Thursday, April 10, 2014

A gift? Are you sure? It doesn't look like one.

Illustration by Shaun Tan.
Today's unanswerable question:  will we always know the gift when we meet it?

The thought that landed on me as I left an art project in the glue-drying stage was this:  what if all that we feel is most shameful, unacceptable, unwelcome, self-destructive and just ewwwwwww about ourselves is THE thing that somehow managed to keep us here so that we could grow into the people we were meant to become, people who have more than a vague sense why we are here?  Yes, I think and talk to myself in rambling, run-on sentences.

Some of us, and I count myself among them/us,  once found human existence more than we thought we could bear.  Depression was diagnosed but inefficiently treated and its poisonous swamp gas continued to swirl for years, decades, adding to the sense of despair and, mostly, of having done everything wrong.  Apathy and addictions do not enhance self-esteem.   One addiction, even two or three, faced down and surrendered still leaves the bunkhouse crowded with shifty layabouts.  Will I ever meet a shortbread cookie I don't like?  At least for me a combination of flattening medications and advancing age have kept me from continuing to take up with men with whom I, perhaps, ought not to have taken up.  But here is what I ponder.  What if the cookies and other foodstuffs that do not promote optimal health and what if the drama and sometimes danger of unsuitable companions blunted the pain just enough to make it possible to go on when without them I wouldn't still be here?  That could be true, couldn't it?  What if those sources of seemingly enduring shame were actually gifts, temporary life preservers, not intended to be used forever but only until no longer needed?

I feel that I'm approaching a crossroads, or maybe it is a summit, after which I and my path will no longer look the same.  I have been coming to it, at it, for some time, in the growing company of writing and art and love.  There is so much I want to do, so much about what I do that fills me with awe at my good fortune.  And that's with various, let us call them limitations.  I can imagine what all this would be like with restored or at least enhanced strength, vitality, agility and options.  I absolutely believe, whatever IT is, it takes as long as it takes.  A great benevolent hand has gotten me this far.  How much easier its job if it didn't have to carry quite as much of me, if I could get back to something more identifiable as self-propulsion. 

To see shortcomings not as failures but as training wheels, part of the process of becoming, necessary until they're not, what a revelation that would be.  I am still, in a way, thinking out loud in answer to my question.  I feel there is truth in it, not just an easy out for not yet having become entirely moderate and sensible and consistent.  I may never be all of those at the same time or I may.  I didn't believe I could do many of the things that are now part of me.  Yes, I expect miracles.  I have experienced too many to stop now.


Erin in Morro Bay said...

One thing I've found true in my life is that when I can look back at a situation from the vantage point of a few months, a year or more,and in one case 30 years - I find that hard as it is to accept at the time - things always happen for a reason. And, interestingly enough, I still believe that today, despite the chemo filling my veins. Somehow, some way, everything that comes to us has a reason and at some point we look back and say "Ah, yes, now I see!"
But, yeah, I totally get it about shortbread - they all have my name on them too!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - That is what I have come to believe as well. Again, I have seen it, experienced it, too many times not to believe. And I also believe the same for you with your current treatment, the unknowns that occur in all our lives. My clearest lesson came through my son's illness. Meanwhile, they keep baking shortbread, whew. xo

Kass said...

The way you write about your experiences is so compelling. I feel like we have had a lot of the same experiences and reactions. Depression, men, anxiety, medication, art - how we fit into the milieu....

I've been told by psychiatrists I should be on Zoloft the rest of my life. Recently Luvox was suggested for my obsessive negative thinking. I don't take anything. I just work like hell doing creative things. My daughter keeps trying to get me to medicate because at age 66 I should be thinking of how my good years I might have left.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Thank you and yes, I imagine we do have many experiences and responses in common. Without a succession of anti-depressants, I don't know what my story would be, nor do I want to. As with most of life, very little is "one size fits all." There can be enormous benefit from medication, some help with the heavy lifting. Having to do everything adds to the feelings of overwhelm. I don't believe we are intended to have to feel as though we must outrun ourselves, always stay at least a nose ahead in the race against what my son might call "the vortex of suckage." Creative work - and gratitude that it is part of this earthly assignment - makes a tremendous difference. It has saved me more times than I can count. The best we can do is be still as long and as often as possible and listen to our highest wisdom. I know you know. xo

Kass said...

Thanks for that response. I'm spending some time musing about it. Of course I meant "many" instead of "my."

"Vortex of suckage." Love this, and love your son's expressiveness.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - I knew what you meant. Among my greatest blessings, my son is the greatest, never fails to make me laugh. Learning to treat ourselves gently, as precious creatures, is no small task and, at least for me, requires me to adjust my thinking on how I treat myself and why. Not easy, not even close. xoxo