“What did I do today, to make today a place that I could live in?
Tiny hopes. Tiny, absolutely persistent hopes.”
We seldom talk about depression while it is happening, about the strategies for getting through the hard days. Some days are strung together from a million tiny little hopes.
Transcript and notes:
Recorded 24 April 2023.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in.
I want to talk today about small hopes. I just finished recording an interview that I'm really excited for you to hear. So keep your eyes peeled for it with Kimra Luna, who is an abortion doula.
And this is at the end of a really long day for me, not because I had a lot of things on my calendar, not because I stuffed my agenda full of things that I had to get done. My to do list was almost empty. Today, there's one thing left that I said at the beginning of the day that I was going to do, that I haven't done yet. And I haven't done it yet, because last night and this morning, and today, the depression has been eating my brain.
And I said on Facebook this morning that we don't talk very much about depression while it's happening. A lot of us talk about depression that we had, or depression that we are trying to avoid. We talk in vague grandiose terms about depression, but we don't often talk about the nitty gritty of like, what was my strategy today, to get through today?
What was my strategy to drink water today? To get out of bed today? To breathe today? To leave the building that I live in today? To put at least a little sun on my face today? To do something with my body today? Just today.
What did I do to make just today a little bit better than last night? Last night with the screaming and the crying. Last night with the heartbreak and the grief. Last night with that sensation of turning inside out into my solar plexus as though, as I used to say when I was a kid, I could go beyond the vanishing point. That point in the middle of you that feels like it's the center of you and then to feel like I could just disappear into it. Fold in on myself and be gone.
What did I do, when I woke up this morning, and the feeling hadn't lifted, the clouds hadn't lifted. It wasn't really better. What did I do today? I got up today with a promise to myself that I only had to use the toilet, drink some water. I got up today with the promise to myself that if I needed more magnesium cream, I could use more magnesium cream even though it makes my brain a little fuzzy. But it eases cramps. And I couldn't think. Really.
I got up today and followed by rote some of the basics. I took my meds, I drank that water. Crawled back into bed for a while. But I opened the blinds so I can see the sun come up over the garage. No, it's not as picturesque as over a mountain or over the trees but that's where the sun comes up for me. In fact, actually it comes up behind me when I'm in bed. But I see the light come across the yard toward the garage. So the garage is the thing that gets illuminated.
That and the driveway and the tops of the trees. That one tall tree where the crows nest. Those two crows that mob every hawk that comes by. I think they must have babies, there or coming. Eventually that sun will reach the pile of sticks that has the little brown bird living in it.
I was worried about the little brown bird this afternoon, because I was out in the yard and I saw a chickadee and I saw a finch but I didn't see the little brown bird. Or its mate. They weren't eating the seeds that I dropped. They weren't coming around to see what was going on. They weren't sitting on the kale that I left in the ground because I saw them eating it. And so it's now bolted and blooming. All yellow flowers, to match the dandelions that are taking over the lawn. Which is just as I like it.
I was outside to take pictures of the dandelions because my partner also likes them. Finds them pretty, like I do. We think they're beautiful. And while I was out there, I trimmed a little bit of grass. I moved some eager lemon balm from a raised bed to less easy accommodations. I took off my shoes. I walked around in the grass for a few minutes.
What did I do today to make today, a place that I could live in?
A million tiny little hopes. I ate the saag gosht that I made two days ago. Because it tastes like home, it tastes like my grandmother, my dadi, half a world away. I miss her so much.
I turn tightly, squealing on two tires around the corner from that thought. Because I can't sit with it too long, or it will suck me down. The regret and the sorrow and the grief of years past without seeing her. Of the conflict, of the financial stress, of the relationship that I wish I had with her. Of the regret of not sending more video messages. Of the regret of not having been able to quite get over the hump of learning Hindi.
I have words but I don't have sentences. I have vague concepts but I don't- I don't have speech. And now it's too late. She can't understand most people. And I can't understand anything but perfect enunciation, which she does not have any more because she has lived on this planet a very long time. And some of the mechanisms are just wearing out.
So I turn away from that thought before I can sink dew deep in the mire. I plan one small sewing project. Two long tubes I have to sew on the sewing machine. It will not take me more than five minutes. I haven't done that yet. That's thing I haven't done yet. But we do what we can.
I received a surprise box. Large, with folded fabric. Passed down from someone whose house is undergoing a renaissance. She offered me the fabric and I said yes. And then I washed it and cleaned miles and miles of lint out of the washing machine as well as the dryer. We are now picking the cute little ball trim off of the rest of it. So that that too can be washed and made from curtains into overalls.
Tiny hopes. I ate a piece of chocolate. I told myself that I didn't have to do anything but the absolute shortest possible workout. It's a game. I get to play it in virtual reality. Which is by itself still a kind of miracle to me. If you have not yet experienced virtual reality- ho, it's coming, it's coming along. I am an early adopter and even I can see how it is improving.
What I like about it is that, in this body that sometimes cooperates with me going outside and sometimes does not; in this brain that sometimes cooperates with me and sometimes does not, It is a low barrier to entry. Put on the headset, pick up the controllers, go. That's it. Just put on the headset, pick up the controllers, hit go.
I did make it through the whole workout. Four songs, fourteen minutes. It's not boxing, but it sort of vaguely resembles boxing. I was briefly reminded of my father and his early years boxing in college. Featherweight, flyweight. And then watching boxing with him on the television as a child until my mother decided it was too violent for me to watch. Not that I ever wanted to box. But I did spend a long time watching boxing. I did spend a long time watching boxing, trying to understand it, trying to understand how it worked.
But I turned away from that memory, too, painful and complicated and back back to tiny hopes. Tiny things.
Glasses of water. Meds. Feed the squirrels. Feed the birds. Move a plant. Consider the possibility of giving away some of this lemon balm that has propagated itself in the absence of other things. Check to see if the carrots are coming up. Notice that the squirrels are eating the garlic.
My mother was a botany major a long time ago. And every hike was a stop and look and stop and look and stop and look and it was really frustrating. But also every time I set foot out the door: it's stop and look. I don't know where the scrub jays have gone. I haven't seen them in a couple of days but they might come back. The trees are going over from flower to leaf.
Even the branches that were cut off months ago, that I stacked in my driveway to make them into firewood, are blooming. Pink blossoms, red leaves. I don't know what to do with such exuberant life. Am I supposed to bury them? Will they grow roots if I give them dirt?
Tiny hopes. Tiny. Absolutely persistent hopes. I hug my partner.
I talk to my other partner. I let people know that things are hard. I talk on Facebook. I consider how I could be better in the world. Consider that maybe I am okay the way I am. Consider that that is extremely hard for me to consider. Consider all the reasons why that's true.
And then I interview someone who is an abortion doula. Who grew up in Idaho. Who's making good trouble. And we talk about what is it that people can do? What is it that people can do? Make community, we agree. Make community. Make connection. Build relationship. Do one good thing for one person every day. Throw the starfish back; it makes a difference to that one.
It makes a difference to that one.
Thanks for listening. I'll talk with you soon.