Weathering a Storm is No Guarantee of Calm Seas

rough-seas

Stormy Seas

Why Does It Always Rain on Those Who Are Already Wet With Tears?

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

This afternoon a song from my past came to me from nowhere. I wasn’t listening to the radio or any of my playlists, or even a CD. It just came, but I’m pretty sure that I know why this particular song rose from my subconsious: The title and words are so close to what I am feeling right now.

“Helplessly Hoping” has been interpreted in so many ways, but I have always seen it as a love song about two people who are floundering. There love isn’t floundering, which is made apparent by the refrain, but individually, they are both losing themselves to confusion and circumstances. The words of the refrain symbolize how these two people are better together. As one, they are individuals. As two, they are separate but alone. But when they merge their separate selves, they become another person altogether: three. And always, they are “for each other.”

I find myself in a very perculiar position. A someone who has long suffered from severe depression, bordering on bipolar disorder, I have always been the one that has needed support and understanding from my partners. I have never had a more supportive or understanding partner when it comes to my mental health than Corey.

But now, I am watching someone I love more than life itself being consumed by self-doubt, depression, and guilt. And I finally realize just how helpless it feels to be in this position, how much you want to fix things but cannot. How much you want to take on the pain of your loved one, but how impossible that task truly is.

I can listen when he wants to talk. I can try to remind him of how talented he is, how much training and education he has acquired on his own to become better in his field. I can tell him that being unemployed is not something that he should feel guilty about, that taking a dead-end job for slightly over minimum wage wouldn’t give him benefits, nor would it pay as much as the unemployment for which he qualifies.

That’s a point that many people don’t understand. They say things like, “why don’t you just take any job for the time being?” never stopping to think about the realities of doing something like that. I’ve been in a dead-end job just to get by, and believe me, it does nothing for your self-esteem or your mental health. If anything, it only makes the problem worse.

Corey has always had his spells, his times in which he turns inward for a little while, and I have learned, or attempted to remember, that pushing him does nothing to help. Instead, it is better to let him work through these times, and he always has. But this time is different.

With each passing day, I am watching him feel as if he is less of a person, and this infuriates me. Mostly because my husband is one of the most caring, honorable, and hard-working individuals I have ever known. When he joined our family, he gave all of us a renewed sense of hope. He gave so much of himself to me and to my children, never doubting that we were working to come together as a family. He has been there countless times for Alexis when her father dropped out of her life. He has taught my sons about honor and respect and love just by being the man that he is.

How could you possibly want more of someone?

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

We never ever dreamed that his unemployment would drag on so long. He has written, sent resumes and applications, and made so many telephone calls that we have lost count. We thought that the course that he took last year would be enough to make the difference, but it wasn’t. We thought that this AB course would help to make the difference, but now our plans have been derailed once again.

I no longer feel as if I am surfing on quicksand. I now feel as if I am treading in quicksand. The safety of the board on the surface has disappeared. I try not to sound as if I am feeling sorry for myself, and the reality is that self-pity isn’t what I am really feeling. The emotions are more a combination of hopelessness, anger, and guilt in my abilities to make things better for this family.

I cannot help but think that if I had never been put out on disability, things would be different. I still wonder if I shouldn’t try to go back to work, although considering my health background, I don’t know who would take a chance on me.

There are too many unanswered questions. Life has become like a maze with nothing but dead ends and no clear paths.  And so for today, I find solace in an old song. Tomorrow? Who knows?

If suffering and adversity make a person stronger, then by the time all of this is over, we should be like superheroes. That, or we will be like flowers deprived too long of the sun: withering and unable to withstand much more.

Peace

 

“Helplessly Hoping”
by Stephen Stills

Helplessly hoping her harlequin hovers nearby
Awaiting a word
Gasping at glimpses of gentle true spirit
He runs, wishing he could fly
Only to trip at the sound of goodbye

Wordlessly watching, he waits by the window
And wonders at the empty place inside
Heartlessly helping himself to her bad dreams
He worries, did he hear a goodbye
Or even hello

{Refrain}
They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other

Stanby the stairway, you’ll see something
Certain to tell you confusion has its cost
Love isn’t lying, it’s loose in a lady
Who lingers, saying she is lost
And choking on hello

{Refrain}
They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other

You Know It’s Bad Because I’m Speechless

cracks-in-the-rose-colored-glasses

Cracks in the Rose-Colored Glasses

Corey came home from the maritime school today totally downhearted. He had to withdraw from the AB class in which he was enrolled because of our SNAFU with the IRS. Then he went to the union to turn in his application, and the guy who talked to him said that he would only be qualified as a beginner.

Imagine how it would feel if you have piloted tug boats on your own, you hold a 200 ton Master’s license, and because you don’t have an AB (able-bodied seaman) qualification, someone wants to put you in with a group of people who have never worked on a boat in their lives. It’s insulting, to say the very least.

At the moment, he is sleeping. It’s 5:30 in the afternoon, and Corey only naps when he doesn’t feel well and when he is really depressed. Today, it’s both.

I feel so utterly helpless because there is nothing that I can do for him. If I had something of value to sell to get the money for his tuition, I would do it without a backward glance. But I do not possess valuable things. The most valuable things I have are my wedding and engagement rings, and I know from previous experience that I would not get very much for either one. Their value lies in the sentiment.

I despise feeling helpless. I am angry at the world. And Eamonn is coming to me telling me about all of the things that he needs as a senior: his senior dues, his prom fees, his yearbook. We still haven’t finished paying for his senior pictures. We agreed to help with his senior dues when we thought that we were going to have a little bit of tax money leftover. I know that this is one of the most exciting times in his life, yet my answer to him is the same as it’s been throughout all of last year and into this year: We’ll have to see.

He has been saving money of his own, but working one or two shifts a week at minimum wage isn’t really giving him that much to set aside. And I cannot allow him to work more because he is not good at balancing school and work, and frankly, school and getting him to graduate are much more important.

You want to know the irony of the whole situation? We went to the City of Norfolk to see if we could get assistace with our water bill. They have a program specifically tailored to help people with water bills. However, we make too much money. Too much money? By whose standards? Certainly not AIG standards. We didn’t want to apply in the first place, not because we are embarrassed, but because of that whole concept of being able to take care of yourself, your family.

dorothea-lange-great-depression2
Dorothea Lange's Famous "Migrant Mother" From The Great Depression

Hard work brings its rewards: that Puritan work ethic in which we happen to believe. You know, that if you work hard, are honest and work within the system, then things will work out for you. I’ve worked since I was 15. I have been putting my share into the coffers for a long time now. Corey has worked since he was a teenager; he served his country. Something is wrong here.

But I cannot even begin to put a finger on all of the things that are wrong with this situation. Drug dealers drive around in fancy cars, wear the best clothes, want for nothing. People involved in organized crime have their own definitions of family and being taken care of. Wall Street gives out bonuses in the 8 figures. My son just wants to go to his senior prom. What’s wrong with this picture?

I mean, I’m thankful that we aren’t at the poverty level. Truly. I have a real appreciation for all that we do have and am aware that compared to so many Americans today, we are ironically in an enviable position. But the message in this is that too many people are doing without while a select few are doing really well.

I appreciate the fact that we have food and shelter. But my health insurance premium is killing us. It really makes me want to see nationalized health care. And don’t give me the argument that nationalized health care is the country’s first step into socialism. Too many democratic societies have nationalized health care, which disproves that big fallacy. If we weren’t shelling out so much for my stupid insurance, which I cannot live without, we might be in better shape. But as it is, we have no options.

No options. That phrase is unbearable to me for so many reasons.

I sent an e-mail to the White House today. Not that I think that anything will really come of it, but it just felt good to get some things off my chest. You see, I believe that you can support an administration and still exercise your basic First Amendment Freedoms. Maybe I’m wearing rose-colored glasses when I allow myself to think that things in this country will get better; my only fear is that we will sink before things get better.

Peace.

                                                                                                      

I thought that I would share a little poetry today as it always helps me when I am depressed, angry, or anxious (and I am all three today). And since I don’t have one of my own that fits my particular mood, I am going to borrow from one of my favorite poets.

The following pantoum is by Donald Justice. A pantoum is a type of highly stylized poem, like the villanelle. In a pantoum, which is written in quatrains, the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the following stanza.

Pantoum of the Great Depression

Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don’t remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don’t remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We have our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

Donald Justice, October 1962

Rilke’s Letter to a Young Poet #8

cezanne-dream-of-the-poet-or-kiss-of-the-muse

Paul Cezanne, one of Rilke’s contemporaries and inspirations

“Dream of the Poet, or Kiss of the Muse”

 

“The Only Journey Is The One Within” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

So you mustn’t be frightened . . . if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.

Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better. In you . . . so much is happening now; you must be patient like someone who is sick, and confident like some one who is recovering; for perhaps you are both . . .

Don’t observe yourself too closely. Don’t be too quick to draw conclusions from what happens to you; simply let it happen . . . The extraordinary circumstances of a solitary and helpless childhood are so difficult, so complicated, surrendered to so many influences and at the same time so cut off from all real connection with life that, where a vice enters it, one may not simply call it a vice . . .

And if there is one more thing that I must say to you, it is this: Don’t think that the person who is trying to comfort you now lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes give you pleasure. His life has much trouble and sadness, and remains far behind yours. If it were otherwise, he would never have been able to find those words.

Yours,

Rainer Maria Rilke