now meet me. You may think you know me because we're friends (in real life and/or on Facebook). I'm friendly and know a lot of people, but unlike Willis, I have the ability to annoy people. Between my militant politics, saying exactly what's on my mind and my in-your-face personality, I get on people's nerves. I believe many people have me on their block list on Facebook. But if you are one of those people who likes me and thinks they know me well, I'm about to share something I normally don't discuss.

I've been struggling with depression the last few months. I don't have clinical depression; mine is situational. How do I know the difference? Depression and other mental health struggles run in my family. My mother had clinical depression. She drank to mask it. My father's father had bipolar disorder, as does one of my brothers. The other's diagnosis is a little trickier. He was diagnosed with bipolar by one doctor but another said he actually has schizophrenia. I am not a psychiatrist so I don't know but I do know how his symptoms affected me growing up and after we were both adults. Anyway, I no longer speak with either of my brothers. One drinks excessively and the other imposed himself on me too many times. He is obsessed with things and I couldn't manage his behavior. At some point it went from annoying to harmful.

All this to say I know what mental health problems look like and why I know what I have is more in line with situational depression. I have had bouts of depression a few times in my life and each time it was brought on by some catalyst: death of my father in 2002, loss of a major client in 2016 and more recently something I wasn't aware of until I received a diagnosis.

I have nodules on my thyroid and while they aren't generally known to affect thyroid function, over time they can. I hadn't noticed until about a month ago that I was fatigued all the time. I assumed it was menopause or just getting older but now I know that it's my thyroid. But as I was unsure what was going on, I had periods of not wanting to get out of bed, so I assumed it was depression. I think it was more likely that I am seriously fatigued because my thyroid isn't functioning as it should and when I'm not very functional, I become anxious. I'm accustomed to being Type A. The more I became physically drained, the more depressed I felt. I thought it was all in my head but fortunately I have the Internet to correct me.

Once I was able to identify the source of my depression, I was able to pull myself out of it. But what's odd is the thing that kicked me in the butt.

How Willis Helped Pull Me Out of Depression

Willis has a lot of attributes. I named several above but one that I didn't mention is his sense of style. As I'm thinking about it, he reminds me of my mother in one sense. Even in jeans or a pair of shorts my mother was always stylin'. Her wardrobe was slammin'. She always looked stunning. (Their personalities are polar opposites.)

This photo is of my parents and brothers before I was born. What mother of two active toddlers wears white and can keep it white? Mine. And she was six months pregnant with me, by the way. And yes, fair to say I took after my father in the bummy department.

By contrast, I'm what people in the Deep South refer to as a Bama. I have been known to "pair" a top with a pair of pants/shorts/capris that are completely different patterns or whose colors clash. Paul calls me a Swiss tourist.

Don't believe me?

Me with a former coworker in 2006

Me with some friends when I was 19. See my turquoise T-shirt under my purple sweater? Who does that?

But being a Bama doesn't necessarily mean it's an indication I've let myself go. But the last few months I noticed myself not giving a shit how I looked when I left the house. That is definitely a sign of depression.

I had an aha moment when I saw a photo and video of Willis. (Willis's brother is taking a photo of Willis.) In the video you'll notice his sneakers match his top. The other thing is, they're super clean.

Did you notice Willis's sneakers match both his top and the interior of the carriage? That's a level of put together I may never reach.

But what I really noticed is how clean and put together Willis is. Wherever he goes, whatever he's doing, he looks sharp. As I say, I may never be that sharp, but because of the video and photo I was inspired to do something I haven't done in a long, long time.

I should have done a before and after to give you a really good idea of how grimy they were.

After my morning walk with the dogs I came home and started cleaning my sneakers. And I owe it to Willis. I also owe it to Nicole who showed me the photos of him looking sharp. Again, I'll never be as sharp as Willis but I can definitely not look like I don't care about myself. I may still be a Bama, but that's just my style (if you could call it that).

So thank you, Willis. I had recognized I was feeling blue but it wasn't until I compared your sneakers to mine I accepted how bad it was.

This may seem like a small and insignificant step but it's big. Thank you, cousin Willis! <3



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