Space For Grace

There’s a thin layer of frost that ices the glass between the window that looks out of the airplane. From my seat I can look down and see the gentle folds of green and white, the valleys that rest between the Swiss Alps. We’re touching down in Zurich and I am “home” after spending the month back in North Carolina.

After leaving the mild, sunny days in Durham, the dreary dampness creeps into my body as an added insult. It’s a reflection of my own depression.

I’ve had a month full of medical appointments to tide me over for the year. Scans and skin-checks, blood draws and head shrinkings, all of the things I do to make sure my body is well. None of them, even my psychiatrist appointment, measures the condition of my heart or can really prescribe for my soul.

Two years abroad and maybe it’s finally the point where it really sinks in that I am on my own.

On my trip back to the U.S. my friends ask polite questions, but I can tell the newness of someone else’s adventure wears thin. There’s only so much vicarious travel one can do.

Some I’m sure feel abandoned and frustrated and want to give up on a real, working relationship.

I don’t have the answer to this.

In the end, I only know that my husband works in Switzerland and I want to support him. And so I pack everything up and stuff it into my luggage and board the plane. My carry-on bag is a false motif of braveness that I push in front of me like a shield.

What’s hardest is that it feels like I am really losing people in my life who I love dearly. How is that possible in this digital age of Face Time and Facebook and texting?

The plain truth may be that it takes more than words, more than intentions even, to be intimate.

Relationships need skin-on-skin time.

There is a freedom in running away from home, from leaving your past, your old stories, behind. You can hide, re-invent yourself, forget, move on.

But sometimes I think moving on is really just being afraid to stay in one place and face the hard things.

At least today that’s what I’m thinking. Ask me tomorrow and I may tell you that living abroad is a great way to get in touch and truly find yourself.

I don’t know.

I think some people think that my blog is too personal, too much information, and maybe an exercise in self-absorption.

Today that feels like it might be true.

But I hold onto it anyway, like a talisman. And I pass it along as a bit of advice.

One of my friends in the U.S. is depressed right now, and she asked me what to do, to give her some kind of advice to get through it.

I tell her: antidepressants, therapy, exercise and a UV light box. All good, right?

But the other answer might be: accept where you are. Embrace the depression. It’s just another part of who you are. Open up a little space to feel what you feel and see what else might come up.

I don’t want to tell her that this is the harder way. But it’s the only way I know.

I also tell her about my writing; I tell her that writing my blog is a way to bring the shadows into the light and that putting down my thoughts and feelings is a way to see a bigger picture, one with room for improvisation.

Well, I’m doing that today. And maybe it would be more appropriate for a diary, but here it is.

But I tell you this truth about myself, my pain, my struggle so that maybe you’ll read it – and I can picture you doing that – so that I’ll feel a little less alone.

So today, in a few minutes, I’m going to layer on my wooly running clothes and step out of this little apartment, and lock the door behind me, escape the stale atmosphere. I’ll stride onto the wet street and make my way down to the river. I’ll trot along the banks and try to peel back this tough rind of disappointment, in what I’m not entirely sure.

I’ll fill up my lungs with crisp air, get my pulse to skitter up a notch, and hope to free up some space inside my body to feel something new, and hope to move the pain along so as to make room for something else, anything else, damn it, other than this.

And I’ll hope for a little grace along the way.

9 thoughts on “Space For Grace

  1. Dearest Beth – your writing is so poignant and also speaks to both my heart and my experience – There are days when I am so sad I can barely move – or a wave of sadness engulfs me when I least expect it – sometimes I miss some folks so bad I can hardly breath…. Like you, I take a deep breath and “do” something – I don’t walk as much as I should in the colder days, but I will make up for it again during the summer in Northern where I have spent the last few summers and that helps. It is also near a small lake, and being able to look out at the water when I want/need to is so wonderful.

    Anyway, please keep writing and sharing! I would love to email you sometime, but I’s not sure that I have your email anymore, but I might… Sending love and light – Mary
    PS Peter is doing great, and is still in Atlanta – he is a standup comic part of the time and is working on films in various capacities – most recently as a wardrobe person for a new TV show…. I know he would have me send you love too – So here it comes!

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  2. Your thoughts are honest and do reflect many realities of my life. I wish I had a way with words. January was a very tough time here in Michigan. Therapy, meditation class and some needed exercise only help a little. I know we have comrades in the depression of modern life. Keep writing your truths. They are those of many. You are not alone. I love you very much.

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  3. Beth. Boy, do I know about skin hunger… One practical suggestion for you is to volunteer at a daycare or church somewhere, who maybe needs extra help during their services. It absolutely helped me when I became a nanny – especially with the pre-school and kindergarten set.. It’s nice being needed, comforting the tearful and wipe the messy.

    Your writing really got into my heart, dear Beth. I’ve been in a situation where depression overcame my “big picture” clarity and it’s no fun. Some people have a tryst, with all those highs and lows and everlasting regret to try to shake off the feeling of sad puzzlement; maybe see yourself, for a time, through someone else’s eyes.

    I think what’s happening with you is a loss of context. Of anyone I know, your life is built brick by brick around your loved ones, community. Even if you’ve made friends there in Switzerland, there’s no easy context to explore, other than being a temporary resident in somebody else’s scene. Where would you find a someone else like yourself to be good friends with? I imagine Judy went through some of these feelings when she decided to go to nursing school. Context. You could be a photojournalist easily. You take really good pictures and you’re pretty fluent in your very own ‘romance language’, so you could tap into your wisdom, your wicked eye for the wry take on something; and your emotional intelligent to write something to go with your pictures. Forget about anybody that may be watching and get engrossed in something and people will wan to know you, and what you’re doing. There, you go: context.

    Which brings me to how much this Space for Grace piece moved me when I read it. The more you trust your readers to really care as much for you, the more you’ll realize that for some of us, you feel closer than ever. For me, I feel like we could meet tomorrow and we’d be able to just pick up where we left off. So don’t let the isolation of common depression trick you into thinking you’re alone in this world. Make sure you’re on the best meds for your depression and smoke a little pot. Giggling helps, too.

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  4. I have lots of people in my life these days, especially sick, dying and hurt people. Face-to-face living has shoved Facebook pretty much out of my life. I told a friend, and your sisters, that for the past few months I feel like I have been trying to swimming in a sea of cancer, and walk through the valley of the shadow of death with a number of people who grace my life. But today, a quiet Sunday, I went looking for you. I found you in your latest ELK and it reminded me of your recent visit here in Charleston. It was all too short, but it was so wonderful for me. You restored my soul. Your writing, as it has been for as long as you have been scratching and punching out words, goes right to my soul. I think a piece of that soul will be sliced away if you should stop writing from that inner space of your soul. One final word from the third floor of my home here in Charleston. Here it is: I certainly do not want to wish my life away, but I will be so glad when Switzerland is in your past, and you can be back home here. I send love in abundance to you, my dear daughter.

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  5. O Beth, I just noticed that my previous post did not go through. But, we will see about this one!! WE keep missing our skin to skin time, alternating our trips back to the United States. And, the primary reason for my sudden visit THIS time was…. clinical depression overcoming my loved ones. But all is well, now, and I am on my way back. Hope to see you, face to face, real soon. Here’s a HUG.

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