Each Monday through Friday, between 7:30 and 7:35 a.m., I stand poised at the doorway that connects our garage to our family room, my right hand on the door frame, my left hand waving good bye to a shadow of Fred as Max backs out. As soon as the car straightens at the end of our driveway, I do one last wave to the two pairs of eyes that have already turned straight to face the road. As they drive away I attempt to close our temperamental garage door, cursing each time it rolls back up.
This is my daily ritual, and it is accompanied by a small wave of dread.
At this point in the day I march back to the kitchen to clean up after breakfast and lunch preparations. Since I work from my home my mind then moves toward, then rejects, the idea of some light morning exercise and a shower. So it’s onward to my computer to begin the daily run of checking work e-mail, work-related news, and client documents. I also remember that I need to call AT&T and a medical biller to resolve mistakes that they have made. It’s a waste of my time, poor customer service, and I make a mental excuse to put this off yet again. I think about what Max and I will do for lunch, and I am relieved if there are leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Then I wonder what we’ll do for dinner, and realize I have to find time to squeeze in a trip to the market. And before I know it the school day will be done, Fred will be home, and while I can’t wait to see him, I brace myself for the inevitable nagging and negotiating over homework, snacks, and jackets and socks strewn on the floor.
My days are uneventful, but somehow I end up disliking myself at the end of each one. Yet another day will always go by where I do not call AT&T, do not exercise, do not make better progress on the ____ work project, do not clean the ____, and do not better restrain myself from nagging and scolding. The non-depression depression that I experience is well nourished by this parade of self-criticism.
Perhaps you have been there too. It’s that land north of depression but south of joy. It’s that place in everyday life where you climb out of bed on time but in slow motion. You pick at the work in your house. You talk to your children with just more irritation in your voice than is necessary. But you don’t need meds and you don’t have the time or the money to see a therapist (but oh how you’d love to talk to someone!). You get through each day doing what needs to be done, if even at a B- level in your book. It’s just the tedium of a script that never changes and yet you are treading too deeply in inertia to initiate any changes.
By coincidence I had an “eventful” and light bulb sort of weekend. Our Saturday started off with an early morning used book sale at our area high school, where Fred and I filled up a carton full of terrific finds. In the evening we enjoyed dinner and a music and dance talent show/fundraiser with good friends at the same high school. On Sunday, we went to see Life of Pi and treated ourselves to coffee and doughnuts afterward.
While my weekend can’t exactly be categorized as exciting, it was filled with my favorite things: books, bargains, the arts, food, friends and, of course, family. I did more than just accompany Fred to his weekend activities or run errands or watch Fred and Max play basketball. We did something that I enjoyed and, for me, I realized, anything related to the arts provides me with the spiritual and aesthetic lift that I don’t get enough of in my life.
Little did I predict that a box full of book bargains and a schedule to look forward to this weekend would vitalize me enough to clean out my closet and drawers, organize the bookcase, vacuum, cook (we usually eat out on weekends), clean our bathroom, do the laundry, change our sheets and bath mats and even pack for a family trip that isn’t happening for another two weeks. I even insisted to Max to hand over a new work project to me. I ended the weekend not just satisfied with our activities but feeling good about myself: I accomplished what I’d put off for weeks and I liked myself as a mother.
In Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach tells about a woman named Joanna Field (a.k.a. Marion Milner) who in 1934 published a book called A Life of One’s Own. Field had kept a journal in which she noted daily the triggers of happiness in her life. Ban Breathnach writes, “It was written . . . in the spirit of a detective who searches through the minutiae of the mundane in hopes of finding the clues for what was missing in her life.”
And so, like Field, I have started my own journal and journey to find the simple daily pleasures that, in a mosaic, will hopefully become a life of contentment, energy and purpose.
Do you also find yourself languishing in this…”non-depression” depression? What are the simple daily pleasures that make a difference for you?