There is a powerful moment in the film, Tender Mercies, when the lead character, hearing of the death of someone close to him, says he hates happiness. “You can’t trust it.” I think I took in lessons like that when young and for a long time was fearful of a happiness that seemed to depend on being with someone. And that was the only happiness or fulfillment I could imagine since I felt then so empty on my own, so unworthy of any place in the world at all. But then it happened that I met that one who became my life partner. She kicked and poked at depressed thinking long and hard enough to help me start seeing around it, seeing myself in that state as someone I didn’t want to be.
I could begin to understand my down-staring face wasn’t all that I amounted to. And she could scream enough into my soul to get the message through that love was an offering that had to be taken in and returned, that it demanded to meet a responding energy and affection coming from that deep place. She helped wake me up to my own humanness and hence to the possibility of healing, of being filled with an awareness of a life so different from what I was used to, a life where inner peace could be found.
So every now and then I feel that love so deeply and the goodness it holds that I have to say simply, Thank you, partner. You are so beautiful, today and always, even when your own inner mess won’t let you think that. And if you don’t believe me, you have only to look around at what comes from the powers you have to create beautiful things. Where do you think those paintings, those gardens, those rich designs for the everyday household could come from but a radiant inner self that has to put into the world its own harmony, colors and grace? And what I try to tell her, (and so often in my manly way I can’t get the damn words out face to face), I also try to tell myself. Of course, I have a hard time believing it as well. Depression makes it hard to hear such things, let alone believe them. And I also try to tell it to you – yeah, even if I have no business doing this. You are so beautiful.
Now you may feel that pulse of beauty within you or you may feel a tedious beat. You may see things growing everywhere or you may see the waste and decay. When you’re depressed, you may not see or hear or want anything at all except to step out of life altogether. And you may finally get it, just in time, that you’re causing your partner deep pain, or you may see it too late. You may long for release from the life you imagine chains you, or you may lack the energy even for fantasy. You may want to disappear in reality as you have in spirit, covering your whole body, especially your eyes, with a rich darkness, pure emptiness, that is the only remaining goal of your weakening hope. But I hope that there’s a small space left to catch what light remains inside. Because that glimmer comes from a source that can be reached.
It’s vital for me to write about that small space even when despair is pushing me to forget it, along with everything else. In this case, that small space becomes as vast as love. Writing about it helps me hold onto life when everything is pouring away like water.
What do you do to find and stay with that one spot of safety until it grows into your world again and you know you are surviving?
Anon for now says
Thank you for this blessing, John.
You, too, are so beautiful. And your loving spirit shines through on this blog.
love your blog, and love the way you talk/write about things.
part of what you are wirting about, I felt it. now i am trying to learn how to live.
Evan and Zathyn – I’m also trying to figure out what that thing is that keeps you going. What I keep coming back to is the idea of resilience – some survival-based instinct that guides you to find whatever you need to hold onto in order to get back from the edge. I feel it often as a spark of energy, and this can suddenly power a voice saying NO when I’m too close to letting myself go over that edge.
Therese – Thank you for saying that – and I’ll work at believing it! I know your post on that idea will help me out.
Stephany – I just want to thank you back for all the beautiful things I’ve read on your blog.
Thank you for such a beautiful post.
Therese Borchard says
Beautiful, John. You have a lovely way with words. I hope to use parts of this in my blog about a similar topic … believing the good things friends and family say to you!
As one left behind and bereaved through suicide, it was knowing the pain I’d cause others that kept nagging in the furrows of my mind. But, Evan’s right, in the long-term that isn’t enough. I’m still trying to find out what is.
You’re very lucky to have your wife at your side. Life is certainly often times too brief, too unpredictable and love can be too difficult to find or hold onto.
Thanks for a beautiful post.
For one person I know it was the pain that they would cause to others which stopped them killing themselves. But this isn’t enough long-term, there is the need for love from others. And this isn’t enough long-term either. There is the need to feel some joy within. Though this may grow from knowing others care.
For this person it was really an act of faith to keep going.