Today’s word is gray. Gray outside, gray inside. Closet full of gray clothes. Always the color of the visiting team uniforms in major league baseball. My favorite color for shoes (well, other than red, of course), and jeans, and soft heathery wool coats; the one color (other than maybe turquoise) that I can’t think of one flower that blossoms in. The color of the river rocks that lined parts of my old garden, of the BIG, heavy rock that I once fell in love with while hiking that a friend carried wrapped in her sweatshirt about a mile for me to the car, my first cashmere scarf and grown-up cat (me, not the cat), the ocean in the fog, the amazing face of Yosemite’s Half Dome, that wide swath of no-man’s land that stretches between the stark black and the stark white in thinking and beliefs and ideals.
I’ve been trying to place the grayness on the depression scale. Definitely above the black hole (thank goodness), hovering somewhere just beneath the dial tone I think… not that it matters, feeling crappy is feeling crappy, lacking the initiative or energy some days to even move sucks, and to never have a parting of the clouds, to let even a smidgen of sunshine or excitement or happiness or inspiration in is more than disheartening.
It struck me the other morning that it doesn’t seem right that just plain living should have to take such effort; that the simple acts of getting out of bed, of taking a shower, of driving the short distance to the grocery store, of doing laundry, of preparing myself food, of smiling, should seem so difficult. I read yesterday that exercise is the number one thing that helps depression. Far better than anything, including meds, and it makes sense, it gets all the juices and brain chemicals moving, but please, when some mornings it’s all I can do to make it from the bed to the couch, when lethargy flows like thick sludge through my body, asking me to get up and do some sustained aerobics is like asking me to suit up and fly to the moon.
Last weekend, on retreat with my spiritual teacher Isaac, I got a new take on it all. I was introduced to the idea that the depression came about as my system was trying to shed something that needed letting go of and it happened too quickly, plunging me into the abyss. And that the black hole, the blackness, is actually the source of everything. Wow. The source of everything. In a way that I can’t even begin to speak, it made complete sense. Back to the source, to emptiness, nothingness, the beginning, the end, blackness. And suddenly, I had a vision, coupled with a heartrending knowing and an intense longing…
What if… oh my god, what if this journey was recognized for what it was… what if this place was welcomed, what if I’d had the arms, the laps, of wise and understanding women to fall into, to be held by through the dark night and terror of letting go, to be cradled as the emptying happened and all that remained was blackness, to be soothed and coached and encouraged, accepted, loved, through the transformation and rebirth process.
I think it was Einstein who said that the solution to a problem can’t be found within the system that the problem was created. My eldest daughter (who also, along with my other daughter struggles on and off with depression) and I talk often about how we believe that depression is caused by the way we live; by our culture, by how our society is shaped; how isolated we are at a fundamental level, how separated we are, not just from one another, but from our environment and our earth, from our own bodies and our own inner beings, knowing, wisdom. How there are no structures in place, no wise and loving arms to truly care for the soul and spirit; and how incredibly much has been lost along the way to development and civilization.
At the retreat I also bonded more deeply with a couple of women I’ve known over the years of sitting together with Isaac. Maybe for the first time ever, I felt truly, truly held; like some invisible barrier that's been in place most of my life let down and let go, and I found myself surrounded by and bathed in the loving, caring, healing ministrations of these strong, tender, soft, fierce, wise, powerful, compassionate, women. (One with beautiful gray hair, btw.)
It was a glimpse, a peek into the past, and maybe, hopefully, into newness and possibility and some future not yet realized, but there, definitely there, out in the distant gray shrouded landscape, maybe--hopefully--not quite so lost after all.
And post script, I had no idea until after I wrote this that today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. We've come a long way, baby, yay!... and yet, with so much further to go, in possibly a completely different direction.