Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chapter __: The Little Way

In depression, everything is too much. Walking is too much. Talking is too much. And doing great things for the Lord feels like just too much. In this I can share with Therese of Liseux the belief that "there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by." The depressed lie in the shadows of the great.

When I was going through my first suicidal depression, even the most basic functions required too much of what I did not have. My father would take me out on walks to get me out of the house and I would walk behind him like Frankenstein, my feet sliding like sandbags across the sidewalk. In public, my eyes never lifted from the floor. Conversation became an excruciating task. When it came to eating and drinking I wished for an IV since, as Virginia Woolfe wrote, I found myself "hating the need to swallow."

A friend of mine had driven up from D.C. to be with me during this dark hour. When he offered himself as a personal servant and asked what might make me feel better, the only thing that held any promise was something smaller than me, something so easy and undemanding that I could not fail at it, or be overwhelmed by it. We decided to go to Home Depot and buy some vegetable seeds.

When I felt like I could do nothing else, when my life seemed so big and broken that I felt incapable of ever accomplishing anything again, I found that in nurturing and bringing to life these little seeds I was able to restore a sense of competence and self worth that eluded me in bigger tasks. I planted them in potting soil in little dixie cups and watered them twice a day. When they started to sprout, I felt a glimmer of hope that things could get better, that life could emerge from a hard shell. I watched them grow bigger each day like a proud father. When spring came, I gave them to my mother to plant outside. Later in the summer, my parents were eating the tomatoes from the vine that grew from the tiny seeds I had planted that winter.


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