I haven't been so well, emotionally and physically. There is this grey thread that loops around my eyes, my hands, my heart. I know it well, but never get used to it, never stop wishing it wasn't there. I would send the thread, the thick web, out into the void, out into space to follow the Mars rover if I could. One blast from the true heat of the sun and it would be gone.
But this is the mind I have been given, prone to anxiety and depression. I fight depression, fight fiercely. I don't give in to it. But it's hard. I wake up with no joy for the coming day, and then I have to work at joy, work hard, like a farmer with a scythe. Bent, like Indian women in the fields, swinging, swinging. Cultivation is tough work, more difficult than gathering, harder than shooting something with a bow and arrow. (A "bone arrow," Solo says. "That's the bone and that's the arrow.") Sometimes to find joy you have to swing the scythe until your shoulders are burning, or if you are only just now planting, you have to move a lot of stones. You have to slam the pick into the earth, again and again, until the dirt is finally soft and loose.
Last night Chinua rescued me, his poor headachy tired wife, by making dinner. While he did, the two little boys and I were upstairs, cuddling in my bed. There's something lovely about being sick and unwell. I slow down and lie for an hour with these little guys, their poky legs and arms jabbing me occasionally, their beautiful brown eyes laughing and loving.
Non sequiteur is Leafy's middle name.
"You're going to be drinking milk soon," he says, out of the blue.
Solo turns to me, excited. "Yeah! Mama! You're going to turn into a baby and drink milk!"
"That's most likely not going to happen," I say.
Leafy is indignant. "I was talking to the baby."
Leafy plans his playtimes with the baby already. He's going to teach his little brother or sister to crawl. This part is really fun. The kids were born so close together, they didn't have nearly as much awareness about pregnancy, but now they wriggle with joy, thinking of tiny toes. We look at illustrations of what our baby looks like now, in my belly.
"He has angry eyes," Solo says.
"He has a nose!" says Leafy.
I'm brought back to the old days, to their baby-ness. I tell them stories of the things they used to do, the funny things they said.
Solo is very much not a baby anymore. Sometimes I can kiss him, but more often if I do, he looks at me with his own angry eyes. "I said, I don't like kisses."
"Sorry," I say. "I forgot. You used to like them. I like kisses."
"So I'll kiss you," he says. And he does. He kisses me on my cheeks and chin and eyelids. And we do nose kisses, like Inuit people. We get along okay, despite his dislike of kisses.
Today I was reading one of my favorite books: Sadhu Sundar Singh, Essential Writings.
Sadhu Sundar Singh was an Indian man who followed Jesus, living as a wandering holy man. He died in 1929. I love to read his writings, as his approach to spiritual things is so nourishing, so simple.
I have seen green and fruitful trees standing in the middle of a dry and barren desert. These trees survive and flourish because their roots have driven down and discovered hidden streams of flowing water. Some people live in the midst of evil and misery but still radiate joy and lead fruitful lives. Through prayer, the hidden roots of their faith have reached down to the source of living water.
I have received some unkind words recently, words that wanted to shrivel me.
"Don't listen to that," Chinua said.
And I asked him, "Who do I listen to then?"
Because I need affirmation, I crave it. And it is not always available, there is no affirmation vending machine around the corneer. I know this need is part of a deeper lack in me- I am like water. What you say about me is what I think I am.
Oh that my roots would go deep, so deep into the hidden springs, past fear and the desert, past the dirth of encouragement that is in my day to day life lately. They could shoot out faster than physically possible, the search for water could become a sprint.
Jesus tells me the truth about myself. "Beloved." He gently leads those with young. He is gentle and humble in heart. He knows me truly, truly. It's too bad that I so often forget to listen. My roots search out water on the surface of the land, rather than in the depths. Sometimes they find shallow puddles and sometimes they find acid rain.
I planted spinach the other day. The other seedlings- the tomatoes and peas, lettuce and Italian basil- are still waiting for me to buy another bag of soil and release them into the dirt. I work with what I have, with exhaustion and depression that wants to crush me. But I can still promise the seedlings another day. Soon, I say. Soon I'll get you to a spacious place. The kids help me. They make the origami seed pots and shovel the earth in. They make small holes in the soil, gently pat the seedlings into place. We do it together.
There is no spinach in the market here. You can find kale, bok choy, mustard greens, morning glory, fiddlehead ferns, and some greens that come from trees, greens I've never tasted. I'm glad to plant my own. There will be spinach in our future. I love the dirt. I only avoid it because of the lies of depression. You can never succeed at being a gardener, they tell me. Don't even bother.
I want to be open and honest, to offer my home and my heart, no matter what it costs me. And I'm learning that the other side to openness is that you can't live in fear of judgement, because certainly, certainly, it will come. It will find you. The world is a judgemental place. Most people know better than you what you should be doing.
But you know all about me. I don't hold much back, anymore. I found that holding things back hurt me. Depression is embarrassing. Anxiety is unattractive. But hiding? Hiding will kill you. This is truth. You need to share it with someone (or everyone) because trying to do all the right things and not let the embarrassing stuff show is like ignoring cancer. The tumor is still growing, and there is only so long before you won't be able to hide it anymore.
Mostly, I reach out with my stilted attempts at kindness, at hospitality, at honesty, and receive even more in return. The other day a new friend drove by with some cookies that I had happened to say I liked. A woman gave me a strong hug and I gave her one back, both of us understanding that we just needed a friend at that moment and we had found one each other. The same beautiful family, knowing that we are struggling financially, gave us a motorcycle with a sidecar, when we could only give the promise of payment.
There are so many beautiful things.
This is what I do. I wake up and get out of bed. I sometimes remember to think about what clothes to put on. I make green smoothies for everyone, with bananas, mangoes, pineapple and kale. When the kids wake up I tell them good morning. I kiss them on their heads. I make breakfast. The kids and I clean the kitchen. We sit down at the lovely wood table for school. We smile at each other.
We do it every day. We smile at each other, we love each other. This is what I have, this is what I give. On many days, I can do more, I can open my house wider, I can love more people, and the kids thrive with this. Their faces open wide like windows, they've grown up being hospitable and they feel most comfortable with many people around.
I smell the heads of my children. I put my cheeks to theirs. I rub my hands over the weathered wood of the table, I watch the curtains that I have sewn, as they flutter in a strong breeze. I say hello to my neighbors, I watch the sky. It has to be enough.
It will be enough.