You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on.
Bill Withers, Lean On Me
There is a part of me that fears writing this next post. This is not a topic that is going to encourage readership but I think it is one that has to be talked about. From this place I am – dealing with depression but not incapacitated by it, I am a voice from the gap in between. I have been at places that are far lower than I am now. I have been stronger than I am now. Neither of those matter as more than hope and experience at this moment.
In the spirit of mindfulness, I can’t run away from what exists in this moment. Even the feelings we label as negative have their lessons to teach so that we can better live all of our lives. They also have the power to strengthen us for the future and to soften our hearts in relationship to others. We are the ones who can choose what these experiences do to us. I choose to let this teach me how to live fully. To do so, I have to listen and speak the truth that I find in my life.
I am not writing to take you down into the deep well with me. The fact is, I am hoping to hang on to the side at only this far down and climb back up from here. I can’t make you any promises. If I make this about pleasing you and these physical symptoms and dark thoughts continue then the “not enough” ferris wheel that I am trying to get off of will become more of my existence.
Neither am I asking you to carry this load for me. This is mine to carry. It is like the mercenary, Rodrigo Mendoza, in The Mission, a movie from the past. At the beginning of the movie he is harming the indigeneous people, the Guaranís. When his fiancée and brother betrayed him in his eyes, he chooses to kill his brother. The results was a depression that fell deep and hard.
Now, I am not saying I have gone off and murdered people or done some heinous crime, but I was raised to have some very harsh and confused inner judges that haven’t quite been silenced yet. I’m working on that, but at times like this, they let me know they are still there. At an early age, I was taught that punishment wasn’t about what you do wrong but about what other people say you do wrong. In a child that becomes a boundary stone of fear of hurting others – that is, if the worse thing she can think of in life is to hurt others. It becomes a vicious circle if the signals in life are too confused and sometimes, there is some real need of repairs.
For someone like me, there is a beautiful image of redemption for Mendoza in The Mission. Mendoza sank into a melancholy that locked him in his cell until Father Gabriel gave him a penance that resonated with the harm he believed he had done in life. He had him join him in the expedition up the falls to the home of the Guaranis. He had him pull a huge sack full of the weapons he had used to destroy others.
Mendoza took to the task with a stony determination that only a dying man can have when trying to save his life. You see Mendoza dragging the sack, pulling it free when it gets snagged, slipping and sliding from its weight while climbing a rain slicked slope. You are left uncomfortably frustrated at what seems like a futile meaningless task. Even Father Gabriel feels that way. At one particularly hopeless moment, he cuts the ropes that are being used to pull the sack.
He has freed Mendoza of the penance he had set. Surely Mendoza would be fine now. Mendoza just looks at him then goes and lifts that sack. In the desire to end his own discomfort at seeing Mendoza’s suffering, Father Gabriel has simply made the load more difficult to carry. There is a road Mendoza must walk to be truly freed.
His redemption comes when he reaches the Guaranis. Their leader finally cuts the last of the ropes binding him to his load and pushes it off the cliffs edge, Mendoza weeps. There is a lightness and a new fire in Mendoza that changes the direction of his life.
We don’t always know why others carry the loads they do. We may feel we have the answers, especially if we have been healing from our own loads but you can’t cut another person free. You can only walk beside them on that hard journey to the place where the broken pieces that have so long been locked away in the dark can come forward and cut the cords from within.
I have learned long ago that this is not a journey that many will join me on. That is okay. I know that the right people will come along. I know that the journey will find redemption in those who I will be able to walk with because of this experience. I know that at the end of this journey I will be stronger than I was when I started.
First I will need to face those places I have hidden in the dark, pushing them out of the way in other healing times to deal with the things that seemed more important then. For me it has been a process of years. When I see how many pieces of me are standing against the darkness this time around, I know the journey has been worth it. I made it before. I will make it again.