Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
-Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
I stopped saying things on here because my words left. I think, maybe, they’re starting to come back. We’ll see.
A few years ago, a strange dullness came to visit me and stayed. I found it partially familiar, because of genetic things and probably culture too, but as time went on I started to lose something to it. Some of what I’ve read about post-partum depression sounds very similar to what I’ve felt. Biologically, that doesn’t really make sense but I think maybe I entered into the pain of my daughter’s story and couldn’t quite find my way out? So many I-don’t-knows.
We moved, and it was a long snowy winter–dreamy at first and then smothering with indoor heated air. I let myself numb.
Sunday mornings were easier, without all the emotional dissonance I’d been trying to sort out in recent years. I’d grown accustomed to going one week, and recovering for two. That all faded away, as I sat in liturgy and sank my teeth into real bread and felt the wine wet my throat and warm my insides. Sunday morning became peaceful, and I was grateful. I felt that I might be on the way to wholeness.
But then the dullness gave way to despair. I found myself daydreaming of slowly floating away on the lake, or simply sleeping for months, or longer. These were the only things that seemed pleasant at the time. I took a deep breath and told this to my husband, who reacted with a very sane fear, and the next day I called a counselor.
I can see now that I had a response to trauma–a response I really should have had long ago. Watch the documentary Jesus Camp and you’ll see glimpses of my childhood. I took the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I was always and forever not enough.
The talking has helped (I skipped a week and felt a profound difference; it really surprised me). I also took another deep breath and called to inquire about medication–a doctor listened carefully as I tried to outline all of this for her and said the D word–“when you feel like you’re just done with life, that is depression”, she said and I nodded emphatically. “I’m done before I even get out of bed.”
So, I’m getting help from some extra serotonin and norepinephrine, and things are getting better. I’m recognizing old happy things and welcoming new things too.
This thing is multi-faceted. I needed some chemical help (bubble wrap, my counselor calls it, which makes me smile) and so, check. I needed to have a safe place to house my many troubled thoughts, check. Now there is this faith thing. What to do with it?
I haven’t been to church in probably three months. This feels partly like freedom and partly like loneliness. I loved the little church we were getting to know here, but the realization that church has, in many ways, been traumatic for me led to the decision to simply let it go. Whether this is for a season or something more, I don’t know yet.
I’ve never actually given myself a break from it before. This whole summer has felt like a sweet and simple break from all those heavy things. There will come a time when I’ll need to move from this transient state to some sort of decision, I know. I’m not yet there.
A good friend of mine said, “I have this void, and I’m deliberately not filling it with anything, and it feels good” and I thought, Aha! That’s it. All of these years, I’ve been fillingfillingfilling it with songs and texts and philosophy, but right now I’m just feeling the ache. The ache of being a human being with a brain and a body and a story in this world.
I am of this Earth–clay and bones and blood, sweat and tears. I’m a physical being. I don’t know if this all gets transported away and turned into eternal wisp, or if the physical is simply put into the ground and decays and there’s perhaps even more beauty in that because this one wild and precious life (thanks, Mary Oliver) is truly all we have?
There is beauty and truth in the Bible, for sure, but there is beauty and truth elsewhere too. I’ve missed out on so much of the world. The bubble popped years ago but I’ve been trying to climb back in. Why go back to things that don’t work anymore?
For prayer, lately, I simply say this:
May I be filled with loving-kindness
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers
May I be well in body and in mind
May I be at ease and happy.
And then I say the same for the ones I love.
The little girl in me, who knows all her Bible verses and when to be quiet and how to keep the peace, thinks that this prayer is rather selfish. I try to be kind to her, and hold her soft, shaky hand, and tell her we’re going to find a way forward.