To move toward fully living
Notes on an in-between place
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A song I’m loving:
To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That's crudely put, but…
If we're not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?
This poem, To Be Alive by Gregory Orr, has popped up a lot in my sphere recently — on the internet, in a book, in another book, in an email. I read it over and over: not just the carcass but the spark. It is along the same lines as these words Mary Oliver wrote: “I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.”
I’ve been thinking about how difficult it can be to access that spark sometimes, especially (for me) when moving through depression, maybe for you something different — how much we can linger in the possibility of regret for the moments we simply couldn’t see or feel it, simply couldn’t get up to dance. I’ve been thinking about how automatic it can become to blame or shame myself if I’m not careful, and how hard I’ve been trying not to do that lately. And I’ve been considering how to really be with myself when I don’t feel the spark — when I don’t want to dance — when all I can do right now is simply visit this world, not always knowing how to fully live in it despite the great desire to do just that.
The grief that runs a line between what I long for and what I currently have the capacity for is, at times, oceanic in its power. It has knocked me over in big ways, me on the metaphorical floor, waiting for the ebb to return. There have been times where I’ve found myself desperate for the spark, for the capacity to Live Fully, for something to change, for myself to return to myself. That desperation has, in the past, led to me forgetting change is the only option, the only thing that will certainly happen… just not always on my schedule, on my timeline, on my wished-for flip of the switch, in the exact ways I envision. And when I practice letting go of how I think things are supposed to look and instead cultivate a trust in the unfolding that is taking place, often in unseen ways, the Here-ness of challenge or pain or depression or grief or (anything) softens even 5%, and that 5% adds up fast when I don’t assume it’s nothing.
I wrote one month ago to the day about the ways depression weaves itself into my life, the ways it latches on like a leech, the ways I’ve tried to outrun it or hide from it or hide it. A month later and it hasn’t disappeared; it still lingers, sometimes heavily (like yesterday) and other times more akin to a ghostly presence, just barely visible but still obvious, felt, haunting. In some phases of depression, I don’t want or desire much at all; my efforts go toward survival, eating, showering, sleeping. In other phases, perhaps the one I’m currently in, there is so much I want that still feels out of reach: mainly the capacity to dance, to fully embody the spark of being alive, to do more than just move through my days, waiting.
The tenderness of feeling the Wanting come back is deep; the ache of its distance permeates through me; the knowing that the spark will slowly return lies just underneath the tenderness and the ache, like a bud under dirt, ready to bloom, nudging its way to the surface. To feel the nudging just below reminds me, truly, to let the cycle do what it must do. I don’t feel so afraid anymore; the bleakness that was once here has melted. And now I simply sit beside the depression, tend to it, offer it care, offer myself a warm cup of something, permission to let someone in, acknowledgment of how much I’ve moved through, of small moments of momentum.
Today, I will water the flowers in the yard and read a chapter of the novel and maybe do some writing. I’ll eat farm eggs with cheddar, some fruit, a glass of water and my iron supplement. I’ll tidy and perhaps drive to the coast, or drop off donation items to the thrift store downtown, or maybe get a raspberry puff at the bakery. I’ll go for a walk and re-train my legs to move, re-train my brain that movement is safe and good and an act of care. I’ll eat lunch and do the dishes and sweep my daughter’s leftovers off the floor. I’ll keep my phone away. I’ll ask my husband for hugs. I’ll bring my film camera with me wherever I go, just in case something catches my eye. I’ll let the well of grief and longing rise and fall when they need to. I’ll practice not being so afraid of either. I’ll send out this newsletter knowing it is utterly imperfect and possibly boring, but it is also healing, this sitting down to write what’s here. I’ll let the practice be enough, let it all be enough. And I’ll wait for the spark, the capacity to dance, the Living Fully, to return, all while trying to notice how maybe this place I’m in isn’t a deterrent from my full life but is simply part of what it means to fully live.
△ Peering out at flowers and plants and the moon with my daughter
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