Advent Day 14: the darkness

Today I want to offer you a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

I come home from the soaring

in which I lost myself.

I was song, and the refrain which is God

is still roaring in my ears.

Now I am still

and plain: 

no more words.

To the others I was like a wind: 

I made them shake.

I’d gone very far, as far as the angels,

and high, where light thins into nothing.

But deep in the darkness is God.

————————

It has been raining and/or cloudy the entire day. Maybe the last two days. Or three. I’m not really sure.

I am in such a good place right now in my life and in my mental and emotional and relational health that the rain and cloudiness hasn’t really bothered me. But it wasn’t that long ago that a stretch of days like this would be nearly unbearable. It wasn’t that long ago that even the sunniest and most beautiful of days couldn’t speak to my spirit.

One of the psalms for today is psalm 42:

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? 
and why are you so disquieted within me?

These verses, to me, are kind of the essence of what we now call “depression” – the heaviness, the lack of any sense of peace, and the anger at oneself for not being able to “shake it” – no matter how good life “should” feel in the moment. I feel like I can hear the frustration and stuckness in these verses. In modern vernacular, it might read something like, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just feel good?”

And that, right there, is depression.

I am feeling particularly mindful today of people who have lost someone recently or are facing seemingly insurmountable struggles in this season. Holidays are so hard in the face of grief and loss and depression; Christmas in particular, with all of its cultural emphasis on “joy,” can feel like rubbing salt in a wound. I know that I have definitely felt that way at times: as though my lack of joy was just one more way I was failing at being human.

In fact, full disclosure, I have often felt like that. Most of my life has been spent somewhere between dysthymia and major depressive episodes. It has only been the last few years that I have felt… good. Like, just good. Not overworking myself to outrun my feelings or convince myself that I was worthy of love, not plodding along waiting for the whole thing to be over, not distracting myself with endless business. I’m just good. Fairly relaxed. Mostly non-anxious.

It’s amazing. I remember the first few days I had of this feeling, this solid okay-ness. It was only a few years ago. It was as though a veil was lifted from my eyes: is this how easy life is for other people? I asked Lou. They nodded. The non-depressed ones, anyway, they said. Which are few in number.

Few in number indeed. Whether it is modern times or just the eternal human condition, living can hurt. If that’s you right now, you are known. If that’s not you right now, know that we – you and I – have to care for those around us who are deep in the pit right now. Maybe it was us a few years ago, or decades – maybe it will be us in the months to come. Whenever we’re blessed or lucky enough to be standing in the light, we must witness with those in the darkness.

That’s where God is.

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