Tag Archives: Depression

On being happy

“You’re the happiest person I know,” he said.

I laughed. “Except when I’m not.” I suppose it’s true. I’ve been terribly unhappy at times, but realistically those times have coincided with pretty serious stresses — losing babies to miscarriages and getting cancer twice is not quite as easy to overcome as a hangnail might be. And most of the time I recognize how lucky I am to live this life of relative ease and comfort, to have a stimulating job that allows me to set my own schedule within certain parameters, to have a funny, smart, loving daughter who is dealing remarkably well with the challenges of being a teenager in these difficult times, to have a vet who gives me discounts when the littlest dog gets dental surgery (yesterday), to have a new car with decent gas mileage and the income to buy organic food and fresh produce — even to indulge Zeke in her love of pink lady apples at the outrageous price of $2.99 a pound. I have a window in a quiet condo that looks out onto a patio, a patch of grass, and flowering trees in shades of pink. Tulips line the fence in vibrant red. Pansies turn delicate purple faces towards the light. Everything glows in the resplendence of spring sunshine. I feel the sun even here in the shade of my living room.

It’s dangerous, of course, to think about it. It has taken me years to recognize the transience of both joy and sorrow. When my mood darkens, I know to breathe deep, take a walk, wait for the change. When I feel happiness lifting me, I know to enjoy it but not to become attached. There will be another storm. The mood will shift.

I have been thinking about happiness since I read Dale’s post on it. When I was younger, I always looked forward to the day I’d have everything I dreamed of. There would be the horse farm in Ireland, the reading tours for my book, the fame and acclaim and steady flow of cash. I wouldn’t have to think, “Do I really need this?” because I would have the money to buy it (and back then, of course, I didn’t even think about the fact that moneyed or not, we shouldn’t be buying things just to have them, just to start them on the path to the dump or the incinarator where they would loose toxins into the air.) And yet. And yet. Somehow I had an inkling. I remember my best friend from Ireland (who is still my best from Ireland 30 years on), not bothering to clean her tack. “One day,” she said, “I’ll have a job that pays me enough I’ll never have to clean my bridle. I’ll just buy a new one when the old one get too dirty.” I never understood that attitude. I cleaned my tack and oiled it and won awards for the “best turned-out” pony. The leather of the reins and the headpiece and the check straps and all the rest of it was buttery soft. And I still have that bridle, though one of my more recent horses chewed on the reins, and it is showing its age.

I have digressed, perhaps because an aspect of happiness for me is the sensualness of a moment, and I remember those reins in my hand, the living mouth at the end of them and the feel of our connection — my pony and I, and then I am drawn here, to this moment with my computer in my lap, the slow ache in my right knee that impinges when I think about it, and then slips away when I look out at the dew sparkles on the grass. Sadie breathes beside me, wrapped in a blanket as is her preference. Bridjy sleeps at the other end of the couch, half toothless and older than we thought when we rescued her, but still happy and a lover of walks.

Surrender, Dale says. He prostrates himself in his Buddhist practice, and I think of the rituals of Catholicism, the genuflection, the grace bestowed in the Eucharist, these moments that are also acts of surrender. I think of Islam, which comes from a word that means love and peace, but also surrender.

Sometimes I imagine myself forward to what might be. Nada and I might get a house together some day. Some terrible thing that I can’t name might happen some day. But I stop myself. Surrender is a surrendering to the moment, to Now.

To Sadie breathing beside me, to Bridjy with clean teeth, to clicking “publish” and heading upstairs to wake Zeke for school. To Now.

Shout it out

I keep thinking about my daughter’s friend, Dee. She’s funky, dyed red hair and piercings and crazy mismatched clothes: short plaid skirt over black fishnet stockings, tight tweed jacket on top and lace-up boots below. Always odd combinations, purple and red and orange together, brown and yellow, a splash of black. When she shows up in an Abercrombie sweatshirt one day, my daughter, who likes her brand names, is disappointed. “Don’t go preppy on us, Dee,” she says. “I love your outfits.”

We picked Dee up for a VM sleepover on Friday. When we arrived she had finished making dinner for her mother, her stepfather and her baby brother, and had just started in on the dishes. “Come in,” she said. “Want some stir fry?” She served it in plastic bowls, and we sat at the table while Zeke played airplane with the two-year-old’s food and Dee washed the dishes.

“Open up,” Zeke purred. “Down the hatch.” She made airplane noises and waved the spoon around extravagantly in front of the boy’s nose, and he giggled and squealed.

Dee’s mother sat at the computer, her back to us. She didn’t look up when we walked in. When I passed her to go to the bathroom, she looked sideways at me, not meeting my eye. On the way out from the bathroom, I introduced myself.

“Oh yeah,” Dee said. “Zeke’s mom, this is my mom. Mom, this is Zeke’s mom. Isn’t my mom amazing,” she added brightly. Her mother shook my hand when I held offered it, a limp, damp shake. She was a big round woman who balanced on two tiny feet, her legs short and surprisingly thin. I found out later she was pregnant.

We played with the boy some more while Dee finished up. The house was filled with Christmas ornaments on shelves and in various hutches. Oversized photographs of Dee as a child and the little boy hung on the walls.

When we left, I said goodbye to Dee’s mom. She didn’t respond. Her finger clicked on the mouse button, and the computer screen flashed.

Usually Dee can’t hang out much. She spends too much time watching the little boy. He adores her, and she him. When we left he wailed after her, and his mother ignored him.

Dee, Zeke says, sleeps around. She smokes pot and cigarettes. She speaks of herself in the third person, in a high voice. “Dee loves this,” she says, pointing at a Sobee tea when we go grocery shopping. I put it in the cart. “Oh,” she says.”Dee thanks you.”

At home, she practices her part for the Monologues. “Shout it out,” I say. “Sound mad. Sound sorry when the words get softer. Imagine you’re her.”

She doesn’t take much coaching.

Protected: On Depression and Coping

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