The Field Between

A view of the world distorted by rain


Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field: I’ll meet you there. 

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? So effortless. The answer to everything from spats with spouses to world peace, except for this one small detail: it takes  years of mistakes to learn how to do it.

Like everything else in life that is worthwhile.

And this, my friends, is the post for another day that I mentioned exactly six months ago. Spring was dawning on that day, April 26th, 2012, when I mused on Rumi’s and other favourite  quotations. The grass was freshly green, the trees just beginning to bud, the air permeated with the smell of damp soil and fresh growth. Now I find myself on the brink of that other season as the grey creep of winter sets in and the last colourful leaves fall.  This is the season when depression threatens to descend.

Today, I am reminded of those lines from Rumi and of a discussion I had with my husband last spring. I am reminded of another popular line that folks say to us sometimes when we’re chewing on an issue like it’s a bone we can’t drop:  Can’t you just let it go?

Well, yes, actually, I can.

I learned to let go the hard way, in drawing my husband into yet another ill-fated conversation about my longstanding struggle with depression, one of countless discussions over the twenty-odd years of our relationship.  I had yet to realize that repeating the same idea, using different words, does not get the message across. It’s an experiment I tried one thousand times before finally realizing that my hypothesis was wrong, that hypothesis being: if someone I love hears me, if someone miraculously understands my situation, then I will feel better.

That equation just doesn’t hold. Not in my experience anyway.

If a friend tries to explain to me what it feels like to have rheumatoid arthritis, say, or even a sore throat, can I get my head around what it feels like? Not likely. And where depression is concerned, as Michael Landsberg points out, there aren’t any outward or measurable symptoms.  “If you tell someone that you are suffering from depression, they have to take your word for it,” he says in his superb documentary, Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me.  And the truth is that lots of people – even loved ones – don’t take your word for it, and if they do, most of them still think depression amounts to a weakness of character, nothing more.

That’s the message I get from my husband.

It is a tough place to find yourself, sitting beside the person who you want most to know you and he doesn’t understand. It is an awful let down. Maybe this dilemma stems from our culture’s fairy tale insistence that we all find our soul mate. Maybe it’s a result of our misunderstanding of what soul mate means. Maybe Richard from Texas was right: the job of our soul mate is to show us where our weak spots are.  Or in this case, to kick us when we’re down to make us stronger.  This is what happens, you see, if you try to explain depression to a hard-ass pragmatist born in the Week of the Ruler, you end up depressed and cynical.

This is where I find myself sitting, with a dear husband who just doesn’t get it and probably never will, when it occurs to me, finally: it’s not his job to get it. It’s my job.

Sometimes taking care of yourself means allowing yourself to be misunderstood, Laura Munson wrote. And doing what you need to do anyway, I would add, and what I need to do now is drop the topic of my depression with my husband because there is no winning this. There is no solace for me here.

And I just let it go. Finally.

That’s when I realized I’ve found it – Rumi’s field – and that I’ve set myself free.  I close my eyes and breathe it in deeply, breathe out, and smile. It hasn’t come easily. No, it’s been years. I don’t expect I’ll always find my way here, to this peaceful place, but I will certainly keep trying. If I found the path once, I can find it again. Trust me: It’s a great place to be.

(Blogger’s note: This is an excerpt from my essay “Finding Myself in Rumi’s Field”.)