Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.– from ‘Aubade,’ Philip Larkin
Kitten gently emotes. Her purrs have a slight trill, a quality of amusement or contentment or some joyful thing you can’t quite decode.
Gentle rain falls. You know that in the morning there will be wet rusty leaves tamped to the sidewalk. Sleep doesn’t come; consciousness persists well into the night. I am here, you send as a thought out into the universe. I am still here.
You message a friend. Your thoughts, here and in the note, are scattered – a very human quality – and you don’t mind. You rediscover some old poetry; you make peace with some element of existence. Time continues to pass.
Wake up. It’s a dim day. Even still, the light that manages to filter through the curtains and into your dusty room hurts your eyes. The film of sleep clings to you. You can feel small knots in your muscles and some angry acne on your face; it seems like you’d been asleep, restlessly, forever. In this seemingly interminable episode of depression, how often you’ve longed for a single moment of contentment. Lying in bed, wearily, you’re still longing.
A few hours later you find yourself taking a small paperback off your shelf. You love the author, but since buying the book you’d never mustered the interest or motivation to open it. It looks interesting now. You slip the book into your bag to read on the subway. You drink several glasses of water, take what feels like a million vitamins and supplements, and make an effort not to forget to take your antidepressants like you did yesterday.
You take it for granted that you’ll go outside today. Your automatic response to suffering is still a weary “I want to die,” but today you add, “…maybe.” And it seems a little less desperate than yesterday.
A few days later, you find yourself walking down the street. The weather is exactly as you like it: it’s drizzling, just cold enough so as to be slightly uncomfortable. An old favourite song comes on shuffle. You feel physically rested, and you notice with surprise that the inner voice addressing you is one of kindness. (It took a lot of work to be able to engage in kind self-talk!)
You are about to dismiss the slight happiness as inconsequential. Instead, you say, “so what?” So what if it took a constellation of factors to bring you back to this feeling for a few moments? So what if all those factors were arbitrary? Didn’t a constellation of arbitrarinesses also lead to and sustain your months of crushing depression? You decide not to push away the moments of calm when they arrive. You just dwell in them, gingerly, tentatively.
Finally. You rejoice that you have some words to write again, though they seem to you to be choppy and inconsequential. You’ll publish them anyway. You breathe in deeply for what feels like the first time. You turn your face to the steady rain. In the face of the hopelessness that will surely descend again soon, you scoff.
Photo: Riverdale Park, sun setting over a goodbye picnic for a much-loved friend.