Saturday, March 20, 2010


The list of things I am unfit for is a long one. Ballerina, freestyle skateboarder, auto mechanic, seamstress. And, in yoga, meditator. Get me in that room, sitting on the mat eyes closed, and I can do everything but “observe thoughts as they arise, but let them go.” No, they fall over me like a feather comforter, and I breathe them in and out until I am transported four hundred miles away, walking into the Diamond Grille in Akron. Always, walking into the forties in the form of a restaurant I’ve been in only a few times, yellow light on blonde wood. I wonder why I always come here, when I am supposed to be at yoga class. I get hung up on this place. Among other things.

Then, the voice of the instructor this morning, suddenly opening my eyes to the blue overhead through the skylight and a contrail of white vapor expanding slowly. “This is the best moment of your life.”

It was, and then it too bisected the view in disappearing cotton. I came here wearing a gray heaviness that I thought I might never again have to bear. I had forgotten what this felt like, the mood that descends and pulls me down, down. I am caught in the anchor rope, and there is only so much breath left in me. The next time I inhale, it will be water, and then I will fall all the way to the bottom.

I have been living lately in a green world, shot through with light, one with a three-hundred-sixty-degree view of joy. I was not sure where it came from—after a year of building my own new mental house, sawing and hammering and watching the walls go up, finally the roof going on—but I was not going to question it. What is this strange feeling? Why, it’s happiness! I had grown so used to feeling this lately, I had begun to believe it was the steady state.


Everything changes. Happiness, too.

I used to say, Panic attacks are something you would not wish on your worst enemy. (I have compassion even for criminals; they, too, suffer.) But this past week, it’s depression I have been making the reacquaintance of. It’s like meeting the dead. Alive again. And horrible.

It’s a hole in the bottom of your bucket. A minute pinhole you can’t find in order to patch; the water seeps slowly. I was going to write something, tomorrow. When tomorrow came, I decided I would write it tomorrow. I got into bed right after dinner, fell hard asleep, then woke at two, and and four, twisted up with the duvet. Woke tired. Aimless through the day. Hopeless through the night.

I tried to parse its meaning. It couldn’t have just come back for a visit, unbidden, because it missed me, from our long relationship of yore. It had to be here for a reason, sapping all desire.

The week before I had ridden long, and hard. I had felt the exhilaration of doing something I did not know I had it in me to do. The ecstasy of thinking , for all those miles, about the one thing that’s paramount in my mind right now, and had the magic of the road solve it—the answer to a problem I did not yet know I faced—out there just ahead of me in the Pennsylvania dark. I came home so tired I did not even know it until the next day. The day after that, I was even tireder. And then it became something else. A fatigue of the spirit. In the following week the sum total of my accomplishments was three loads of laundry.

I must remember that I have never stayed anything for long. Not panicked, not sad, not angry, not happy, not productive. Or unproductive. I wish I could say, for now, this was something in the air. But it seems to be in me. Maybe tomorrow I will finally get around to washing my bike, as I have been telling myself to do for six days. Maybe tomorrow it will go away, this feeling like chains that clank about my ankles as I try to walk. Tomorrow it could all turn out different. We could both be washed clean.


ren said...

Yeah, well, depression is insidious and vain. It wants us to see it and only it, and revel in its sneers. I know. Mine would sit like a blackness on my shoulders, ignoring my pleas for compassion.

I am an example of better--much better--living through chemistry. Now when the blackness nears, I sneer at it. It hovers, but doesn't land. And that is true relief.

Without fighting it, it will ruin what we are.
Fight it.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Depression *is* like a person, isn't it? A narcissistic, selfish, greedy person. (That's a great apercu, Ren.) The kind of person I'm shut with.

Funny. Though I'm used to thinking of myself as weak, and fearful, I suspect maybe my stubbornness is more powerful than these two. And I don't want anything to win over me--but me. So I will indeed fight.

In the middle of crisis, or at least a flurry of activity and deadlines and craziness--which is what my life usually consists of, because I arrange it that way--I don't have time to be depressed. Only in times of calmness and repose do I feel that ogre breathing on my neck. I just now realized that that is my version of the "happy pill": self-imposed chaos.

Well, at least it works, most of the time.

pierre d'alai said...

Re yoga and meditation, these may be helpful to you:

They're also included as appendices to Thich Nhat Hanh's "The Miracle of Mindfulness", but the links above are free and the translations of the sutras there aren't any better or worse than the ones provided in the book.

Meditation: you 'concentrate' on CLEARING YOUR MIND.

If the mind continues to grasp at distracting things, then while you inhale you think about "inhale" and while you exhale you think about "exhale".

pierre d'alai said...

baby, MOODY, yeah yeah,

like THIS:

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Dang, Pierre, after listening to that, I am in a great mood all of a sudden!

But I will still also take the tack of practicing mindfulness: it's been the prescription of choice now from so many wise people who know me, it has to be the ticket. Just need to get past my strange resistance . . . (in itself a lesson about this strange life I call mine).

Thank you, Pierre, for all of it.