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.