Like trying to get hair off your fingers in the shower. Trying to wash it off but it clings to you. This is the depression, and it is here again, from the chaos of this spring, of 5-hour nights of sleep with writing and writing and writing and in between wondering about God and gay friends and if I was wrong and who I was going to be. Here, in the space between chaos and chaos, which I always craved, here I am at my darkest. A plain bland world where I’ve accomplished nothing. With no deadlines, or fluid ones that I push beyond reason. I spent a week doing 20 minutes worth of work by applying to jobs instead. Turning down interviews for the first time in my life, which should feel good, that I have that choice, but it is simply too much. Too many possible roads. All of them leading away from Greensboro and this apartment I love and people that I love. But I feel sick staying, too, in a small city where I know too many people, and they know the not-me, the please-love-me me, the me that went to church. To change inside while remaining in the same physical place is to experience a strange sort of displacement.
Running my fingers over the oranges in the supermarket feels different. There is a different music behind it now. But I remember this was how last summer felt, in the beginning of allowing my questions about church to see light, in the house with the cockroaches and creaky tilting floors and the door that never truly closed and the big useless TV. It felt like this in the stretches of days at Pace, with two mugs of coffee, with the ritual of the drive up Elm and Jess Ray and entering my password seven times to get into the computer where I would move words around for 7.5 hours and then go home.
And I remember. I have always been sad. This is not new. The feeling of freezing solitude under blankets in the treehouse in January, hands cupped over my nose, of the attempted hike up Mt. Mitchell in the somehow bleak early morning sunlight. The only sounds my breath and the crunch of ice under my numb feet. And how my banana was frozen when I returned to the car defeated.
Then, in May, reading the Witch at Blackbird Pond with an achy back in the bus in Pittsboro by flashlight, waiting to exhale, and then descending back into the weekly rhythm of CityLife and the column and my culture story and whatever news I was martyring for and wondering: when does this ever end? But also: the Saturdays of easy moments on couches and in kitchens being loved with nothing asked of me. It feels new and different, to be loved without a box to fit me in. I am afraid. Of my murky faith-road ahead.
No one ever told me that life would feel this dangerous. I took comfort in the church I knew, its nurturing isolation from pain, its pettiness distracting from wars and hate happening outside. I took comfort in Christian friendship, its simplicity, its lack of tension, and the thought of dating another Christian man. I no longer know what I hope for when it comes to my earth-bound faith journey. I want to love God and be loved by God. Weren’t those always, ever, the only requirements? To discover I’d attached, or been given, so many extras — atheists are lesser/foolhearty, your body must be put away, all that is not Christian is full of darkness, a physical-building Western church is where to be most loved, and your cherished lgbtq friends are not fully welcome there — is like finding out your bride has been cheating on you. It is a sickening weight.
The worst is that I must do something about it, I think. Mark said he chose to wade into Hope Chapel because he chose that community. I like that phrase. It is full of grace for himself and others. Wade is specifically useful of a word. Because that is all I can ever do. It’s just the where. Not NYC/other or Greensboro/elsewhere, I mean all of it. Do I stay in or abandon the spaces my faith grew from, of a white American church informed by evangelicalism and stay to gently shake people and allow them to continue to challenge me? Or do I let that chapter pass, and continue to experience God’s love in community, as he said was a good idea, in the context of something less painful and more justice-constructive?
I know that the three types of most important work are the slowest kinds: religion, family, and government. The one-by-one personal facebook messages or twitter conversations, with passion and gentleness, about bi visibility or birth control access or community service, of the frustrating and inexplicable marriage between flavors of conservatism that hurt marginalized people more than they heal them and my church and Christian college heritage. The roots of homeschooling intertwined with white supremacism. The roots of purity culture and youth group lessons in an entire generation’s shame.
These are the conversations that make the slow change happen. I never have the patience for it, but that is between myself and myself. I have kept all of this private because to air out anything opens me up to advice I do not want — why would it not — and to hold it tightly is to project an image of myself that is fine, when I never have been. I have kept this blog silent for a long time. I couldn’t bear verbalizing. I can’t bear pity over this important season, as I’ve encountered in some friends, their mourning what I call freedom, finally, from the lie that God can only be worshiped in one certain narrow way, that the bible can only be interpreted one certain way. To be pitied here as I splash around in a waterfall of freedom is the ultimate judgment. It is calling my God-joy wrong.
And: the grace of shaking the final remnants of guilt over my depression, the lie that it is an illness of privilege, and instead bear it without that added weight.
I keep waiting for these words to cleanse me and heal me. I left my journal at Ridge Haven in a pocket of a rain jacket, Aunt Alice has it now. This is why the leaving or staying is hard. When both choices are equally terrifying, this is how I know that change must happen. Because both choices will rip apart my comfort. Staying, becoming new in this old place, taking a job that might not be as satisfying but saving up money and paying my taxes and staying with dear Maddie and watching Whittaker grow up. Or leaving, taking an exciting job in NY or somewhere else. Could I bear to move back to NYC? Could I bear to move to Raleigh? It’s the attractive choice. It’s a better bet, and not as dramatic of a change. Stay closer to family. Risk less. But also a total change.
I have been so hungry for love from people that it is embarrassing now to encounter people I once pounced on, in the Goodwill, when I once juggled phone dates like a receptionist and now can’t bear to answer calls from dear Kate because of the sheer effort of talking to someone. How do I reenter old relationships as a new person? Of course this is me wondering if I’ll still be loved. It is always so tempting to unplug and run. Today I’ll choose to stay. I WILL write this piece for UNCG before getting cereal and veggie burgers if it kills me. I WILL shower this grapeseed oil treatment out of my hair. I WILL go over to Anthony’s and not think about all the everything and we will watch Jurassic Park. Maybe I will even bring myself some wine. We’re going to make chicken carbonara. Bacon is a good place to start.