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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An Otherwise Hard and Dark Life

It started with an email.

It was polite and gracious. Not asking for anything, just a short note that stated how much she enjoyed reading my stuff. Heartfelt, it was one line that got me. One line that went:

"[Your books] afford me much pleasure in an otherwise hard and dark life."

I don't know her or her situation. Don't know where she lives, how old she is or what she looks like. It doesn't matter. That one line. A hard and dark life.

Darkness comes different shades.

I grew up in a stable family, a good home, and a safe community. I grew up with all benefits of an education and a capable body. Not disfigured, I maintained friendships and romances. With all of those gifts, why would my life become dark?

I don't know.

And that was the problem. I had no legitimate reason to feel hopeless and alone. Confused, scared and depressed. On paper, I was living the American dream. So why, then? Why would my life also feel hard and look dark?

There are children in this world suffering atrocities greater than the imagination. I recently read the confessions of a serial child molester and what he did to his 10 year old stepson for a year. Nightmares had nothing on that boy's life. What would he give to have my life?

And yet I still saw clouds, what I thought were clouds, for miles and miles. I saw no point to all of this, felt no value in life. Despite having a family and girlfriend-turned fiance-turned wife, I felt alone. I didn't have a right to feel this way.

And that made it worse. Because I did feel this way.

Depression has no bias. If someone hasn't experienced the weight of its gray sky, it looks like weakness, like petty self-centeredness. You just need to will yourself back to mental health. Right? Suck it up, pull up the bootstraps, get tough.

I got lucky.

I had good teachers, good counselors. I had good genes that didn't reach for an easy way out. I wanted to find a way through it. After years of  hard work--Zen retreats, group therapy, individual counselling--I slowly saw the sun. I realized, because of the work, that the sun was always there. I just needed to look toward it.

But, in the meantime, there is the work. There is always the work. And in the middle of the long, dark night--when the work is gritty, is sweaty and nasty and filthy--its nice to know someone else is out there, someone else has been there, and understands.

Understands the sun in behind the clouds.

It always has been.

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