In the last year, I lost multiple contexts. I gave one up voluntarily. The rest ended because of COVID-19 restrictions, or because people moved away, retired, or left particular roles.
None of this dislocation and loss holds a candle to the losses suffered by millions of other people. In my life, change happened that was hard, but nobody died. The isolation imposed by COVID has made everything harder, the silences deeper, the depressive moods harder to escape. That’s all.
I know what changes pointlessness to purpose: the attempt to relieve someone else’s suffering. Responding to someone else’s need. This is not the solution to clinical depression, but it is the answer to the question What can I do with my life that is worth anything?
I’ve never been a first responder, and I’m not in the helping professions. I’ve always worked in tech. But I used to be regularly involved in one charitable activity or another, usually through my church. I helped out. I showed up. Then, slowly, depression claimed me; all I did was work and sleep; then my job ate me alive. Now the depression is better, but still, mostly, I work, sleep, and these days feel anxious enough to worry about having a heart attack.
I think about the things I could do once I retire. I will have time then to be more involved. But I don’t know how I will make it through two more years. There’s a story that is generally told about a man: so-and-so talked all the time about the things he’d do in retirement; when he did retire, he dropped dead soon thereafter. Well, is that me? Do I kill myself at work for two more years, have a few weeks off, and then kick the bucket? I suppose it can happen to women, too.
I wonder if I should move back to the city, where it is easy to be involved. There is always something to help with. It’s harder out here on route 117. There is so much wealth; even the people who are hurting have a long way to fall. But it would be hard to go back to urban life. Here, the woods and fields are balm. I grew up in a landscape like this, and it gives me life.
Depression says, “What does it matter.”
May 2021 give me an answer I can live with.
December 30, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths