6. Sometimes things get lighter.

Jeez, depression. It’s been heavy lately. I am about 30 weeks pregnant with our second child, and I think I am trying very hard, consciously and subconsciously, to work out how to bring this child safely into the world. August’s birth and death keep coming back to me very presently; I keep entertaining “What if…” kinds of questions that I know are pointless — what happened happened — and yet I’m still not finished asking them. Some of them are silly, silly questions. What if we had known about his encephalocele in advance? Maybe we could have created some kind of sanitary cap, a little plastic dome that he could have worn like a bonnet to protect the opening in his skull; maybe then he could have lived.

Of course not. I know that. But I can’t help wondering, and wishing fervently, and torturing myself — what if there was something we could have done to change this terrible outcome?

Lullaby Raft by Naomi Shihab Nye

I am taking part in a writing workshop for the month of June. Each day, when we come into the room, there are books, mostly children’s books, sitting out on our tables for us to peruse until the day’s agenda begins. This morning, the one at my seat was Lullaby Raft by Naomi Shihab Nye — supposedly a children’s book, but it was so dark, full of words and images about loss, depression, fear of death, hiding in hibernation and hoping you’ll wake up to brightness again. How to cross over safely to the other side. I looked at it for a bit, and then we did our morning writing, and I started out writing about that book, which then led me down the rabbit hole of my own depression and darkness. I wrote:

Sometimes I wonder if I stink of loss. If it’s something that hangs over me, an aura, a miasma that others can sense, from which they shrink back instinctively. The person I used to be: quickly lost patience with people who were just too broken. The person I am now: still that way, though now I am broken, too. But maybe I’m not that broken. Maybe I am still strong, still fierce, still fighting. Despite my moments of wanting to give up; of thinking, defeatedly, What the fuck is this all for? Why are we even doing this? Disaffected. Disconnected. Discombobulated. Growing. Emerging. Resonating. Discordant. Sometimes.

After we write, people can share their pieces if they want. I didn’t mean to read mine aloud, but a few people pushed me in a friendly, persistent way to share, so I did, full of misgivings — I felt so uncomfortable loading my in-my-head blatherings about my personal sadness onto these people whom I still don’t know very well.

The professor who leads the workshop had brought in her yoga instructor to lead a yoga session with us, and he was the first person to speak up in response. He talked about the Buddhist idea that we’re born into this world in a leaky boat. Some people, he said, would see that as, “Oh, shit, this boat is leaky — now I have to figure out how to survive??” And to that, he said, “Well, you don’t have to survive…but you get to, if you just breathe, and blink, and see the goodness that’s always all around you.”

There it was: the simple answer I’ve been looking for for seventeen months now. I’m supposed to just keep living through this? Well, there’s no supposed to about it…it’s a get to kind of a thing. And all I gotta do is breathe, and blink, and see the goodness all around me.

Okay — on a different day, that would not have worked. On a different day, I would probably have rolled my eyes and felt deeply irritated that this guy just did not get it. But today he did get it, and his comment lifted me right out of my shit. A few more people shared their pieces, and then we did an hour of yoga and had smoothies (yoga and smoothies — what a lovely writing workshop this is!). I felt better than I’ve felt in weeks. Cleansed. Lighter. Laughing.