Monday, July 23, 2012

Enemy


Yesterday was Sunday.
I try to dredge up yesterday so I can have something, how does the exercise go, something on which to practice the craft without having to worry about plot and characterization. It's writing, without having to produce fiction on demand. Every writer should keep a journal. Every writer should write everyday.
It’s like practicing scales, for a musician.
Don’t write about feelings (the exercise says). Hone your powers of description.
But the end of yesterday's feelings were overwhelming. They haunted my night. They’re still with me today, crushing. Consuming.
I fall back on the tried and true coping mechanisms to get me going. The things I know are bad for me, but work, or have worked, through the years. Not exercise - a long, rambling walk - and a decent, healthy breakfast, positive thoughts and inspiring music. I can’t face the neighbors today; I can’t dredge up the wherewithal to smile and wave, to stop and chat, to share energy and heart, to build community.
Instead, I reach for caffine, a stiff cup of coffee, knowing it will strip the tyrosine, and therefore the dopamine and serotonin, from my brain. I reach for anger, hoping the shot of adreneline will come, will get me up, will get me moving, at least enough to function.
But the anger remains elusive; the adreneline doesn’t come. Adrenal exhaustion after too many years of too much stress have left my fight or flight mechanism broken and sputtering, a useless wreck. I can neither run nor stand and fight. 
I draw the drapes, close the door. I withdraw to the cool dimness of the central, interior room, the kitchen.
I hunker down and hide.
The cats come with me, of course, and the computer. The cats, sensing my mood, gather around, offering comfort, offering companionship. Sasha stretches his furry, elderly self out on the bar, hangs his head over the edge and watches me with soul-filled eyes. The girls cluster at my feet, a quiet feline presence.
Healing begins. Or, at least, a re-centering. I’m learning there is no “healing” from this black beast which claws at my soul and goes by the name “Depression.” There’s no knight in silvered armor who can drive it away. It must be lived with. It must be managed. Every so often the sacrifice of a day, or a week, must be relinquished to it.
It will never go away.
But it can be managed, and must be. Today is only one day. Tomorrow may be better. I just have to survive today, one moment at a time.
So I struggle to go on with the daily work, to put words on paper, even if not many, and of not much merit. I carry the sprinkler out to water the lilac, much loved and tended with great care, but now wilting under the crushing burden of record heat and draught. I get dinner going in the crockpot.
These small tasks exhaust me, but I keep moving, or try to, even if it is with slow feet and sluggish brain.
Part of my responsibility to myself, as someone with a chronic and incurable illness, is to learn to manage that illness as much as I can. A diabetic must test their blood and take their insulin. A heart patient must not smoke. An asthmatic must carry their inhaler with them. As someone with major depressive disorder, part of my responsibility to myself has been to learn as much as I can about my own personal beast. Over the last four years, I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned this: one way of understanding depression is as “anger turned inward.” This time, as I struggle to stay sane in the middle of the crushing gray fog which is the clutch of the beast, this time I know where the anger came from, and I know it’s justified.
How liberating it would be, how joyous, to be able to direct that anger, that righteous zeal, that bitter ire, toward the person who so supremely deserves it.
An eye for an eye.
Satisfaction.
Justice.
And yet, and yet… that’s not the philosophy I espouse. I cling, however tenuously, to a newer testament, a newer contract.
Take no account of a wrong that is suffered.

Forgive, that you, also, may be forgiven.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.

I am a huge fan of the TV series Andromeda, and Tyr Anasazi was my favorite character on the show. A short exchange of dialogue from one episode went like this:

Tyr Anasazi: What would you like, Jaguar?
Charlemagne Bolivar: The usual. Hundreds of grandchildren, utter dominion of known space and the pleasure of hearing that all of my enemies have died in terrible, highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me. And you?
Tyr Anasazi: [Laughs] The usual.

I understand that sentiment. It lurks right beneath the civil and civilized facade I cultivate with such care and so little success. The person I am is always present behind the carefully constructed mask of who I want to be.
My known space, the space over which I crave utter dominion is not so large as the galactic expanse known to Tyr Anasazi (who, if you are not a fan of the show and don’t know, did come after all to a terrible and tragic end). My known space is smaller: my house, my yard. It includes the public spaces through which I wish to move in safety and in peace.
Attacked, my space violated by an intruder who didn't even have the honour to show their face, I, like Tyr and Charlemagne Bolivar, find myself wishing for, indeed craving, “the usual.”
I am fascinated by words, and by their origins. Today I ran across this definition:
Enemy: one who feels hatred towards, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another
From Latin in-amicus, ie, not friend.
And that, of course,leads to:
Friend: a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
In Latin, Amicus (ie, friend) comes from the same root as Amo (I love). Likewise, the Germanic freond (from which comes our English friend) is also derived from freon, to love.
I ponder the actions of my not-friend, the person who has wounded me and has been the cause of so much sorrow today. I reflect that he (or she—how can I know since the not-friend was too cowardly to show their face?) did indeed intend me injury. He (or she)did indeed oppose my interests.
It’s hard to digest, knowing I never did this person any harm. Or if I had, unknowingly, would they not have come to me and complained of the injury? Would they not have trusted my goodwill enough to know I would do my best to put right any harm I had done them?
But trust is a mark of friendship, and this person has shown himself to be inimicus. Not friend.
Enemy.
It’s disconcerting to find you have enemies in the world, in your village, on your very block, among your neighbors. It’s disconcerting to discover there are those who wish you harm.
Had you asked me day before yesterday, I would have answered, “I have no enemies.”
And yet…
And yet.
Someone harms me. It hurts. The beast within howls, clawing, demanding “the usual.”
I find I'm neither able nor inclined to fight back. I’ve chosen to attempt a civilized and harmonious life, however much I struggle to implement that.
I’ve rejected “an eye for an eye.” I cling to a newer covenant, a newer contract. So the black beast chews on my own heart, rather than on the heart of my enemy. It sinks me in the fog of despair; the gray, stultifying wasteland of depression.
I struggle to define a response.
“The usual” is not an option. Are there others?

Love your enemy.
Do good to those who hate you.
Pray for those who despitefully use you.
Forgive.

Are you kidding me? I don't want to forgive. 
I don't want to do good.
The beast sinks its fangs into my heart, ravenous, demanding retribution. Demanding “the usual.” Lex Talionis. The law of the talon.
An eye for an eye.
And yet… and yet…
On better days, days when thinking was clearer, days when dopamine and serotonin were at good levels, I rejected that old lex talionis, that old Law of Retribution.
“An eye for an eye just leaves the whole world blind.”
On better days, I made better decision. I chose compassion. I chose non-violence. I chose peace. I’m not there yet.
But I’m working on it.


What about you? How do you try to respond when you've been wounded? Discussion in the comments below.


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stlcatlady is a poet, blogger, and freelance writer of short stories, news articles, and other such oddments, many of which center around her favorite subjects: felines , philosophy, and folklore. You may contact her by sending email to stlcatlady1 at gmail dot com. Thanks for reading!


3 comments:

  1. that was lovely! I want to comfort you and hold you and let you know all will be well. I want to go hurt the one who has hurt you. I am hoping this is part of your blog and not you personally because it makes me hurt for you and I want you happy.

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  2. ConstantiainnocentiJuly 23, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Just my unpopular two-cents here.
    1. at least try to stop viewing/describing your depression as incurable, chronic, and never going away. I mean, science may or may not deem it so, but science is ALWAYS proven wrong in some way or another, at some point or another, and there's a lot to be said for at least TRYING to control negative self talk.
    2. Your neighbors are douchebags. You are very smart and resourceful and I bet you would be GREAT at coming up with an economical and fun home-made bomb and you are well within your rights (_I_ think) to blow those ass-clowns the hell out of town and out of your life.
    3. ...employing the actions of #2 would probably help you with that doomsday self talk in suggestion #1.

    (of course, I'm just kidding you about all of this...except the bombing part...;)

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  3. my friend it hurts my heart to know that you are in such pain, you have been a rock for me and i will always be here for you...i may only be a small stone but i can still be your rock and i wish i could be the rock you could throw at those that cause pain .....but life is a boomerang it will come back to them.....

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