Seldom a day goes by where I don’t make the decision to keep on living. That is difficult to admit here, but I’m guessing not all that surprising. I received a text from my son telling me of Robin William’s passing and my first response was that of not surprise, but an old familiar intense and deep sadness, emotions as akin to me as love and even joy. Since then there’s been a deluge of tributes and outreaches, memories and affects of the artist and actor and human on all channels social media, and in its wake, and in this wake, I just wanted to offer up something.
This is not so much about hope as it is about patience. This is not so much about being happy as it is about being. And this is not so much about cost as it is about value.
It has been about twenty years since I understood my dependency on living for something to which I was looking forward, getting caught up in the notion of won’t-it-be-great-when. I’ve come to learn it is a human default; that grass-is-greener, train-in-the-distance thing that energizes the part of our brain that suspects there may be something better than our status quo. It’s a Christmas way to live, the only problem being is that 364 days feel like December 26th.
Hope, for whatever the virtue inscribes – a vacation, a cure, a relief, a relationship – amplifies its own wonder and longing, its own giddy anticipation that builds to one of two common termini, satisfaction or disappointment, the latter being for far too many the most prevalent. I believe we have conditioned ourselves for such, but that is something to write about in another post.
Patience, hope’s journey, is an acceptance of the time it takes, the steps required, the rotations of the planet necessary to the end, instilling more presence in the trip, a leveled sense of purpose that for me can displace depression. Not always, but honestly, nothing ever does.
I’ve learned, though, that nothing ever completely displaces being either, not even suicide. In my Interpersonal curriculum we discuss certain self-defeating drivers, one of which is be strong. It is in this content that I kid my students that I take meds to knock off the edge of happy, that were I not medicated I’d be vaulting through the halls singing odes to joy. At the cusp of convincing them of this case I say, not really, I don’t take pills to make me less happy. And why not? Because happy is not diagnosed as a mental illness.
Now, before I get taken in the wrong vein here, I’ll say that clinical depression can warrant a pharmaceutical intervention, no question. Been there. That’s a bit of a pun within itself because while I was medicated not only did I not feel the pain and despair and hopelessness of my depression, I also did not feel like being. Depression – again, this according to my own experience – can be as much an emotional default as happiness and joy. We feel it. And while it hurts as much as happy heals, it is not for the most part an illness. It just is. It falls somewhere on that dichotomy of being. Anesthetizing emotion blurs that line.
I have big holes in my heart. Many are the size of people, both living and dead. Some the sizes of dogs and others little chasms of regret. These holes cause pain; costs of mistakes, costs dying, costs of narcissism. Pain is too easily described in terms of loss. On those days where it overwhelms my own valentine I have to force myself to recognize the value of pain instead of its cost; the amelioration from relations, the appreciation of the present and the grace of allowing someone most precious to die.
For what this is worth, and in the hope that this may assuage you on some level, this in supplement to the love and grace of my children and my companion is why, on those particular days, I decide to live.