Passage

Other people’s words about … sorrow

… I tried to keep busy. I haunted bookstores, sat in cafés, drinking coffee and smoking. As the weather got colder, I went often to the Gardner Museum — for the humidity, for the scent of jasmine in the courtyard.

But of course, the truth was that I was depressed, and that waiting for me the moment I stilled was a sorrow that filled my time amply with its emptiness, that kept me very busy even as I lay open-eyed on my bed or sat at my desk staring out at the houses across the street. I tried my hardest never to still.

From ‘While I was Gone’
by Sue Miller

You know the kind of depression Miller is describing here, right? It is not so much a clinical thing, requiring medical consultations and diagnosis and treatment, as it is a thing of sorrow, of emptiness, of lacklustre wakefulness. Of restlessness. Sudden, fleeting moments of despair.

I tried my hardest never to still, Miller says, simply. You’ve done that, too, right? — tried to match the sense of endless mental pacing with an equal sense of physical pacing.

Just as there are no diagnoses or treatments, I don’t think there’s any kind of cure. I find, as with so many difficult things, that it’s mostly a matter of waiting the thing out, giving it passage, allowing yourself to see it through.

And that, for me, is where I find the stillness that Miller’s narrator describes herself trying so hard to flee. The act of waiting, of riding something out, is itself paradoxically an act of stillness. Sometimes, just knowing this can be enough.

The world out there.

And then there’s always the matter of looking up, every once in a while. Of reminding yourself that there is a world out there, to which you will return. In a moment. In an hour. In a few weeks.

In time.

2 thoughts on “Passage

  1. So true. Sorrow is something one must wade through, but escaping it for a breather now and again is important, too.
    I used to be a member of the Gardner Museum when I lived in the Boston area. It is small (a former home, very comfy), Venetian house deconstructed and moved across the ocean. I loved going there. A famous Rembrandt was stolen from there a while back and never recovered, most likely in someone’s private collection.

    1. I like the image of ‘wading through’ sorrow, Eliza. That says it exactly.
      How fascinating about the Rembrandt! I remember seeing a TV doco about the Mona Lisa being stolen last century from the Louvre — until then, it hadn’t been a particularly famous painting, but in its absence it took on an importance it hadn’t had before, and when it was recovered it became the famous painting it is now (I hope I’ve got this right!).

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