Self-expression is feeling like a ragged, dangerous path right now, as is my reflexive jabbing of my own “mute” button (which occasionally functions as intended). I suspect I’m not the only one who has endured this particularly painful conundrum… should I write about how I feel? Will I merely sound distressing and self-absorbed? Do I want to risk driving people away? There is a concomitant impulse to scurry and hide, cut myself off from as many people as possible, not be visible or touchable in such a state. I create my own caste system in my head, one I know is based on illusion, but which feels powerful and awful nonetheless: the Untouchable, being me, and the Relatively Okay, being everyone else.
What I know is that everyone else has their own sufferings and joys, and it’s fruitless to believe in this contrived hierarchy of okay-ness that I refuse to believe is inborn. If I can drag myself out of the swamp and turn to a spirit of service, of giving without expectation, of allowing myself to soften with compassion, it would probably be best for everyone. The dragging out is the hard part.
Last night, sniffling with a cold, lying in bed, I was re-reading a remarkable book by Bruce Levine, Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic. The radical premise in this book is that “depression” (a misleading term if there ever was one) cannot be considered or treated outside of an understanding of social and cultural forces. Levine is a bit of a psychological heretic, challenging the supremacy of psychoactive drugs and the domination of “mental health care” by Big Pharma and insurance companies– yet another example of corporate thuggery in American life. But aside from this premise, with which I resonate deeply, I was struck by his chapter on demoralization and ways to reignite morale that have nothing to do with taking pills.
My concentration is a bit shot but writing here may help me remember these pieces about morale: it’s about gaining enough energy to take the next step. It’s about even the tiniest of gestures. It’s about sparks of inspiration, imagination, and humor. Little, spiraling sparks, rising up from the unextinguished fire circle.
My task, today, will be to see and exhale on those sparks.