Depression, Despair, And How to Have Hope

One of my favorite quotes is by the Italian writer, Cesare Pavese: “But a man’s life is down there in the valley, in the fields, at home. Beside a hearth and in a bed. And every day that dawns confronts you with the same toils, the same failures. In the end it wears a man down… The everlasting, grinding toil, the effort to stay alive from day to day, the recognition of evil in others, petty evil, as tiresome as summer flies–that’s the life that cripples a man.”

I feel this sentiment so frequently.  I’m someone who despairs or gets depressed easily.  Every day I’m confronted with the repetitive daily chores and tasks that are required of me.  If I’m in the wrong mood, it all seems impossible.  Sometimes it makes me want to lay down and give up.  In difficult times, the thought of an escape (death/running away) sounded easier than going through the motions of another day.  So where is my hope?  Well, for a little while I lost hope and I thought that it would be better if there were no God, so that death would be The End.  But I just couldn’t convince myself that there’s no God and no life after death, as if death is not a mystery, but something already known.  And if there’s a God and a heaven and hell, and I only have one chance at life, I don’t want it to be this way.  So I need hope.  I look for hope.  I place myself in hopeful situations.  That is how I came across the author, Walker Percy.  I went to the New York Encounter, hoping to have an encounter with God.  And He gave me someone to follow.  Walker Percy feels like a grandfather to me.  He died an old man in 1990.  He struggled with depression his whole life.  He was agnostic until he converted to Catholicism as an adult.  With his new faith, he was able to keep a fascination for the human experience and write about it. WalkerPercy (1)

“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”
― Walker Percy, The Moviegoer.

I think this quote is very similar to Pavese’s quote about the everyday toils we face.  But it goes further and suggests that the only way out of this “everydayness” is to always be searching for something (God, truth, the meaning of life and so on).  And if we don’t search, we despair.

Well, I was curious about who Pavese was since I related to some of his thoughts.  I looked up his bio and discovered that he was a brilliant writer, an atheist, and had committed suicide in 1950.  He had several quotes which I think Walker Percy would have identified with as well, but their lives ended so differently.  Pavese despaired in the end.  Percy fought the good fight and died triumphant.  He was always searching, always questioning and he struggled his way through this life until death claimed him by cancer.

2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.”  This verse has always been comforting to me since it was in a song I listened to as a child.  I hope I can say these words at the end of my life.

“Losing hope is not so bad. There’s something worse: losing hope and hiding it from yourself.”
-Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

And one of my favorite quotes, which I recently used in another post:

“You live in a deranged age – more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.”
― Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

Do you struggle with depression?  What helps you?

Why I Deleted My Facebook Account

Yep.  I did it.  I took the plunge and deleted my Facebook account after being a member since 2005.  That was way back when it was just for college students.  It’s been almost a daily part of my life for the past 8 years.  But you know what?  I haven’t regretted it or missed it these past few weeks.  It’s quite freeing.

From what I can tell, many people have a troubled relationship with Facebook.  On the one hand, you have all these people (some of which are friends) that you’re connected with and can easily share/receive information with, but on the other hand they tend to drive you crazy at times.  Facebook is ever-evolving and it’s gotten to the point where it was too distracting, frustrating and annoying for me.  People are always sharing links, some of which I found interesting, some of which I found infuriating.  I’d tell myself I would get on Facebook for a couple minutes, but then the shared links would catch my eye and I’d end up on it for much longer.  Clearly a fault of my own, but I’m glad the temptation is gone.  Also, I think people are more opinionated and louder on Facebook than they are in real life.  Jen says here that people who don’t have Facebook tend to view their friends more positively.  I can understand that for the same reasons she talks about.

I plan on keeping in better touch with people than I was when connected with them through Facebook.  It is too easy to have shallow friendships with people in which maybe you keep up with their life by reading their posts, but you don’t actually have face to face or phone to phone conversations.  As was mentioned in a talk at the New York Encounter (that I attended this past weekend), “the bonds of society are getting weaker”.  We’re less attached to one another.  Face to face encounters build relationship rather than passively keeping up with someone’s life (or what they feel like posting about their life) through the internet.  And if I think of someone and it’s been a while since I’ve seen them, it’s a reminder than I should call them to get together.

So yes, I’m excitedly trying to simplify my life, but I admit, it’s hard not to just switch out Facebook with some other online addiction, like keeping up with multiple bloggers.  But if I get this under control, I’ll be one step closer to freedom.  Freedom from the grasp of the internet.

 

Everyone Has Dirty Little Secrets

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Everyone has dirty little secrets.  I don’t know if any new scandal of secret affairs or hidden addictions could surprise me because enough people have shocked me when their shit hit the fan that I know it’s only a matter of time before the next person’s secret is discovered.  I know what we are all capable of, what I am capable of.  And nothing is beneath us humans.  We are all a push, shove or a shimmy away from committing murder, so to speak.  If the world collapsed before us and we became desperate, how would we react?  There’s plenty of movies that ponder this question.  From apocalypses to alien invasions to zombies; people are tested on how they will react in desperate situations.  If you are thinking you would never be capable of some atrocious act, keep in mind your life is probably pretty comfy right now.  I’m not saying that no one could resist the temptation, but that we should all have the humility to admit we are weak (left to ourselves).

I think I grew up fairly sheltered.  Like most kids, I thought there were “good” people and “bad” people.  Growing up in Baltimore city exposed me to things my parents couldn’t hide.  Like the boy who got beat up by a group of schoolmates in front of our house and was left on the ground with a broken leg.  Or the woman who crashed her car into my dad’s friends’ car that was parked at our house, and tried to run from the police; but ended up shaking and convulsing in my neighbor’s yard because she was on some heavy drugs.  Or my dad’s coworker who was stuffed in a trunk and murdered.  Or the thieves that broke into our house on multiple occasions and took any toys we left lying around outside.  The people who did these things were the “bad” people.  Everyone else was good.

I see now that we all have good and bad in us.  The saintliest person still makes mistakes so long as they’re human.  The scum of the earth still has the tiniest bit of good in him so long as he’s still human.  As I’ve thought about the grey lines of people, things, thoughts, actions and words, I’m quite unsure how to raise my kids.  Do I keep them away from those who could be a bad example?  I’m beginning to lean toward “no”.  These “bad examples” are the same as me.  They are seeking freedom and happiness.  They love and they get lonely.  They have no problem helping us out when we need it and don’t expect anything in return.  Yes, they have their faults and their addictions, but they also have their hearts.  Since my kids are toddlers now, I don’t really mind them being around our friends when they are drunk or high.  But will I mind when they’re impressionable teenagers?

Keeping my kids away from danger and people with problems is probably less helpful than teaching my kids about the dangers and the vices that these people practice.  I could tell my kids some day that “you see these people around you who are alcoholics and drug addicts and materialists and gluttons and hedonists, etc..  And you love them because you know them and see the good in them.  But you also can see that these things don’t bring them happiness.  These things only take away their freedom.  Because an addict is not free, he is bound in chains to his addiction.  And every sin takes away our freedom and makes us slaves to it.  Don’t stop asking what you are made for and where you can find freedom….and happiness.”  (My silent plea: don’t be like me- someone who knows what could bring happiness but is still attempting that which has proven to be unsubstantial, letting happiness escape me.)

I think above all, we all just want to be happy.  But we’re always looking in the wrong places for it.  Who are we, though, to judge others on their search, even if they did get tangled in a weed and forgot they were even on a search.

Of course I still have to protect my kids from people who could do them harm.  I’m not going to let them be around people I don’t trust.  There are damaged people who inflict their own damage on others through physical, sexual or emotional abuse.  These are the people I hope to protect them from.   But I can’t protect them from all possible harm.  Thus is life.  It’s dangerous to be alive.

What do you think about sheltering your kids?  Where do you draw the line?

Bible study and the kids’ first daycare experience

A friend invited me to a bible study group that had free childcare during it.  Ok, ok, she had me at free childcare.  I was nervous because Silvia usually naps during that time and doesn’t do too well with new people and no mama.  When we got there I thought they’d be ok because there were so many cool toys.

I snuck away because Leo was seeming hesitant about me leaving even though there was an awesome train table in front of him…which he quickly succumbed to.  The bible study was nice.  I’ve been struggling so long now with frustration and indifference with my faith.  I still put myself in these encounters in hopes that a word here or there might strike me and light a fire again.  This was a non-denominational (or inter-denom?) group.  There were 2 great grandmas there, many many grandmas, some older women and a few younger women and moms.  I say this to try to explain the age differences.  I really liked the diversity of age because I have never been in a group like this.  And these women really like to share about themselves so it was interesting to see a glimpse of their lives.

An obvious revelation: the older women still struggle with the same things I do.  I guess I’d always hoped that I’d be near sainthood by the time I was nearing the end of my life.  It was illuminating, slightly discouraging, but mostly a reminder of our humanity.  They’re just as human as I am and are subject to many of the same temptations, pressures and vanities.  I keep thinking that these faults and weaknesses of mine are something that I will work through over time.  But in reality, up until my death I will struggle, even as St. Paul did.  “In my weakness I am strong” St. Paul said.  I kind of understand that, but not fully.  And the application of it hasn’t really worked for me because I’m too damn impatient to wait for God to work on me.  If God denied St. Paul’s request to take a temptation or struggle away, knowing that it was for the overall benefit of his soul, He could of course do the same for me.  However, I just feel like my requests aren’t being heard because I don’t hear God talking to me in a very direct or indirect way.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have a close spiritual confidant anymore.  When my best friend and I first met, we immediately connected spiritually because we met as youth group leaders.  I felt like God was using me as an instrument in her life and vice versa.   Her advice was always so good and sound that I felt that God was leading me and talking to me through her.  Since I moved away, or since we stopped our work as youth leaders, we don’t talk as much about our faith lives.  We don’t talk near as much in general.  Our lives have gotten way busier, but I miss it.  I miss having someone to put me in my place.

I know a lot of people have accountability partners,  and that is what she was for me.  I think I’ll try to pray about this.

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