Last night, while doing the dishes, I looked out the window at the most glorious sunset. It was the dramatic, spectacular kind, with bright orange and cadmium yellow smeared across the entire sky. It had edges of dusky violet that glowed.
I called to my husband, told him he should come over to look.And I guess most of what I know about marriage could be summed up in that one act.He joined me at the sink – we absorbed the colors, we shared notes. We savored the brilliance, and in that moment, we tightened the knot between our hearts.
Researchers don’t really know what makes some marriages survive and others bite the dust. But some have suggested that it is made up of small cues. Like eye contact or just simply looking at one another. And listening and responding to requests – what the other person has seen and wants to share.
The sunset that interrupts us while doing dishes.
So many times we talk, but we don’t bother to listen. How often we miss a chance to take in something beautiful with someone else.For me, it’s not a sunset until it’s shared. And it makes me feel complete when we have that tiny moment together.
Many people misunderstand depression. They think that it is a matter of mind over body – that we can will ourselves to get better. But I truly believe that what can heal the most is just having someone stand beside you at the window of your ragged soul, and to simply observe.
To be present, to be a witness to the pain.
Growing up, I could never accept myself as a depressed person. It was my own personal failure, a deep flaw that set me apart from everyone else. In it’s throes, I felt myself move further and further away from everything in my world – my family, my friends, my interests.
I was in my own private solar system, and eventually I got used to orbiting among the cold, impersonal stars. Because the darkness can start to feel like home, no matter how far away you are.
But it’s the definition of hell, really. And while you can eventually learn to get used to the loneliness, the numbness will take you to an even crueler place, one filled with guilt.
I spent a lot of years trying to identify what my depression was, and even more trying to get other people to understand it, to accept it. I’m not sure how successful you can ever be at that. The best you can do is find someone who’s willing to try – to try to understand the pain. The unimaginable, elusive darkness.
And that’s a brave person.
One of the trademark things about depression is that a small hurt can spiral into a chronic debilitating pain. It’s as if your system gets flooded with emotion and just shuts down. And then the dark familiar hole becomes an almost comfortable place.
But just as surely, I believe that a small act can sometimes stem the downward flow. Sometimes it just takes a sunset, or a laugh or an ice-cream cone, or a good cry.
I’m learning to tell myself that the pain never lasts forever. And even in just doing this, I can actually feel the pressure ease in my chest. I’m giving myself room to rest, to heal. And sometimes that’s enough.
Marriage kind of saved me from my depression. I now have a person in my life that may never fully understand my illness – but sure as anything, he will come to the window to try to see what’s going on. He’ll patiently listen to what’s churning inside of me, even try to get inside of my mind. He’s not afraid of what he will find.
If that’s not courage, I don’t know what is.
But usually he won’t say anything at all, he’ll just gaze out intently at the night, and we’ll appreciate that it’s a bigger sky when viewed together. And I’ll know that I’m not alone.
And my chest will feel less tight, and my limbs a little less heavy, as we climb the stairs for bed. And just like all of the other people being loved in the universe, gazing at their own sunsets – I know I’m one of the lucky ones.
And oh, what a breathtaking sky it is.