There is a newspaper on the table somebody left behind. I gladly pick it up, holding my tumbler filled with just poured decaf coffee. It’s 7 in the morning already, but the sun still hasn’t come up, and the cafe is dimly lit except the area around the big long table designed for readers. It has a library feel to it, and the spot light from above is comfortably soothing. I take the corner seat, with the Post. I came here thinking I would quickly read the Times delivered on my E-reader, and then The Silent Life by Thomas Merton while I watch the sun come up to wake up the town. But instead, I sit there, after the first sip of the decaf, with contently happy smile full of gratitude surfacing on my face. I cannot help but let the smile come. I suppress a lot of things, but smile is definitely not one of them. I am smiling because I instantly recognize the significance of the newspaper. It wasn’t left for me. It was left for anybody by somebody’s good intention. That anybody just happened to be me. But this morning, that small act of kindness comes so personal.
I am a firm believer that every act born of human mind must contain certain level of sacredness. I believe everything should be divine, and divinity is the foremost fundamental substance that makes every act a product of art. If every day is lived in such a way, the whole life of a person is a divine work of art. Saints are extreme examples of such case. When I work at the coffee bar, I do not think of myself as merely a barista, but an artist. Not because I produce crafted coffee, because if it passes the standard then it’s fine with me, but because what I create is an uplifting moment for the person who is waiting for the cup of coffee. If I succeed in creating even a single such moment with one person, I call it a success. A day artfully lived.
And reading a newspaper is one of those divine acts. When I run into an inspirational piece of journalism, it rocks my whole existence to a new reality. It’s a transforming experience, and you would be amazed by how the simple black and white material that appears so dull could provoke such intense ecstasy. Sometimes, I get completely caught up with certain ideas invoked by an article, and I end the day well spent by the mighty power of research rapture.
But that’s on my good days. When I am going through the depressive episode, I am deprived of many activities. I continue to do my best to initiate. I struggle through my daily rituals of waking up at certain time, praying the rosary, reading the scriptures, praying and then meditating, checking wonderful blogs written overnight, and finally, reading the newspaper. I try to hold on to at least these morning routines during the episode so that I can recover back into my normalcy with more ease.
One easy way to monitor my state is using the newspaper or any type of my favorite reading materials as a gauge. Every time I go through an episode, I contemplate canceling my monthly subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. I actually have a list of things that will help my recovery, or the things that need to be done in preparation. One of them is to quit any commitments that I won’t be able to keep, e.g. newspaper subscriptions, or gym membership. They will eat away my balance in my bank account, and if the episode gets so worse that I have to temporarily quit my day job, I won’t be able to afford such luxuries. So this is the most pivotal and practical advice I give to myself.
And though I couldn’t read the papers in my mornings for a while, I kept my subscription this time and continued to pray. The Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, my own mental prayers, and many Our Father throughout the day, while my heart cried “Jesus have mercy on me” ceaselessly. The fear was building up fast at the idea of losing my control, losing the battle, and yielding to the dark power of Depression, for who knows how long I would suffer this time once I fall. Then one night, I slept gripping my favorite rosary, my face covered in tears. My sister prayed over me that night, and continued to pray the next day while I was at work- first time in a while she prayed with such intensity and desperation, she confessed. I believe the last time she prayed in tears like that was when I was going through my last episode months back.
Then, finally, I woke up, feeling normal again. The heavy weight was lifted, and as soon as I regained my full consciousness from my slumber, I knew it instinctively. It was gone. I was rescued. And the whole rescue process happened so fast, too.
Few days ago, I heard about the man rescued from drowning by some divinely lucky chance. His boat was spinning in whirlpool motion after losing its control. The man barely escaped the crazy motion, and was having a hard time staying afloat. Then he was spotted by a TV news helicopter pilot on his routine trip who immediately initiated the rescue plan.
When I first read about that news, I thought, that’s me, that drowning man outside his boat being sucked into the whirlpool motion, is me, about to be helped by the pilot with all-seeing eye, coming to my rescue.
I know, from a very deep place, that this rescue was possible through the prayers. One thing I did differently from my prior episodes is that I prayed the Jesus prayer and the Rosary most frequently. As I reread Our Lady’s 15 promises of the Rosary, I am in rapturous gratitude at the new realization. So many of those promises already came true in most real ways just from this short episode I went through. Actually, I can barely call what I went through an episode. My downfall barely lasted 2 weeks.
So now you see the source of my attachment to this newspaper on the table. It is a gift from God. I know it came from God. I scan through the paper, lingering on the On Faith forum longer than others until I drown more than half of my decaf coffee into my belly. I am loving the sacredness hidden in the act of reading the newspaper all over again. It’s like we are starting a whole new level of relationship fresh, me and the newspaper.
After that innocent love affair, I leave the coffee shop. It is brighter than I preferred outside, but I can’t stop the day from approaching. It’s full-morning now, but the road is still pretty quiet on this weekend morning. It’s a lazy day for a lot of people, but not for me. I have a bright day waiting for me, to suit my bright mood. Once I arrive the apartment, I quickly change into my running clothes to keep my commitment I made weeks ago. I am going to start running again, like I did for so long before my last long episode that began in Hawaii struck me. I am going back to that person I was once. Slowly, but I am getting there.
I see only handful of cars passing by and a couple of runners the whole time I run. Inside, I am joyfully proclaiming, ‘I am back. I am back. I am back!’
Then, I am really back at the apartment. I sit on the dining table after the quick shower, and pull up the newspaper screen on my computer. My cheeks are still red from the run, and I smell like fresh rain from the shower gel I used. I read about a Greek poet in her 80’s talking about her country being Darkness and chaos.
“People say to me, ‘It’s a consolation.’ And I wonder how I can console them because I myself am inconsolable.”, Kiki Dimoula says(Saturday Profile, NY Times 1/12/13). She consoles me today by reminding myself to resign from my wicked brain job. Sometimes I feel like I have the peninsula of Greece in its current darkness and chaos looming over my own head. If I were slightly more psychotic than I am right now, I would firmly start to believe that I am mitigating the sufferings of Greece through my own mental suffering. There are actual people going through sufferings with immediate reasons that threaten their physical survival. Standing on a hilltop, I cross my arms, looking down at the day-old mind of mine. It’s still trapped in its frantic whirlpool motion. I tell the weak one, ‘Get out of yourself. If not, stay trapped like that forever. I hope you never get out to torture me ever again.’ I almost sound like that unsentimental voice of Kiki Dimoula in her poems. And so, the inconsolable consoles me. And I lose myself for a minute picturing myself consoling her if she were here sitting with me.
Mrs. Dimoula wrote her collection in 1988 in honor of her first husband she lost to death. “How could you get back what has disappeared?” From that question resulted her book “Hail, Never”. I sit, and stare at the black and white monitor filled with words, words that I love once again. But so lost in words, I was seeing a vision of Mrs. Dimoula sitting right across from me in my sister’s dining room. “Mrs. Dimoula, you were so close to answering your own question. Try Mary, instead of Never, Hail, Mary, that’s how. Now, please, enjoy this cup of decaf coffee, that’s the only kind I have. Caffeine triggers my depression so I am only allowed to drink decaf which is the only kind of coffee that I keep in this house. But, of course, if you must have caffeine, we could walk across the street to the coffee shop. It’s only 5 minutes away on foot. And I happen to work there. But as you can see, it’s my off day today which is why I am home.”
I have a feeling that she will run off from me before I even finish half of my sentences.
Meaningless words, I am jabbering in my head, entertaining no one else buy myself, and so– I really must be back. Two hours passed by already. I just now realize that my morning had flown by so swiftly. It’s time for lunch, and I need to feed my brain with something so that I can have some energy to continue to flourish on this island of research rapture. I have just discovered another world, the world of Kiki Dimoula. Considering the fact that she is an 81 year old national poet from Greece, and that I have no knowledge of Greek language, this could twist my brain in a whole new way. And that’s exactly the kind of sweet torture that I need right now.
But before I indulge, I need to make a trip to feed my brain so it can actively get twisted. Einstein Bros Bagels is my choice. Not just one Einstein, but it’s Einstein bros. I am in for a treat this afternoon and forward.
I am back— to move forward.