I am depressed. It’s not a seasonal thing. It’s a life thing, possibly a lifelong thing. The outward circumstances are good on all fronts, and there is no objective reason to feel like I’m standing at the edge of a yawning abyss. But I do. And so I think it’s time to see the doctor again. He will probably prescribe what he has in the past – good ol’ Welbutrin, the little purple pill with the smiley face on it. I don’t like taking little purple pills every day, and I’ve tried to avoid them for a while now, but I am coming to the conclusion that waking up crying at 3:30 in the morning is probably not a normal thing. Or crying at work, which can be embarrassing, particularly when one sits in the midst of stoic computer programmers. Got a problem? Let’s work out a problem-solving algorithm. No, on second thought, let’s reprogram your brain, Mr. Spock, so that you can at least act like the emotive part of your being doesn’t operate based on 0s and 1s. I may be dealing with some latent hostility in addition to depression.
This morning I awoke from a dream at 3:30 a.m. In the dream, Kate and I were shopping together (this is one of the many ways I can distinguish dreams from reality). We were at a mall – The Easton Towne Center, maybe, home of Ye Olde Upper Middle Classe, or perhaps Polaris Fashion Place. In any event, it was one of those places where I feel profoundly uncomfortable and cynical, ready to make snarky comments about the walking mannequins and the dummies with wallets. And we encountered Kate’s former college roommate Molly.
Molly has not been a part of our lives for a long time. She and her husband were close friends for a while, but a messy divorce, and alienated kids, and a remarriage, and too many miles and too many years ended all that. We haven’t seen her or heard from her in more than a decade. But there she was, in my dream, arm in her arm with her new husband, walking through the mall. We greeted her. She looked at us. She recognized us. And she walked on without saying a word. Then I woke up crying.
You Freudians and Jungians can have a field day with that one. But here’s what was most disturbing. It got worse after I woke up. It was full-on existential dread. For you non-philosophers, imagine the sense of general well-being that usually permeates your day-to-day existence – your family, your friends, your health, your career, your accomplishments, whatever it is that provides that general coping/hanging-in-there equilibrium– and then imagine somebody turning on the Soul Vacuum and sucking that right out of you. Or maybe it was just this:
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:19-23)
No shit, St. Sherlock. Paul. Whoever. But I sure get that “groaning inwardly” part. It’s the sucker punch that comes when you are fifty years old and it’s 4:00 in the morning, and you are wide awake, staring at the ceiling, contemplating the wasted years, the endless unnumbered days that now are numbered, the countless times spent bored, high, disengaged, whatever it was that made you not fully present in the moment. And now you find that the moments cannot be recaptured, that there are whole sections of your life that are walled off from the present. But you can still see the trail of ghosts, unreachable, but all too recognizable. And you find that the older you get the longer the trail stretches – best men and ushers at your wedding, ex-friends and former lovers, people with whom you swore your commitment and your passion and your undying allegiance; now moved on or dead, the victims of too many miles and too many years or simple rigor mortis, relationships that were one-of-a-kind gems reduced to a yearly exchange of generic Christmas cards, or nothing at all -- all, every one of them, residents of the Kingdom of Gone.
This is why I am depressed. Nothing lasts. You invest in the good stuff – not stuff at all, it turns out, but people – and still nothing lasts.
“For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:24) Damn you, St. Sherlock, you better be right. I’ve placed all the chips on that statement, let it ride on that one big lucky number. The hope of eternal life, the shaky bet that this world is not the end, that all of the lost relationships will be found, or will be caught up in something, someone, so big and so loving that they will seem irrelevant. Because they don’t seem irrelevant now. They hold the shape and form of those I have loved, but they are holes, empty air. I look and I know those shapes. But there is nothing there.