Wednesday, July 19, 2006

books and friends

I learned something new about the impact of my depression yesterday: I’m not reading.

I’ve collected books around me like CDs for as long as I can remember. I wanted to be a writer because I was, first, a reader. I learned about the power of language from writers who knew how to focus that power into a series of heart-exploding moments, creating characters that have walked with me through life like friends, moments full of life-affirming resonance, and sentences that stand like granite altars in my life, giving me somewhere I can return to be reminded of who I am and what matters most.

But I’m not reading.

I make my way through my weekly editions of The Nation and The Economist, and take my time during the month to read Harpers and The Oxford American (thanks again, Jack), but I don’t have the energy or resolve or whatever it is to make the journey through a novel anymore than I’ve been able to be a present tense friend to the people I love most. I push myself to write here, my words making marks on the prison walls so I can remember what day it is and feel like I’m doing something. But I am losing contact with the larger narrative of my life, I fear. I’m struggling to remember the story.

I’m not reading.

Yesterday the heat was oppressive here, so Ginger, her parents, and I spent the day at the local air-conditioned mall, eating lunch, seeing a movie (Superman Returns), and hanging out. I took a book to read (The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte) and made it through about twenty pages. I realized this morning that I left it next to my chair at the movie theater. I don’t remember ever doing that before.

Being a good reader is hard work. If you’re going to read a story, you have to be willing to enter the world of the novel, to let the characters come to life; you have to push the writer to tell you everything he or she can about this created world; you have to relate and interact, respond and dream; you have to befriend the characters you encounter.

I ate lunch with a good friend, Christy, on Monday. She has been wonderfully tenacious about pursuing me, continuing to call or email, asking when we can get together. I’ve had the best of intentions and just about the worst of follow through. After months of invitations, we shared ribs and enchiladas this week. I had a couple of other calls from friends yesterday that I’ve not yet returned. As I looked for my novel this morning and listened to voice mail, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m not leaving friends like books in a theater as my depression shuts me out and shuts me down.

I’m not reading; I’m not befriending.

This past weekend, my friends for Nairobi International School days got together in Washington State. Ginger and I had the trip on our calendar for months, but I dropped the ball on the details and by the time I finally got around to trying to find plane tickets it was too expensive for us to go. I’ve got wonderful friendships with deep roots in the story of our lives, friendships I trust and depend on and I don’t feel like much of a friend these days. That’s hard for me because I’ve always seen being a good friend as one of the things I like about myself, along with being a voracious reader.

I’m not reading; I’m not befriending.

I am not myself.

Peace,
Milton

5 comments:

E said...

Milton-

I've been reading your blog for a while, referenced from Gordon over at RLP, and I've greately enjoyed your writing. Your tone, delivery and everything contribute to the content to make it very excellent. This most recent post has, however, made me want to stop lurking and respond.

I feel for you right now, battling with the beast. My pop has dealt with depression for most of my life, and he's going through an upturn right now, which is great- but he had some advice for me, if i were ever to find myself in the same situation: "Push on! keep doing what you do, even when it's hard, because of the satisfaction you get at the end for having completed something, and stuck it to the beast."

On that note, I'd like to send you my copy of "The Nautical Chart". It's a great read, worth every page, and Perez-Reverte is a great author. If you're interested, send me an email (evan.m.doty@comcast.net) and I'll put it in the mail for you.

Luck,
Evan

Joe said...

It's hard to be who we are when we struggle with depression.

I have been fighting mine silently for the past few months. Coming in and out of it. I am trying to find who I was and it's difficult.

We are lucky, fortunate, and blessed men to have wives who are always beside us. Even on our down days. I loved the songs from the previous post.

I just, sort of, wanted to let you know...you are not alone.

Hey, I finally finished Bridge of San Luis Rey two weeks ago. It took me two months but you were right...what a fantastic read.

Joe

gander said...

Milton, it seems to me you are befriending people just fine, if the two replies above are any indication.

You may not feel like yourself but even at the bottom, you are yourself, and we love you.

That said, and apropos of nothing, where did you go for ribs? Blue Ribbon is too far away for me.

Thank you for keeping on. As I always say, press on regardless.

Peace.

don't eat alone said...

Evan -- thanks for sending the book.

Joe -- glad you enjoyed the book.

Gander -- the book on ribs is I was at Tucson Tacos, but the best ribs closeby are at the Red Lion Inn. Come try 'em.

Peace,
Milton

K2 said...

Milton -

I lost many rafiki not too long ago. A very sad decision in my life, but it had to be done.
I hope that you can befriend your rafiki again.
K2