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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pollyanna has left the building

Some days are kittens and butterflies and whipped cream. Or, as we'd more likely put it here in Colorado, clear skies and sunshine. Like the day I described on Sunday. But even here in paradise, some days are more Sylvia Plath and Albert Camus. Life is hard. Pretty sure I read that once. Pretty sure it was in The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck. Life is hard. One of the first things that happens to people who get creamed, crushed, battered, is that very kind and well-meaning people tell them that it is going to be okay. "You'll get over it," they say. And some are more directive, "Just get over it." "It will get better," they say. And some of them even mean it. The best thing along those lines that somebody said to me was from Sue the custodian at the church, the woman who introduced me to the Lady in Red and other ghosts who lived in the church basement. She said, "You will be better than you are now. You will go through this and come out on the other side with a new mission, and you will be even stronger." Her words still come back to me. I didn't believe her at the time. I didn't believe her at all. Well, that's not true. I believed her about the ghosts. It was uncanny, how much they knew and told her, and she told me, that, so far as I could figure out, she had no other way of knowing. Who knows. Ghosts? If not 'real' ones, then for sure there were lots of injured, angry spirits roaming around the place, most of them still encased in flesh. But anyway. So Sue tells me this. And I think, no way. I'm done. I'm toast. I'll be lucky if I can remember my kids' names. My brain by this time was not working. Not in any of the ways we normally like to count on them. My brain by this time was so jumped up on an excess of cortisol that my eyeballs were swimming in it. When I sneezed, cortisol came out. Most everybody else said very well-meaning things that suggested a good night or two of sleep would fix everything, or positive thinking, and I don't actually remember but they registered somewhere and I remember thinking, "are you fucking kidding me?" Sleep didn't do it. Nor positive thinking. Nor even prayer. Not at first. Not quickly, easily. There was no magic formula. Turns out, there never is. It was agony. Scaling a fourteener, with my teeth. It was hell. But then I do get better. Not back to where I was, but better. And I start to think, okay, this is going to happen. It does. Happen. That woman in the photo I posted on Sunday is real. She exists here in real time, on this planet. I know her. People recognize her. She is not a fake or a phantom. She listens to Rachmaninoff and picks pumpkins and laughs with her daughters and eats steak on her birthday and reads a book, thinking, "no, that's a bunch of hooey." She tells jokes and makes people laugh. Sometimes even on purpose. But. But. This is a jagged road. One does not cross easily to the other side. One day she's reading Jane Austen and the next, Sylvia Plath. The tunes that run through her head are often in a minor key. The trek is through wilderness. There are monkeys. There is a madness that descends from time to time and no amount of hoping and wishing and praying will make it disappear before its time. There is a wild, whirling tornado of depression that must be given room to thunder across the landscape. It happens. In seven years I've learned something very important about those wild times. I ride them out. Don't fight. Don't rant and wail and gnash my teeth. I rarely even feel sorry for myself. I go to ground and ride it out. It doesn't work to talk myself out of it because the thing is, there is no rationality about it, none at all. It comes out of the wind, this depression, and goes with the wind. I listen to Yo Yo Ma play the Bach cello suites and Glenn Gould move through the Goldberg variations. Perhaps their patterned precision and surpassing loveliness does more for me than the Cymbalta. If you think depression is something you can talk your way out of, read William Styron's short but strong book, Darkness Visible. If you think depression is just about being "down in the dumps," or disappointed because the day didn't turn out right, read this book. If you know someone who is depressed and they bug the hell out of you because you keep telling them to 'lighten up' and they don't, read this book, and, until you do, keep your mouth shut. A guy I know, Dave Cullen, has written a book, Columbine. It is about Columbine. That Columbine. It is a brilliant book about a dark topic. He has been out touring with it, talking to groups from Grand Rapids to Nashville and the O.C. It is depressing, to say the least. But,this is what he said today after the latest round, "enough people care." Enough people care. And that is enough. Care. That's all. Not fix. Not placate. Not beg, cajole, plead. But care. I'm here because enough people cared. waited, walked through the dangerous places that Pollyanna wouldn't dare dream to go. And we go on, we stupid, self-centered, lovely, goofy humans, we go on in spite of ourselves because, apparently, enough people care.


John said...

I agree with Krister, and enthusiastically with the sermon with a caveat or two. Life, as you so much know, is a journey. The best of us, the people I admire and love most, don't finish that journey as the same person we begin it as. Ergo, the writer is a quilter is a lover is a..., well the one I most cherish is "Daddy." My life doesn't have a lot of people in it at the moment that need a full time daddy, but I was that and of all the things I've been and all of those I hope to be, that's the one I'd like to be remembered for. My "truth," at another time. Today's truth? I'm kind of working on it...J

Anonymous said...

It is time to give. Giving is the very best cure for depression. Not not writing, not thinking, not winning or surviving, not teaching, not preaching. Giving. Our days are filled with lot of opportunities - small and large - to be generous. Consider each one a gift. :)

Anonymous said...

Meg, it sounds like it will be a surprise to you that I do, in fact, give. And am generous.

John, you nailed it. We are not the same. We move and are moved as we journey, and find ourselves drawing on different aspects of that essential self that grounds us through all our different moves and identities. That, I suppose, is part of my truth, that I trust in that cantus firmus, center that will hold through all the trauma and turmoil.

Even as the poet wrote a long time ago, there is a time for every purpose under heaven, a time to hold, a time to let go, a time to give, a time to receive, a time to dance and sing, a time to refrain. And -- to my mind -- each is wrapped up and a part of the other so that even as we are in one season or at one place we are connected, strung together and affected by the rest. It is never one in isolation.

And about your being daddy, clearly, you are a damn good one! And I'd say Whitney still enjoys calling you that, and even needing you for that. So you get to keep it with you!

Thanks a lot for your thoughtful response (even tho' it was to the previous post! :+) )

Jan Erickson said...

Why in the hell wouldn't it let me use my own google account to comment on my own blog? Oh well, I'm not Anonymous! It's me, Jan!

Jan Carlson said...

Depression, real depression, the kind that settles all the way to your bones, actually changes your brain chemistry. It is not something that you can ignore, talk yourself out of or simply "give" to cure it or even hold it at bay. Those who think so have not experienced deep depression. I'm farther on the road, Jan, but it still sneaks up on me, sometimes when I can hardly name the trigger. As for you "giving", you do so evvery time you post here. You give us the honest truth of how life is after the crap you have lived through. You give voice to so many who can still not speak. You shine light in the darkest areas of church "life". My daily checks of this blog are your gift to keep on walking Jan, whether the road is crooked, dark and confusing. I believe the light still shines and will continued to shine on us all.

Jan Erickson said...

Thanks, Jan. You are generous, as always. I'm walking, and it is such a blessing to have companions on this journey. We give to each other and it seems to multiply. I like that light shining.

And you know, shining that light in the dark places is scary (especially given what happened when I only thought about it!) but I agree with you, that it is a gift of hope and healing for so many who were dragged into those ugly and cruel, crushing caves of abuse and we need one another to expose the evils we encounter so we can overcome them. I'm thinking Jesus had something to say about that...... ;=)