This week has been a grey one for me—one in which I have brushed up against my depression. Some of it is weather related, but that’s too easy an attribution. Some of it is grief. Monday marked what would have been my parents’ fifty-ninth wedding anniversary; Tuesday marked nineteen months since Dad died. Some of it I don’t understand, though I have learned to read the signs. Over my years of living with depression, sleep has always been an escape. When I notice I want to sleep even when I have been getting enough rest, that’s a good signal that there’s more going on that needs my attention.
Today the weather matched my feelings. The temperature has been on a downward slide since midnight and some sort of precipitation has been falling all day—particularly when I needed to get out of the car. This afternoon I wandered from one grocery store to another trying to figure out what to serve for Thursday Night Dinner, which is our weekly gathering of friends around our table. I had already looked through what was on my kitchen shelves and what I had in the pantry and what I picked up at the Durham Farmers’ Market last Saturday. Between Whole Foods and Harris Teeter I found a few other things that spurred my imagination. My friend Laura showed up as she does most every Thursday to help cook and we set about creating the menu:
cream of roasted tomato and pepper soup with mini grilled brie and apple sandwiches
roasted Brussels sprouts and pear salad with parsnip-apple-vermouth puree and a balsamic reduction
Guinness braised pork loin with pineapple and apples, roasted beets and beet green-walnut pesto
mini blackberry-strawberry cobbler
The afternoon in the kitchen and our friends around the kitchen helped stare down the greenness; what began as a cloudy day ended as a starry night, at least in our dining room. Sitting with a table full of people I love and who love me, I felt joy.
The dictionary offers joy as a synonym for happiness and misses the point. To sit around our table tonight was not a reprieve for me, or a recess from sadness. I brought my grief to the table and it was fed by joy, by the persistent, tenacious, determined promise that love will be the last word. Joy is not an escape. It is, as the old song says, down in my heart to stay.
I may wake up in the morning to find the sun is still not rising on my horizon and I have several more grey days to wade through. I may find myself wanting to go to sleep to get our from under the weight of these sad times. But the joy given me in the kitchen this afternoon and around the table tonight will not be taken away. The biggest lie of depression is that I am all alone; joy tells the truth—I am loved., I belong.
If you went back through this blog to its beginnings over nine years ago you would find the idea that life and faith are team sports stated over and over again. You might even get a little tired of reading that we are all in this together and that we are loved—really, really loved. The best news I know is we are wonderfully and uniquely created in the image of God and worthy to be loved. I repeat myself, I suppose because I need to hear it. Too many years of bad theology taught me I was fundamentally flawed, a wretch that needed to be saved. Look at the story again. All of creation came pouring out of the God’s joy. God spoke light and love into being, animated everything the panda to the platypus, and brought us up out of the dust to share the joy of it all.
We are born in love and indelibly marked with joy and hope. The darkness is not a permanent stain. Joy is an indefatigable force, God’s gravitational pull that holds us in the orbit of grace, that draws us together. I know. It pulled me in tonight.