Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Joy, joy, joy.

Eight years ago, I fell into a bout of major depression.  I fell to pieces.  For awhile my family's world shrank as they huddled around me, keeping track of all the pieces, keeping me safe in the cocoon of their love.

My children were frightened.

Before that time, I couldn't have articulated any sort of life philosophy.  Afterward I began to.   Before my depression I tried very hard to keep my life, and my family's lives, on a sort of stable, even keel.  It was exhausting but I felt I had to do it.  Afterward I saw that we live in worlds which are constantly in motion.  It seemed to me that the space I lived in could either contract or expand.

It contracted when I fell apart.  It had to.  But it didn't have to stay that way.

So we went to the most remote part of Costa Rica, and we tramped through virgin rain forest there.  We saw snakes and crabs and lizards; a four-foot long iguana swam in the pool.  We woke to the call of a toucan that liked to sit on our cabin roof.  We ate things we'd never considered edible before.  Monkeys threw sticks at us.  We kayaked through mangroves.  We went to Easter Mass in a church where no one else spoke English, and my daughter's blond hair stood out like the sun.

And we felt better.

Little by little my husband and I took steps to expand our world, not with duties, but with joy.  We both see our work--he's a surgeon--as vocation, and know we are lucky in that.   We try to listen and do what we feel called to do.  But we also make room for joy.

This is a roundabout way of explaining why I don't feel guilty that I just spent two weeks riding my horse down in Florida.

A lot of mothers wouldn't do it.  A lot of my friends think (though they are too polite to say) that I'm ridiculously self-indulgent, and besides, what's with me and the horse anyhow, competing and going off for training, when I have children?  Everyone knows that adults are supposed to be wound up in their children's activities, not their own.  We're supposed to be enmeshed.  Sacrificial.  Aren't we?

No.  I stopped that when I climbed out of the hole I was in.   Joy, joy, joy.  The opposite of depression.  That's what we are called to.  Not happiness.  Joy.