Depression, if we’re honest, is a fleeting companion in all of our lives. If we haven’t been officially diagnosed as suffering with a form of depression, we slip in and out of depression after listening to the news, or discovering a favorite nephew has left the Church, or thinking about a gargantuan project that just seems too much for our present energy. Maybe once we could respond with emotion and energy to the challenges of life, but there are times when we simply want to sit down and ask ourselves, “Is this really all there is to life?”
Finding the question at the bottom of the malaise is an important first step to embracing the darkness. Depression follows from fleeing the phantoms in the shadows. Life-giving energy grows from facing them. This week-end I was out at a Church preparing an exhibit. For the past couple of days I’ve felt out of sorts. At the bottom of the disheveled spirit I carried around behind my smile was this question, “Is this really all there is to life? Is this as good as it gets?” A scary question to ask… Perhaps this question leads mid-lifers into abrupt changes to try to recapture the energy and excitement of earlier days.
Yesterday I spent the day on retreat not fleeing the question but facing it as a teacher. No books, no prayers, no beads. I prayed simply. The Jesus prayer filled the halls of my heart: “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.” I looked directly into the thought, “Is this really all there is to life?” and discovered that I was not there, there really was no subject of that thought. It was just a thought. It dissipated just as all thoughts do, those clustered of opinions and fears and conjectures that come and go in our heads. I instead was the silent and vast openness that even in the nighttime of depression was yet united with the Infinite Ocean of God’s Being who has given me birth and holds me moment by moment in life. I am the one who proceeds forth from God’s mouth, a word spoken by God to the world, simple, silent, alone. I could be comfortable with this solitude.
Little by little, as hours slowly passed, I recovered a deep peace. I recovered myself.