Almost every night this summer, I’ve gone on a walk with my dog. And many times, my mom comes as well. We walk the country road outside our middle-of-nowhere home, half-a-mile down and half-a-mile back, framed by ankle-high corn on one side and… well, ankle-high corn on the other. Our dog, Toast, a spazzy little dachshund, runs ahead of us, pulling his leash as far as it’ll go, chasing birds as if he could catch them. I’ve seen few things more joyous.
When I walk alone, I pray. Usually out loud, because my dog is the only one around to hear me, and he already loves me as much as possible – my talking out loud is nothing strange to him. So I talk to God, and sometimes I walk in silence, trying hard to listen because I don’t do that enough. I’ve found, too, that a lot of my praying consists of frustrated sighing. Not usually frustrated at God, but with myself, because I’m no good at giving a voice to what I’m trying to say, especially with Him. With close friends, the sighs are clues to what I’m feeling, and the best of them can pick up on the nuances. With God, I am only grateful that He doesn’t need my words, and that everything contained in the sighs and in my heart are already understood more than I could even understand myself.
Takes a lot off a girl’s shoulders (and yet look at me – still all hunched over, but… another thought, for another Thought Train).
When I walk with my mom, though, we talk. Well, let’s be honest – it’s still me who does the talking, and she slips in her nuggets of wisdom and her endearing eye-rolls. A few days ago, I was angry, not with my mom, but with other matters. When I’m angry, my default is to shut down. Silence has proven to be intimidating from me in many situations, and I’ve been told that my face betrays my emotions despite the lengths I go to to control it. I get cold and distant, partly because I know I can be hurtful if I speak with someone who doesn’t get me, and partly because I know the coldness can hurt as well. That dark and light within me, at it again.
But, behind that mask of silence lives a mind racing with thoughts. I’ve learned to be very careful who I unload on when I’m angry, because I know I can be hurtful. But I also know that I need to talk through my anger, or else it eats me. Really, I need to talk through almost any emotion, or it eats me (and therein lies the main point of this post, which I am getting to, slowly but surely). There are very few people I allow to hear me this way. Mostly because a lot of the time, I wouldn’t blame most of the people I love if they peaced out after listening to me this raw. But my mom has never walked off. She’s told me to shut up, which I’m grateful for, in hindsight – but she never decided I was too much, never decided that I was too confusing or difficult or messy to deal with. I suppose that’s what a mother is supposed to do – to love unconditionally. But I’m not naive and I also know I’m no picnic. There are many mothers who do walk off. And I am blessed. Because I don’t have a mother like that.
So I allowed my anger to run its course on our walk. Because I knew she would listen. I was snappy and sarcastic. I was humorless and irrational and self-centered. I don’t like myself when I get that way. And the horrible paradox of it all is that I can feel my distaste for myself even as I say it all, even as I snap and quip. And I go on.
Can I just pause for a moment? Because goodness – do I need grace and forgiveness. And goodness – am I glad I can have them both.
On again. When I finally wore out of everything I wanted to say, my mom just walked in silence for a few seconds. She nodded at me and gave me one of her loving eye-rolls – her way of acknowledging that she heard me, acknowledging that I needed to cool it, and acknowledging that she still loved me anyway. She gave me a few hints on how to stave off the anger that kept cropping up in this recurring situation (dontcha love my awfully-masked ambiguity?). Then we walked home. And I thought things through, and wrote things through. Sometimes it’s like everything inside me is a river, covered in lily pads and algae. After I skim off the surface, I can finally see the rocky bottom.
What am I saying? That’s rhetorical; or rather, it’s self-reflective. I know where I’m trying to end up but I don’t know if I’m getting there the way I need to (also another departure point for a Thought Train, maybe in a few days). Let’s see… best to just say the thing that needs to be said, yes? Okay.
I need to tell you about a poem I wrote, and the poem is dark. Very dark. It gets less dark, at the end, but it is still not shy in it’s darkness. It’s about depression, and the reason I’m writing an entire post to preface a post I’m most likely gonna put up within the week is because that word – depression – tends to freak everyone out and send everyone into Save the Person Mode.
Let me assure you – I do not need you to barrel headfirst to my rescue. I’m fine :) See, I put a smiley there to emphasize the sincerity of the “I’m fine.” I wrote the poem about a week ago, but nothing about it is fresh. It’s retrospective and hind-sight-y and a compilation of not only my thoughts but the thoughts of others, morphed into words of my own. It is something that has taken me years to figure out, and I still have very little idea as to what I’m trying to say. But I’m saying it. And that counts for something. I think it counts for a lot, actually.
Tonight my mom and I went on another walk, and we somehow stumbled upon the subject of depression, although very briefly. Obviously, it’s a subject that’s been on my mind lately, something I’ve been mulling over. I said I thought depression was a state most humans find themselves in at one time or another in life. Sometimes they’re there a lot, and sometimes it’s less common. Sometimes it’s bad – really bad. And sometimes it’s less bad, but painful and twisty nonetheless. And she did her mom thing – nodding, pausing, a quick agreement and a little I-don’t-understand-why-you-think-so-much eye roll. That promise of love again, contained in so few gestures.
That’s why I told you that whole long story about me being mad and then being snippy with my mom on our walk the other day. To make the point that my mom is smart and also listens to what I say. But maybe more than that, the story was me warming up. You see, I have been exceedingly open with this blog, and in the past six months, its impact has reached far beyond the internet. I’ve opened up personally too, not that I was ever that closed-off of a person. I just… I suppose I found some areas in my life where I could be more vulnerable, a quality I treasured but didn’t always practice. Some people I decided to trust with most of me, even without a guarantee of acceptance or understanding. And you know what?
It’s been six of the most incredible months because of these decisions. Because I listen to myself. Because I started believing truths about the person that I was. Because people told me they got it, and some of them started finding poems for me that they thought I’d like, or they wrote me emails and told me stories, or they sat with me and listened to me and then let me listen to them.
There are so many confusing, difficult, messy people. People I don’t want to walk away from. People who aren’t walking away from me.
So I wrote the poem. And then I put it away, because I didn’t know if I was ready to put it here. I wanted people to trust that I was alright, that I wasn’t really ever not alright – I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t not alright (there is a time and place for double negatives, and this is the place, and the time is now). Even in the darkest, rock-bottomiest times, I was aware of my Savior. But I wanted them to understand how pervasive the curse is, how fallen we are that depression is less of an anomaly and more of a standard. At least, as the non-psychologist that I am, that’s what I’ve decided. It’s what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen. I wrote it because maybe someone needs it. Because maybe we should stop shutting away our pasts, because it’s part of us. I am still so haunted by the depths to which my mind can go, even if it hasn’t gone all the way there in a while. So I wrote it, because it’s the only way I know to deal with things. Writing and praying, and to me, they’re one in the same anyway.
The poem is coming. I want to read it a few more times on my own. I’m thinking of passing it along to one or two individuals to read first too, because I want to ease into it. I haven’t decided yet. But I’m going to post it soon. It isn’t anything incredible; nothing that will bend your mind or have you thinking any more than my other stuff. It’s actually very similar to the other poems. I’m not trying to build anything up. I’m trying to talk myself into this. I’m trying to take my own advice. It’s working, slowly; but it’s working.