Lilacs are waltzing and waltzing in pairs
On the quickening sounds of rain
Falling on the tin roof
A satiating fragrance of lavender and amethyst
Lullabies me to sleep
Away from the odorless dystopia
That we call life
The wet flowers cleanse with their innocence
And through an open window
They stretch their petit petals and hand me a return
I would do it all over again
As I watch them blossoming to a climax
They begin their descent back into the ground
Darkened by misfortune
With violet tinges of violence
The lavender turns mauve with raisin reflections
In unison with the damp soil
The dirt and moist that cover tombs and flesh
The dirt where maggots and insects crawl
I would do it all over again
Watch the lilac grow and wither
And learn about the ways of the world
Listen to raindrops weeping their fate
Onto the wound
Never bound to heal
Like an open skull with brain cancer
Like paint that never dries
Like ominous leftovers
Carrying me into a starless night
I would do it all over again
Little creatures below the ground
Engulfed in a universe of their own
Not once do they leave me alone
They scratch and hurt the Mother Earth
In the midst of a smearing drought
I lose the sense of touch
And what used to make perfect sense
Ends up making no sense at all
With no green or purple in sight,
The last odorless droplet falls from the sky
I would do it all over again
At the artist’s table there’s always a seat
A place to carve art in flesh and wound
To bake sounds with poems and tint
Where the thick brush slithers on the moist greenish cloth
With almighty stains of vermilion and sweat.
I stand nude at my large table
And, bare-handedly, begin to caress the brutal cloth
Which speaks back tales of beginnings and hope
As my imagination becomes a sewing machine
That shoots words and colors like bullets.
I hold hostages all the blank papers towards my release from the blues prison
While a red string commits adultery with my art every Sunday afternoon.
The artist’s table is the whole world viewed from a dying angle
The frowned-upon outsider looking in
Feigning a pas de deux to begin her oeuvre
And end it with a supernova coda, the masterpiece’s last musical cry.
As the spectacle unfolds, I pour myself another glass
In the midst of the dénouement
I proclaim nobody a winner, but the vicious circle of day and night
Day and night
Art is my prayer, my battle, my middle ground,
The playground on which I stretch and stitch myself
At the artist’s table I find closure
And you come find me
Bare-footed, with dreamy eyes
Always made whole by what she creates
But always unfinished
I paint the blues away, sing of possibilities,
Commit all the non-sense,
And dream of an afterlife of heartbreak.
Long live the repetition and the major keys
Arias with tunes of random
Play play play
There is grace and god and stars during daytime
At the artist’s table.
The space around me becomes the whole cosmos
And the little pieces we give birth to
Carry the marks of forgiveness
Of rage and radical honesty
Of emptiness and foul
Don’t colors make life easier to bear?
Shout in ecstasy that this table is all you possess
Then walk hand in hand with your sorrow
In the place where the poet writes a poem
The novelist drafts a novel
The drummer plays the drums
The painter varnishes their canvas And the lover awaits, and mourns…
What was lost becomes a distant memory
A leaf in the wind – forgotten but vivid
Alive with breaths that hurt the diaphragm, the soul.
Near the window sill
There is scrutinizing of the dead landscape
And in the lonely hour
When the clock ticks the last goodbye
I sharpen my pencil. I breathe in it my woe
And take a seat at the artist’s table.
Like a house with no roof
Like a shoe with a hole in it
Like a whore lying naked on the floor
Like polluted air filling your lung
Like a painter without their paint brush
Like a cello with three strings
Like a starless sky
Like the sea without waves
Like a fake laughter
Like the grass is always greener on the other side
Like Jupiter without its Great Red Spot
Like an addict without their cocaine
Like a clock without hands
Like quantum vacuum where no one can hear you scream
Like a cripple limping to their deathbed
Like a universe of neglect
Like forensic medicine without the crime
Like a building burnt to ashes
Like a scale without its tonic
Like a melody without the final chord
Like cells mortified by the waiting
Like maggots eating at a beautiful mind
Like to the point of no return
Like wild wind wreaking havoc
Like a cracked tile
Like an apple never fell on Newton’s head
Like antibiotics were never discovered
Like daylight robbery
Like an infant crying for her milk
Like a mother mourning her only son
Like a dying dream
Like a vision of peace never envisioned
Like US foreign politics
Like sugar-coated fascism
Like a genetically cursed embryo
Like getting sued for malpractice
Like Delft without its blue
Like Amsterdam without its canals
Like Superman without Kryptonite
Like the theory of everything doesn’t exist
Like puss and abscess and vinegar and vomit
Like echoes of a failed rally
Like Dorothy didn’t return to Kansas
Like a bad LSD trip
Like geography without maps and history without history books
Like the alphabet without the letter A
Like dirt under your fingernails
Like Peter Pan grew up
Like a windowless room
Like a story never told
Like a germophobe in a germophil world
Like the silent scream of the depressed
Like psychoanalysis without Freud
Like borders and walls
Like lost civilizations and lost souls
Like a supermassive black hole
Like a shipwreck
Like a world with no coffee beans
Like Hansel and Gretel never found their way back home
Like a mask that never falls
Like it never ends
So I’ve decided to write another post on depression. Most of us are going through something right now. Looking at the current world affairs, I would dare say there is something wrong with you if you aren’t depressed, or at least discouraged. But I’ve come to tell you a different story this time.
If you’ve been ricocheting between severe absence and presence, between maddening thoughts and mere seconds of tranquility, then you must know how debilitating this imbalance can be. One minute you think you’ve had everything figured out and you even manage to discern something that looks like a gentle light. Then minutes or hours later you remember something, a harsh word, a loss, a mistake you’ve made or you think you’ve made, and you’re spiraling back downwards. And you know there’s no off switch for your mind, you can’t erase memories, and you certainly can’t escape this back and forth – the ultimate emotional uproar.
But between those moments of pure self-torture, behind the thoughts triggered by an inner world that is decomposing, there are a few instances of clearness. And those brief moments have brought me here.
No one denies that clinical depression is a disease much like cancer or diabetes. And I’m definitely not here to diminish its gravity. But what if it’s not always an illness? This doesn’t mean we can discard what we’re dealing with. It’s important to talk about it, look for support, ask for help. It’s equally important to make sure you go through your emotions and not past them.
So I observed and mind-wandered as well as wondered (it may sound painless – it’s not). And one day I was staring at my nephew’s toys and thought: why can’t I be like a kid again when receiving a toy I liked brought me so much joy? How come I have no idea what I want for Christmas when family asks? Why can’t I find pleasure and happiness in most things and activities that would once get me out of a bad mood? Why is nothing working anymore?
We know that one symptom of depression is losing interest in activities you once enjoyed. But what if – and this was an if which changed my relationship with depression entirely – this loss of interest is a symptom of something else, of a larger picture that I couldn’t previously access?
I’ve known for a while now that whatever is happening to me is changing who I am to the point where I can barely recognize myself. Perhaps what I identified as depression is nothing but straying from what no longer fulfills me at a deeper level. I have lost any interest in material possessions, entertainment, politics (this transformed into a more profound preoccupation with the world), in drinking-partying-and-dancing (that could also mean I’m just getting older), small talk irritates me even more than before, and many other such symptoms. I’ve always played the part of the outsider, but the feelings of not belonging and not fitting in are more enhanced now.
Last year I said I had lost any sense of direction and my ambition. But what if the success story we’ve been programmed to follow no longer fits my story? I don’t strive to achieve things and be successful simply because there is nothing to attain, there is no future instance where I can wake up and say ‘I have achieved success, now I’m happy’. It actually baffles me right now to think people still fall into this trap. They turn away from what really matters to them and turn towards something that they think it’s been promised to them. What I do strive for is to give as much of my attention to things that are meaningful to me. For every thing I’m drifting away from, I gravitate towards others such as psychology, consciousness, and how the human brain works, but I also return to childhood passions such as my fascination with space and astronomy. There must be at the convergence of these that I think I will find some answers, answers to what has been troubling me lately, answers to this existential and seemingly never-ending query.
If you are experiencing something similar, then you know you are walking away from trifles and the ordinary into what actually matters to you. And you may have also found that we’re nothing without human connection. You know now that in the midst of all chaos what truly makes you a little bit more hopeful about tomorrow is to have someone near you with whom you connect at a deeper level. It’s been said that isolation from family, friends, and peers only worsens depression and anxiety; at the same time it’s not mere social interaction that can relieve feelings of sadness, but connection. So I’ve learned – the very hard way – to listen to what that lack was telling me. We abound in internet connections, friends lists, we have instant access to entertainment which make it far easier nowadays to give in to the trivial, to developing addictions. But when you stop for a second and think about what you are actually looking for you become aware that above all else you want to feel.
Depression is in a sense the absence of feeling, a hollowness, an acute feeling of nothingness, of meaninglessness, hopelessness, helplessness – yes, all the less-es. My problem is that I feel too much, too intensely – that goes for the sadness as well. And no, not just mine (as if that weren’t enough), but the world’s, the people’s, the planet’s, the trees’. In my world, even the leaves are crying. And the poets, oh the crying poets… As cliché as this may sound, I understand now that to write poetry is to feel. You cannot experience poetry (whether you’re reading or writing it) without being at least partially in touch with your emotions. Poetry demands that you access the deeper layers of your being. There have been moments when I dreaded writing poetry for fear that I might have to go to that place. I refused.
But what I need above all else is to feel, and to feel connected. It’s rather ironic and very tragic that antidepressants often stifle and suppress feelings. Although I haven’t tried them myself, I’ve heard of many people experiencing numbness while on treatment. And numbness is the opposite of what could carry you beyond the realm of impossibilities and heartache. This is not to say that I haven’t had moments when I wanted to feel nothing.
But I believe that no matter the hardships you’ve experienced, no matter the severity of the hurting, and regardless of how broken and damaged you are, the triumph is in retaining your ability to feel, despite all the pain you’ve been through. The key lies in dealing with your every emotion, bit by bit, as excruciating as the process may be, without becoming cynical or bitter as these won’t get you anywhere. Disregarding the quietly deafening sound of your emotions only amplifies the very thing you are trying to escape from: pain. The healing is in the aching.
At the end of the day, just know that the very agony that is stretching its arms to asphyxiate you and grapple your last traces of joy is maybe the same agony that its stretching its arms to help you shed what is no longer needed in your life, the agony that you will befriend in order to get to the other side, beyond what is keeping you down and into a space of clarity and openness. In that sense, the downfall becomes your ascendancy.
The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight. Joseph Campbell