This has been such a strange week for me. I am whole and healthy and well once more. The sun is shining. My children are home and happy (actually they are out and about in parks and on walks with friends). I have finished half of my story for this semester, and I like it. We attended parent teacher conferences and found teachers we respect, admire and trust.
But somehow I feel incredibly fragile right now, a bit tremulous, as if even the smallest of surface tears will send everything unravelling. January, February, March-- they are so hard for me. As I have gotten older, I have become much better at identifying and managing periods of depression or anxiety. I no longer suffer the indescribable oppression of pre- and post-partem despair that left me flattened for much of my early twenties, or the endlessly exhausting insomnia that accompanied an undiagnosed hyperthyroidism just a few years ago. But I still go through spirals of emotional change. I am still subject to the wash and repeal of these waves.
Post-surgery, I was given a drug that pushed until I was curled up on the end of the bed, a weeping mess with no desire to recover, because the wretched likes of me certainly did not deserve such hope. Fortunately, I know enough now to articulate that things were not alright, and I was not so hale and hearty as one might wish. So the pills were pulled, and 72 hours later it gradually dawned on me that life continued to exist and I might be interested in it after all.
So, all things considered, I am ok. Really, truly, deeply, at the most basic level, pretty gosh darn good. And what I am coming to understand is that I can feel fragile and muted and introspective. I can take the wash of grey and slip into the shadows once in a while. I can explore the darkness and feel the fear and grief and regret. And I can still be really, truly, deeply, at the most basic level altogether fabulous.
We live in a time and a society that place an enormous amount of value on "happiness." We want bright, loud, fun, glorious, exuberant joy. The constitution of this country includes the pursuit of happiness as one of its most basic tennants. And yet. I would not be who I am without the dark as well as the light. There are aspects of what others might label as depression that I find indispensable. These are often the times when I am the most reflective, the rawest: the ones that lead me to deeper insight and greater understanding. They instruct, inform and mold me, granting a capacity to feel and acknowledge, to perceive, see and appreciate to a far greater extent than I would have been able to otherwise.
Simon and I have talked about this before: would I change what I have been through to be happier, to have a more predictable and easier life. And I always say no. No, I never would. I would not want to sink back into the deep debilitating depressions. But I would not want to be left wholly devoid of darkness, either.
These days I do my best to seek contentment and peace with who and where I am. I seek insight to understand what others experience. I seek the clarity to comprehend the purpose of experience, and the ability to share this with others. I seek beauty, even in the unlikeliest of places. I seek truth. I seek personal grace so that I may treat those I love as they deserve to be treated. And I seek patience with myself and the wisdom to know how to find balance in it all.
All of these are facets of light, penetrating, incorruptible spiritual realities that I hold in the core of my being. I slowly polish them, add to them. Sometimes I stumble and drop a few bits. When the clouds gather, they can be obscured and seep into dimness. But sometimes the dark only makes them shine more brightly. Sometimes it is the sepia wash that brings the glow and warmth of experience and the joy that can only be appreciated because it has been tempered with pain. It is only with shadows that we can see depth. So I am working hard at not being afraid of the dark. Of, in fact, accepting it. Of opening myself to this experience, of seeing what I can learn from it and how I can use it in my own life, and in how I relate to others.
Maybe "happiness" is not for me. But joy-- I can do profound joy, even from the darkest of corners.
(Lest you are wondering what prompted all of this, it is never far from the surface this time of eyar. And I am currently reading Johnson's Rasselas, which does beg the question. Also, my apologies for the lack of pretty pictures. If you have read this far, by all means have some tulips).