I was talking yesterday with a friend about the daughter of someone we both know who suffers from debilitating depression. He spoke of the undue burden it put on our friend. How she is afraid to leave her child alone, because the young woman is hopeless and it’s not clear that she actually even wants to go on existing. “She just hates herself so much.” Why? It’s not obvious what the source of all this is. Or at least to me, why she thinks life is so awful. I don’t know this girl very well, though to me, her depression is etched clearly across her face, it’s transparent and obvious in her demeanor. I didn’t have to ask what to know that something was off. There is a tired, far away look in her eyes, and when she smiles, she doesn’t quite seem to be present. It’s a familiar expression.
I hardly know her, yet I can see parts of her seem to be existing in some grey elsewhere. I always wanted to give her some kind of reassurance, tell her it was OK or that I understand, even if I actually don’t, and it’s not, and even if I can’t just ask her what or why, because she’s only someone I know in passing. And what business is it of mine to try to save someone?
Hmmm, I think, with a vaguely dispassionate cynicism: “Welcome to your mid-20s, girlfriend.” The grumpy part of me wants to tell people to snap out of it, though I know this is not how it works. It would have done me no good if someone said this to me. And of course, this is dismissive. And not the whole picture. And for many people, not so.
It seems common, yes, that there are a lot of 20somethings who are depressed, though. Young people find themselves caught between childhood and adulthood in some weird purgatory with a lack of any kind of definitive direction, or meaningful and substantive motis. Well, for some of us at least. And sometimes we proceed in a particular direction, but don’t find it fulfilling in the way that we had hoped. Sometimes adulthood can be so boring, so mundane. It can simply seem meaningless, dull, predictable.
I thought about my own struggles with depression and thought about what helps me. How I have to remember to take care of myself in a different way, and how I need to remind myself of what is rational and irrational, and that this too shall pass. How lately, I seem to have been able to put those overwhelming thoughts aside, for now. Today, at least. Because even when I get frustrated with the little things – or the multitude of little things that can pile up to seem like lumbering, amalgamated monsters – I’m ok, overall. My life is not in shambles. It may not be the beautiful and glowing example I sometimes wish it could be, but I am doing ok. Sometimes that is good enough. Not everything has to be superlative or exceptional. I’m grateful for what I have and feel a sense of control over my existence that wasn’t always so. Control, or the vague illusion of it, is often that missing puzzle piece. I think often about how realizing where you have it and where you don’t (there’s usually a fairly substantive weight more heavily on the latter side than the former) can help one feel a greater peace; less of an attachment to struggling and to changing others, or certain outcomes.
I realize that what helped me also doesn’t work as a catch all or a panacea for everyone else. But I think about this quote sometimes and think it holds a lot of weight. “Humility doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself. It means thinking less on yourself.” To think that my every action is so significant, of such magnitude, is a kind of egotism which is as insufferable and self-indulgent as That Guy at the party who can’t stop talking about how overweeningly awesome he and everything in his life is (ever heard my favorite quote? It’s this: “Arrogance is always insecurity.” Same old boring thing.) To over analyze one’s ever doing and deed is a warped kind of egotism as well. To think that one’s life is a burden to others also seems like a kind of egotism, but then sometimes we make it so. And that seems unfair too.
To me, it is often comforting to think that our lives, however small, are just one little drop in a great ocean. Life is very short, yes, and of course, we have to come to terms with this somehow. Yet making the most of everyday is overwhelming and near impossible. To think I made some simple difference in someone’s day often seems good enough. To tell someone I’m having an OK day seems good enough too. OK doesn’t mean subpar, it just means everything is alright, because hey, sometimes stasis is the good news we need. Why must I show you that it’s Great(!) or Super! Or Awesome! Or Amazing! It sets my teeth on edge in a way I find hard to express in the moment, when the grocery store clerk asks me this, and then responds as if I’ve broken some unspoken rule of decorum. When I say “OK” I get questioned because I’m straying from the scripted dialogue in which we’re expected to participate. Come on, I think, it’s just a day. I’m grocery shopping. I have allergies. But I’m alive and I have a job and a home and people who love me. Isn’t good enough good enough? Let’s be honest, as much as I love to cook, it’s still a pretty mundane task, and that’s OK to call what it is “Yes. Just OK.” We all need to do it. Let’s move along, shall we?
On that note, I truly love this piece and think everyone should read it: http://www.utne.com/2008-01-01/Science-Technology/Have-an-Average-Day.aspx#axzz2UWmIwLFg