A woman pulled into my driveway. She abandoned the car under a spruce tree, opened the driver’s door and tried to walk. She zigzagged to my wood shed and steadied herself by its corner. By the time I got to her, she was convulsing with tears. Stunned, I folded my arms securely around her and silently held her until she could talk.
Turns out, her itinerary pointed her in the opposite direction from her desire. Depression gripped her confidence and shredded even her maybes. She grasped her last speck of resolve, made a U-turn and followed a line of dotted concentration to my place.
My mother’s chronic depression had taught me to wait. When she was free from its effects, Mom explained that the dark mask of dread had nothing to do with my siblings or me. Apparently impossible to define, I carry her attempted description of depression as a mind having two dozen little legs all squabbling and running in different directions. Peace, order and rationality abandoned her each time the war raged.
My friend finally said, “I cannot make a decision. Am I crazy?”
“Nope”, I said, “It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain. Trouble is, when in the grip of depression, that fact is forgotten.”
“I am disgusted with myself! I didn’t make a decision because I CAN’T make a decision. I don’t know how I feel about anything.”
“You did made a decision! You decided not to head out on a road trip. That’s sanity! Let’s have some tea.”
“I can’t figure out my feelings. I am full of apathy!” she said. “I don’t give a damn about anything…even though everything pisses me off!”
Ironically, I had been thinking about apathy. It’s often mentioned with a subtle tone of disappointment or condescension. I dislike the tone because I feel spanked. Apathy needs to be healed, not disciplined.
Here I was sipping tea with a friend who was claiming apathy, but needed compassion and support. She needed reminding that she is well-loved and perfectly capable of returning to her usual strong persona. If real, her apathy was being fueled by a condition beyond her control at this time.
We brought up examples of her giving. She said, “Sometimes my feelings are so strong that the situation feels too big. I become paralyzed. I don’t know where to begin. So I give up.”
I said, “People seem to love criticizing Oprah. But I really admire her approach to activism. She helps people deal with huge and horrible situations by giving everyone an opportunity to share a nickel. She gives all of us a chance to make a difference – a big difference with a small effort.”
Suddenly my friend stood up, grabbed her bag and said, “I know exactly what I have to do.”
She went home and spoke her truth with her partner. There’s been no depression since. Nor any apathy.
It’s magic having tea with Oprah.