Tag Archives: depression

Knock-knock! Who’s there? Depression season!


They’re here. The long, cold, damp winter months with their smothering darkness. So bring out those UV and infrared lamps and steer clear of depression.

By the way, what is the deal with this depression epidemic nowadays? Is it the sensory deprivation of our virtual environment, the lack of true friends, the materialism, the stress, too little love, too little physical work, not enough time spent outdoors? Do we even invest our happiness cleverly? Do we depend too much on convenience, perhaps? Do we allow ourselves to be possessed and driven by finite things?

To be honest, we probably shouldn’t complain. We are privileged. So what if the things we want don’t just fall in our laps? We can’t build character by theorizing cozily in front of the TV, there has got to be some level of effort involved in making our lives more meaningful. Hard work, family, community involvement – these should be catalysts. If they’re in the right balance, they can energize us instead of exhausting us.

So why is depression threatening to become the plague of the century in the postmodern world? Do we have it too easy? Do we have too much time to get bored? Have we seen it all? Is there nothing out there that can inspire us, and enthrall us, and give us hope on a profound level? Or have our societies and expectations become too complex, too competitive, too tough to navigate? Why do so many people feel helpless, abandoned, and overwhelmed by scary forces way beyond their ability to cope? What is the missing ingredient? Could it be…. (oh, no! – gasp of horror – we’re enlightened people!)… could it be God???

I can’t help but remember the homesick asylum-seeker from northern Iraq. “We lacked nothing over there; we had everything we needed. I only left to save my children from the bombs.”  Then he’d take out a picture and show us his great fortune: a mud house and two goats. That was enough to him. That was his notion of “enough“. What was he thinking? What was his angle? He didn’t even complain about the church service being too long (he was an Orthodox christian). In their village, it lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In our congregation, we come in at 10:30 and get itchy feet at noon…

The answer has to be more truth, more spirituality.  An ephemeral and relativized existence, completely “rooted” in the quicksands of the here and now, and as a grand finale our irreversible transformation into food for worms – that doesn’t offer a very cheery perspective, does it? Besides, if you think you are the center of the Universe, that can only lead to depression. Because you will assign the same degree of importance to your problems, too. And that in turn will make them seem cataclysmic. The laws of physics tell us that objects close by appear larger, and objects farther away appear smaller. Sometimes, the farther away we are from God, the more it seems like He has no place in the world, that He’s negligible. Yeah, right… about as negligible as the Sun – from where we stand, that’s also just a “small” ball of fire in the sky, and yet it inexorably lights and warms up our lives. And just because it’s hidden behind some clouds, you don’t have to give up trusting that it exists. Or that it makes life possible.

So forget your worries.  The sun will shine again. (Even though, in some parts of Germany, that is hard to believe 🙂 ).

Everything is taken care of on a higher level.

Small town blues


I used to be a big city girl, dynamic and fulfilled. But then I emigrated and became a shadow.

First, I couldn’t speak a word of German. Yes, to the extent that I would bring home a jar of red cabbage thinking it was red beet. By the time I was einigermaßen able to communicate, I realized I had learned the wrong language. They don’t speak German at all around these parts – that is, when they do speak at all. They rarely open their mouths to strangers, and then only to purse their lips and bring forth some utter Bavarian mumbo-jumbo. No, actually it’s oberpfälzisch. Try pronouncing that sober.

Second, unless you are an automotive engineer or a financial controller, the wonderful world of gratifying youthful careers like salesperson, caregiver for the elderly, or cleaning lady beckons. Or you can let the luminous beacon of motherhood guide you. Because everyone seems to expect full, 24/7 devotion at the shrine of motherhood. For ever. Oh, and by the way, if you do that, by the time your kids start school your brain will have completely dissolved and turned to goo, you won’t remember how to spell your own name correctly, your progeny will treat you as the in-house servant always on duty, and your husband will actually believe he is smarter than you. (People don’t appreciate, people take for granted. The key to true appreciation is scarcity.) In fact, I have come to feel like a walking uterus with hands. Day-care is harder to come by than Chinese rare earths, and twice as expensive.  The skies are almost always gray and oppressive like the inside of a coffin, and a sense of stale futility permeates everything. 

All my attempts, efforts, and endeavors are stultified and made sterile by this all-encompassing small town sense of conformity, convention and futility. With their fleet of perfectly polished cars, their cute little gardens, their spoiled little brats with their unapologetic sense of entitlement (as if they had been born into the local aristocracy), and the snooping neighbors who complain about every sound, there comes a perverse sense of safety and prosperity which deceives people into doing precious nothing with their lives… Old country for old people. With their dangerous veil of  “stability” and picayune interests, which can make the lucky few truly happy, but which most of the time  really only means stagnation, small German towns are the stalwart defenders of all things old. The front line of resistance against all things new. Well, except new cars, of course.

The idea that your entire intellectual universe has to stop dead in its tracks the moment that first child comes tumbling out of your body…  As if there is only one definition of love that is small-town endorsed and small-town valid. And life is all about routine, acceptable patterns and saving face.  Everything clean and perfect, no visible suffering – you know, just the occasional postpartum wreck chopping up her baby and laying him to rest in the freezer, just the occasional homicidal father, strangling his wife and all of their five children before setting the apartment ablaze, just the old people in wheelchairs in homes on the outskirts of town, in their Alzheimer’s daze, everything green and peaceful and quiet…