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?


On Being Open to Life

I have my good days.  I have my bad days.  A night of awful sleep in which both kids wake up and there is lots of crying and trying to coerce them back to sleep, I am an angry zombie.  You’ll hear “I’m never having another child!”  from my lips.  If enough time has passed and the kids are being super sweet and adorable, my heart starts to soften.  But the first year of a babies’ life is not my favorite.  I’m not a baby person.  Babies are so very dependent and require so much time and sacrifice.

But all this talk is me, me, me. A line from a book called “Are You in Reality” by Gregoire Plus, struck me: “Life is difficult, and many would like to live as if life should be easy or without problems”.  This line immediately made me think of my fears of having more children.  I wrote down a few notes to understand why I am so nervous about this area in my life and why I try to resist giving it over to God.

1.  My life will become more difficult again (and it’s been getting easier lately since my youngest is over a year).

2.  I will lose some of my recently gained “freedom” as I’d have to start over again with sharing my body with another (from pregnancy to breastfeeding…)

I think I’d written down a 3rd point, but it was probably just another way of saying “It’s not going to be easy.  In fact, it’ll be downright difficult for a while!  And I’ll lose my “freedom”, whatever that is to me”.

So to admit this fear out loud really made me understand that I am resisting the toil of being self-sacrificial.  For some months I could go through much difficulty and be forced to sacrifice much of myself for my family, and maybe struggle with depression for a short time (I don’t take big changes very gracefully).  But after that rather short time (in the spectrum of things), I would come away with a child who will turn into an adult and forever be a love in my life that I will never regret.  And who is, in fact, an eternal soul.  It still seems kind of worth it to me…..

At this point, however, for my own sanity, I think spacing my children out a bit is a good thing.  But these thoughts and questions about when I might be ready for another child is more than just about what I want.  Creating an eternal soul is God’s specialty, so I think it important to ask His input and clarity on the matter.  Sometimes I was afraid to pray about this as I was afraid it’d be sooner than I wanted; but I want to be open to God’s will in my life and trust that He’s working for my good. Maybe a life of self-sacrifice in raising a family is the way God intends to sanctify me and lead me to holiness if I cooperate.  No saint ever walked the path to sanctity with ease.

The Truth about Parenting

For a long time I couldn’t get over the feeling that I wished I could be the aunt to my kids instead of the mom.  The aunt gets to play with the kids and receive love from the kids and teach the kids and almost anything except the hard parts like hanging around for the temper tantrums, making breakfast, lunch, dinner, wiping dirty hands and high chairs, changing stinky diapers (and spraying them if you cloth diaper!), telling toddlers “no” for the hundredth time and having to follow through with some consequence while they scream in your ear; cleaning stains out of dirty clothes, holding a sick child in the middle of the night who is burning up with fever, getting vomited on and having to clean up the mess without freaking out. (the last one is more a problem I have since vomit is my worst nightmare.  I just freeze and don’t know where to begin the cleanup!)  And then there’s the guilt of always wondering if you’re effing your kids up big time.  I think all the parenting books out there do more harm than good by giving you lots of guilt if you don’t do things according to their method.  But they say opposite things!  Attachment parenting vs. cry it out books still give me guilt.  As much as I’d always assumed I’d be doing the whole attachment parenting thing and co-sleeping or rocking my babies to sleep or wearing them all the time, it turns out it doesn’t quite gel with me.  I can’t get any sleep next to a baby because every time they twitch I wake up.  I can’t rock a baby to sleep for an hour because I got other stuff to do and I don’t have the patience.

But aside from the guilt and the difficulties and logistics of being MOM, it’s so very amazing.  I knew I had to stick with it because I wanted to be called “mom”.  I wanted to be the one they turn to when they are hurt or scared or happy or sad.  I wanted their love so much.  Maybe those are selfish reasons.  Yes, of course I want to give them so much love, too.  I want to teach and guide and shape and support them as they grow.  I want them to know Christ.  I want to comfort and nurture their little bodies and minds.  But as a new mother, it was difficult at times to constantly be putting all my efforts into caring for my oldest when he was a baby and not really receive much in return.  I knew at the beginning that I could be replaced at the drop of a hat and it hurt a little.  At times he may have preferred other people over me.  I was in the background, changing him, feeding him, getting up with him all night, but he was too young to pay any attention to that.  He just liked the people who gave him all the fun attention and played with him.  Ironically, my second child was the opposite, but that was difficult in its own way.

All this to say… gets better. So so much better.  And my oldest is only 2 1/2.  I have lots more to look forward to.  Lately, both kids have been easier and better behaved.  There’s been a lot more moments that I wish I could freeze.  A camera just doesn’t quite do it justice.  Leo still loves to drive his cars around and line them up.  For a while, I would put Silvia down for a nap in the morning and then lay on the couch and drift off to sleep while he drove his cars on my legs.  He seems like a little boy rather than a toddler when playing with the neighbor girls. They whisper something to him and he whispers back.  He chases them around and plays hide and seek and laughs his little head off.  Sometimes he wakes up from a nap and is still tired and just wants to be held for a while, my big little baby.  He is so helpful and good about sharing with Silvia.  They hand each other their shared sippy cup when they’re finished drinking.  When I’ve gone to put Silvia down for a nap, Leo has brought one of her favorite stuffed animals to give to her knowing she likes to sleep with it.  And when he hears her wake up from a nap he shouts “baby awake!” and runs to open her door.  He sometimes pretends to breastfeed his bunny.  He loves books and will sit and read them for a while.  He loves to jump on his bed and pretend to go night night all throughout the house by dragging his blankets and pillows and dropping them in any room of the house and laying on them.  He easily gives kisses and now enjoys naming people to pray for when he says his night time prayers with Daddy.

Silvia seems to be (at least temporarily) over her hitting and biting phase.  Now she is a lover and wants only to give everyone kisses all the time.  If she is sitting next to Leo, she’ll lean over and kiss his back.  She comes from behind and gives Leo a hug or kiss and then they wrestle and giggle.  She likes to charge after me from several feet away and fall into me with a hug.  When I’m holding her, she gives my arm little kiss-pecks.  She kissed my friend’s arm the other day.  She will kiss any object: a toy, a crayon, a stuffed animal, a magnet, you name it.  She has a big toothy grin and an adorable giggle.  She is getting a little more interested in books, but mostly she will hand you a book and want to sit with you, but then jumps down after the first page to grab another book.  Repeat.  She sometimes tells me when she has to poop by saying “papa” for poopoo and hitting her diaper violently.  When I put her on the potty she smiles and says “pppsssssss” because I was trying to connect that sound with peeing.  When she gets excited, she runs really silly, like she’s being zapped by lightning.

I write out these details as a way to remember.  Pictures and videos can’t communicate the details of the days of the weeks of the months of the years.  Time will pass me by, and I don’t want to look back and think “they were so cute, but I don’t remember what they were like back then.”  I want to remember the good and the bad.  I want to remember the truth.  The hardships, yes, but the joyful moments that so easily soften the rougher edges.  Their isn’t a day that goes by (no matter how trying a day it is) that I don’t thank God for the gift that my children are.  They are little miracles and they fill me with awe.  It might not be love at first sight with me, but I’ve come to love them with all my heart.

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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