Tea and ... Part II
Yeah About That:
Tea and…, Part II
Now that our classes have almost doubled in size, this seems the most expedient way, the most organized way I can answer you.
I know I’ve taken a bit of time to answer your question: “What about your writing?” I say “taken” because I didn’t ask for it. There seemed no need to ask for it, as it was something I needed. And I took it. I have some guilty feelings about taking it – I’m Jewish, what do you expect? – but I am also getting to a certain age where guilt is a , not a reason. Besides, none of the time I took kept anyone else, including you, from doing what they needed to do. So long as I didn’t ask for any of time, it seemed to me that you wouldn’t miss it.
Perhaps the easiest answer to your question is that I rarely write much or well when I am going through “a bad patch.” Nice euphemism, by the way; it implies soil that seems to produce nothing but noxious weeds, but can be improved with patience, effort and a few natural or man-made “remedies”.
And perhaps it’s not all that euphemistic. The more I think on it, that notion has more merit than saying, “I’ve been in a bad mood,” or “I simply didn’t feel like it.”
As you know, I suffer from depression. I don’t know if it is “clinical,” “bio-chemical” or some other man-labeled condition. What I know is intense sorrow and immobilization. Not crying for little or no reason. Not curling up in bed with a comforter. Not tuning out to comforting music or food (although I admit, I have done all three at different points in my life), but being frozen, leaning on furniture to hold my body upright because I cannot muster the thought or will to do so myself. Sitting in a corner almost catatonic. At these times, I am the proverbial duck who’s been hit over the head and incapable of motion or thought, only the sensation of numbness. Of disorientation. And no understanding of why or how I came to feel so.
In my unmarried youth (well, my 20s and 30s anyway), this state could last for hours. I cannot tell you now, since these incidents were half my lifetime ago, precisely what broke through to pull me back into the world. But something did.
The few times I have been so immobilized since marriage and motherhood ended when I smelled last night’s dishes in the sink, or one of my children called to me. The recollection that I had responsibilities seemed to be the “cattle prod” that got me moving in familiar patterns again until I was “past it.”
Needless to say, the issue causing it all had no name, let alone resolution.
I don’t know precisely what causes depression. Doctors have one perspective (generally given to them by the pharmaceutical companies). Authors I respect have another2. Politicians and other social pseudo-experts have a third.
But these “answers” are by and large triggers, not issues. They are the things that start the spiral into depression, helplessness, and despair.What drives it, what the issues really are, is something else.
The closest I can come to putting a word on the driving force is .
I know the term is common enough. Most are general enough that people can live up to them at school, at work, in varying social situations (Yes, Virginia, to the non-narcissist, there are still things you do in public). Not all expectations are impossible.Or shouldn’t be.
Example: we should expect truth and fairness from our leaders. So many claim to ground their decisions on justice, but I wonder if they recall that one of the Biblical definitions of justice requires that they (and we) “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”3
There’s a little too much of that second kind of perversion going around, in my view. And we could well have a long discussion on what makes a person “great.” Hint: I don’t believe money has anything to do with it. And, frankly, I wouldn’t trust anyone who sees the social, economic and racial injustice run rampant in the US these days, and is depressed.
However, on the level that expectations have interfered with my processes, writing or otherwise, the triggers are closer to home. One of my children (including my students) is not well or not faring well in her/his chosen life. My nonagenarian parents are declining in health. My own body does not move, respond or exercise as easily as it once did.
Yes, Notta, I know. Expecting these things is right up there with my childhood expectations of snow and ice and days off school throughout December, January and February. It’s a hard lesson for a child to learn that wishes and TV salesmanship doesn’t make it so.
Worse yet are the expectations I have of myself not to fall into a depression when I see my parents as the last of their generation in both their families. When I know I can do nothing to help the child or student who is struggling. When I know my own body is declining and I have no idea how much longer I have to become what my expectations have always said I ShouldBe.
The expectations pile up. I’ve lived this long, I ShouldBe able to do this, feel that, accomplish some other damned thing. I ShouldBe able to do it all.
Keeping busy with other projects and chores help, but the issue remains. Ignoring it works only so long. Like weeds and crabgrass, the issue only gathers strength. The roots dig down further.It takes a lot of patience – and who these days has patience with themselves? – digging down to those roots, then ripping it all out with the hope that I “got it all.” Chances are, I didn’t. Perhaps I never will.
I suppose that is where the remedies come in. Do anti-depressants work or don’t they? I don’t know. Herbs are appealing, but I don’t know enough about them to say definitively. Doctors seem to think pharmaceuticals do, but I know what you think of doctors. I’m not far behind in that opinion myself.
If not, what, then, must I do?
The ironic thing is, I have found that I must write. And keep writing. It’s the stopping that brings on the immobilization, the sorrow, the crabgrass of the mind. Strange that what my parents considered a derivative hobby is anything but.
So there you have it. What about my writing? When I go through a “bad patch,” it is difficult to take that step towards what I really need because it means I am going after the roots.
And there are not shortcuts, no chemical remedies that will work.
Yours without wax,
Three days later, Notta came to me after class with this in hand and waggled her finger. “Do I get to say, ‘I told you so’?”
And I thought my cat was smug.
“Nudnik” is a Yiddish word meaning pest or a bore.
Hari, Johan. Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions. Bloomsbury, USA: 2018.
Torah. Leviticus 19:15, New International Version.