"Father forgive us for what we must do You forgive us we'll forgive you We'll forgive each other till we both turn blue Then we'll whistle and go fishing in heaven." John Prine
Today, I got up and opened up the shades on all my windows and smiled to myself. Normal acts for most, but not for me. I suffer from some depression. I am realizing that I probably have been for quite a while, and lately things have happened which have started working along with the force of gravity to pull me, ever more quickly it seems, down into that dark hole, that " undiscovered country whose bourne no travelers return."
I've been on a journey of the sort that many have traveled, or will travel before they are done with this thing called life. Yet, people don't often write reviews about this type of trip or post pretty pictures taken from a chaise lounge on an ocean liner. A lot of times, there is liquor involved but not those tall brightly colored girly drinks with the pink umbrellas.
There's dancing sometimes too, but not twirling about with unbridled gaiety, just a bit of wobbling in time to the spinning of the earth and accompanied by a trio consisting of Pee Wee Herman, Tiny Tim, and Weird Al Yankovic singing We Are the World to the noise of a calliope.
My father's death, my divorce after 31 years of marriage, and the subsequent death of my ex, placed three large stones across my chest that have made it difficult for me to breathe. It hasn't helped that I've also been breathing dust collected on my many bookshelves and choking on the smoke and ashes from the piles of memories always burning in my back yard.
I been telling my daughters these last few years that I have chosen the story of Lazarus rising from the dead as my personal theme, but I have added my own special twist to the story by looking back into the grave and noticing that my pant's leg is stuck on something, maybe one them fancy brass things they put on the coffin to bankrupt a family in their time of grief.
My girls accuse me sometimes of reveling in the image of a graying man with his head and shoulders sticking out barely above the ground, flailing, calling for help in a somewhat subdued voice, and secretly happy that his pants are still stuck because it somehow absolves him of the nasty job of wiping off the miasma clinging to him like ivy and of doing all of the daily mundane tasks required to return to the lollypop land of a living. To live again, to regain the sacred lolly pop, he must learn to feel again, and feeling has let him down so grievously in the past.
I can see though where they might get that idea that I'm playing possum (imagine me putting up air quotes), and sometimes I probably do offer up that image far too willingly as a shield to protect myself from the prying eyes of well wishing friends and the painful questions of curious onlookers. But I'm not; there is an aloneness that comes with living, and an isolation that makes us who we are, and sometimes when we must deal with the most serious questions of our being, all we need is some alone time standing in front of a mirror in a darkened room.
Mostly, I act out that image because I sank down far too deeply inside myself while trying to protect my heart from completely quitting. I figure as long as I keep a helmet on as I peek out my window, I am somewhat protected from the cold hearted doings of time.
I'll occasionally lob a grenade or two back towards the enemy, to remind those poor demented bastards trying to force some kind of law and order in the outer world that I'm still alive, and if they come across that barb-wire strung, land mine pitted no-man's land seeking to get me and drag me kicking and screaming back toward the pruned trees, freshly mowed lawns, white picket fences, and ginger bread houses of the land of the living, they better be ready to get kicked in the shins because I'm wearing my steel toed combat boots, and they are locked and loaded and ready to kick some, well. . . . some shins.
I know that I will get tired one of these days and work my own pants free (I might even take them off but only as a last resort), but it'll be when I'm good and ready and after I have signed an armistice with God putting an end to the bitter trench warfare that put me down there in the first place. Life is a war of attrition and sometimes we must play possum in order check out the threats.
I woke up this morning feeling good about things. I opened my shades and looked out at the blue skies and felt, for a change, like a Montana farmer must feel watching the sun come over the Rockies. I put on a Boz Skaggs CD and just sat there with my coffee for awhile reveling in both the newborn day and the beauty of Duane Allman's solo on Loan me a Dime, you know the one with the lick in it where he literally begs God to acknowledge his existence.
It was like I was ten years old again, sitting on the back step with my dog Pepe sitting beside me watching the sun come up on Saturday morning.
It ain't very often nowadays that I can recapture, even for a second or two, that feeling of joyous innocence that came with being young. You know, back before Sunday School teachers told us we were all going to hell, before school people started telling us we were stupid, before our fake friends told us we were ugly and our breath stank, before the newspeople in America turned into a bunch of foul smelling assholes and started getting their rocks off by making the rest of us feel like shit.
I'll take that wonderful feeling anytime I can get it. I'll take it whenever and however it comes.
So, I smile and look out my windows toward the school where I once worked. I smile at the sight of all the boys and girls running and laughing even while knowing that everyday that passes will bring them ever closer to the disillusionment of a person willing to hide half inside of a grave and half out. But also knowing that there will also always be days like this where the Good Lord breaks out with both the Windex and the Febreze.