‘Tell me about your despair’

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.

512px-Rome_WWStory_angel_in_grief
Photo by Raja Patnaik, post-processed and uploaded by Alessio Damato, via Wikimedia Commons

I didn’t blog at all for five weeks in September and October. The despair was too thick.

I knew it would happen. Drawing inspiration from the stunning first lines of Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”—the verses at the top of every page of this blog—I am trying to let myself love what I love, to accept myself as I am. But all along, I knew I would eventually arrive at the next, pivotal lines:

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.

I arrived there a couple of months ago. That’s how long I’ve been afraid to write this blog post. Although the despair has lifted for now, I’m still afraid to write it.

Tell me about your despair.

I couldn’t love what I love: couldn’t find the energy to do things that make me feel good. Privately, I wrote a journal entry describing the past three years as a black hole that has swallowed “my vitality, my sense of self, the life I knew and loved—and, of course, my father.”

In another journal entry, I asked:

Is it a metaphor that it hurts to be upright, without support? My back aches when I stand, and even when I sit without just the right kind of support. Does it mean I’m afraid to stand on my own two feet? That I need some kind of support that I don’t have? Does it mean that I’m struggling in a posture that’s not good for me, and I need to lie down and stop fighting myself?

But in another entry, I wrote that I don’t want people to worry about me: “I want them to care. I want them to offer love and support. But if they worry, that means I’m letting them down. It means I’m doing something wrong. I’m not taking care of business.”

I was afraid of my despair—afraid of what it would do to me, and afraid of how other people would receive it. Would they see me as damaged goods, an object of pity, a person whose bleakness threatened to infect their own lives?

Meanwhile, the world goes on.

People go to work and school; they exercise and raise their kids and contribute to society. And I continue my old struggles, judging my worth according to my productivity or lack thereof. But slowly and unsteadily, I am softening my harsh self-judgment. Someday, I pray, I will find my path to the end of “Wild Geese,” which calls me to take my place in the universe.

I couldn’t tell you about my despair while I was in its grip. Why, I ask myself, do I want to write it now?

Because it’s the next part of the poem and a new step in my Mary Oliver Challenge.

Because my despair will surely come back, and maybe this will make it a little easier next time.

Because if I tell you about my despair, mine, maybe you will tell me yours.

Because it’s almost Hanukah, a time for bringing despair out of the darkness and into the light.

Because I’m still afraid.

What is the Mary Oliver Challenge? Glad you asked. You can read about it here.

2 thoughts on “‘Tell me about your despair’

  1. The thing about a blog is that you never know who you are touching with your words. I just started reading your blog a week ago and I’m very moved by your journey and the “inspiration and respiration” (Whitman) of your slow walk through the dark. I am a poet and a lover of poetry and Wild Geese is one of my top ten favorite poems and I love the way in which you are using it as a field guide. You are not alone on this walk. Many of us have left our footprints on this path along the seashore. You just can’t see the evidence because the tides wipe the shore clean everyday. This is a blessing and curse because every day is a fresh start but you also can lose track of how far you’ve come. The trick is to keep walking; it’s a practice and a project. But I think you know that. You’re not alone and your words are not going into the ether unappreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a beautiful, raw description of depression/despair. I’m glad you’re feeling more like yourself now. The fact of waiting for it to come back is one of the really sneaky ways that this shit never really leaves us alone. Happy week of lights in the dark!

    Liked by 1 person

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