It’s Still Life

Little is as desirable in day-to-day life as peace and quiet. Rest, respite, calm–I crave them. There’s so much invitation and welcome in the sweet marvels of time off, time out and down time that I never feel I have too much of, well, not-too-much.

But busyness is ever so much more common in our everyday existence in this century, certainly in this household. It’s no still life, to be sure; any silence found in this way of living is more of the deafening sort. But yes, it’s still life.

So I have to manufacture or steal my moments of rest and relaxation. Isn’t that how most of us end up finding our tiny increments of space and time and sanity anyway? I have to learn how to tune out the white noise, hide from the constant demands and burrow into hidden corners when and wherever I can, to choose deliberately to decompress and unwind. If I don’t make room for my own peace of mind, who’s going to give it to me? The world may rattle on around me at a furious and eardrum-shattering rate and all I know may change in the ten minutes I’ve stolen to renew myself, but I will return to those realities soon enough, and hadn’t I better do so in a fortified state than otherwise?

Better to sit down and tell myself soothing tales undergirded with lullabies, to draw myself a little old-fashioned still life arrangement in the calm unruffled grey of graphite, and breathe deeply without regard for the bustle and bash of the universe, if only for a moment or two.graphite drawing

The Sound of Inner Peace

 

photoSilence is both elusive and therefore, golden in this life. Even when we can escape the ambient clamor of our everyday existence it’s rather rare to achieve the sort of true silence that’s found in deep contemplation, deeper meditation or deepest sleep. Our own brains make an immense quantity of distracting and sometimes just plain disconcerting noise so much of the time that it’s rather remarkable we even know what silence is or can be.photoIt’s almost ironic, then, that what makes inner calm and silence possible for me is often music. The way that music can clear my mind of mess and detritus, allow me to empty myself of unproductive or unpleasant things and focus on things of grace and beauty until my mind opens up so wide that it can embrace genuine calm, peace, contentment and meaningful introspection, achieve a kind of silence that transcends nothingness and surpasses quietude. Music makes me whole.photo

Gypsies at Heart

Becoming Gypsies

Freedom’s a romantic notion we imbue with pretty joys,

Dreamed escape from life’s commotion and the race’s worldly noise,

Endless travel, music, dancing, and the heat of thrumming hearts,

But though sweet, the dream’s entrancing magic’s only where it starts–

Gypsy life is what we make it, rich as fantasy can be,

Only when we reach and take it: yes, it’s up to you and me

To create this liberation and its joys for which we long–

Life becomes a celebration when we fully join the songphoto

 

Nobody Loves Me, Everybody Hates Me . . . *

photo

. . . Think I’m Gonna Go Eat Worms! [Note: no actual worms were harmed in the making of this photograph.]

Yes, it may be true that no man is an island–we all depend on others far more than we even recognize or comprehend–but conversely, every one of us is his or her own unique and seemingly isolated version of Three Mile Island at times when it comes to having personal meltdowns. It starts right at birth, when most of us scream and complain at having been removed from that ever-so-pleasant resort and spa, Mom’s innards, and ejected unwittingly and unwillingly into the cold, cruel world, and it continues, however sporadically, throughout our lives. We are such fragile creatures.

The majority of humans, happily, are not subject to this dark reality for too large a percentage of our lives, but it’s more common than is commonly discussed that we have trials, tribulations and the varying degrees of inability to cope with them that make us question, if not our sanity, then certainly our ability to rise above what’s bad, get a grasp on the good, and move forward regardless of feeling worthy or curable. Depression truly sucks–not just in the vernacular, but in the sense of pulling one down into a bottomless abyss like an evil and irresistible vortex.

I’m not referring, of course, to ordinary grief or sadness. We all get hit by those monsters at times. We flounder, we suffer, we recover. It may be deep and painful and take a long time to rebound from sorrows of even the most normal sort, but we do, eventually, learn how to go on living and being and take part in the doings of the world. Generally, that sort of difficulty or tragedy even tends to gradually heighten the sense and appreciation of what is good and joyful once we’ve experienced and survived the dark and can see the shining contrast of even a modest pleasure with what appeared insurmountably grim from its midst. True clinical, chemical, physiological depression, well, that’s a different thing.

It resists the most persuasive and intelligent logic. It batters self-worth and love in the most brilliant, gifted and accomplished sufferers. It tears at relationships of any sort with other people or with action, with one’s wit and will to survive. If it doesn’t make one outright, actively suicidal, it can simply kill through atrophy and attrition: sufferers have described the state of longing intensely to kill themselves but having no strength or energy to do so.

Why would I talk of such dire and dreary and horrid stuff, even think of it at all? Because I am reminded sometimes of when I used to be there. My worst bout of depression was perhaps aided and abetted by various situational and temporal aggravations, including the typical catalysts and intensifiers of real-world health and happiness threats: the onset of my spasmodic dysphonia, job problems, the murder of our good friend. These were of course widely different in intensity and timing, but to someone like me, their interaction with my evidently wonky endocrine system or whatever combined forces of chemical and biological imbalance were building in me meant that when I hit bottom, no amount of thoughtful and heartfelt reasoning with myself could ‘fix’ me or my situation.

I am one of the true Lucky Ones. I finally felt so brain-fogged, so unable to resist the pull of that deadly sucking, enervating, soul-destroying feeling of pointlessness and ugliness and being unlovable and incapable of doing anything meaningful or good–well, I got so needy that I actually let others help me. That was it. The only way out of the hole was to grip the hands reaching in toward me and let them do all of the work of pulling me out. Part of it was accepting these helpers’ assurances that they did indeed believe in me and in how I felt, that they loved me and knew that I had worth and potential. Part was letting others lead me around and taking their advice and simply letting go of what little shreds of ego I had left enough to say that I would do better in following an educated and experienced prescription for improvement than I’d been doing on my ever-weakening own two feet. And a part that was essential for me was loosening my grip on my insistence that taking prescribed treatment–both psychological and chemical–without trying to create or control it myself was a sign of weakness or failure. It took, in fact, all of my strength and intelligence to recognize that any strength and intelligence I had couldn’t save me.

The luck involved is clearly that together we (my caregivers–medical and personal–and I) did find the combination of therapeutic treatments, behavioral changes and chemical re-balancing medication that not only unlocked my present emergency state of depressive existence but ultimately proved to let me feel fully, wholly myself for the first time in my life. I know that this is not a cure but an ongoing process for as long as I live. And, having lived both ways, I am more than happy to take on that responsibility. It’s a privilege.

What’s most beautiful of all, for me, is that when it happens (as it has in this last couple of weeks) that several occurrences and situations conspire to remind me of this my past and how it shaped my present life and self, it also reawakens in me the profound gratitude for all of those complex minutiae that converged so miraculously well as to make this life possible. To make my continued existence at all possible, perhaps, but particularly such a happy me. What seemed like the most disastrous and irreparable of confluences instead conspired to make just the right blend at the right moment that finally offered me a rescue.

Turns out that eating worms is the very nourishment that makes some birds healthy enough to sing their hearts out with the pure delight of existing. Last week I was out walking and saw a ditch full of drowned worms, lured into and killed by stormy waters. This week I was walking the same route and the sky was filled with the most spectacular warbling, chirruping, musical bird songs I could hope to hear. Coincidence? Very possibly not.digital illustration from a photo

(* from the old campfire song Nobody Loves Me, Everybody Hates Me . . . )