Say a Little Prayer for Me

12 Jul

Just so you know, I am not always anxious. Sometimes I am depressed. I like to mix it up to keep things interesting around here.

In the course of my quite-extensive self-help studies, I have learned that anxiety and the hyperactivity that comes with it is caused by worrying about and projecting into the future, while depression and the lethargy that comes with it is caused by worrying about and being stuck in the past. They originate, respectively, from going forwards and backwards and being anywhere but – in fact refusing quite adamantly to Be. Here. Now. This opposite direction thing makes them essentially mutually exclusive, and in my self I observe, through one of my favorite hobbies of self-observation, that I am either one or the other, but never both at the same time, as this seems to be some sort of mental health impossibility. (Thank God.) I mean, can you imagine being an anxious depressive or suffering from a depressed anxiety attack? (Oh God.)

In any case, how this has manifested for me (disclaimer: results are not scientific, and are based not on empirical data, but rather on my own subjective processes of once again, self-observation) is that my life often feels like some sort of oscillating depression/anxiety cocktail, in which I swing from one extreme to the other, with brief, rare moments of respite from my self and my forward-leaning and backward-yearning thoughts in the form of quiet pockets of serenity and contentment tenuously situated between my aforementioned extremes. Oy.

Today I was walking through Columbus Circle when two pretty women – one old and one young, both with very broad smiles and exuding an inexplicable warmth – asked me if they could pray for me. They were clumped within clusters of Central Park tour guides frantically pointing to maps and near the horse-drawn carriage area, so I kinda assumed that they were offering a similar type of service and I said, “Nothankyou” mechanically as I breezed past them before they even finished their pitch. I was about to cross the street when what they said struck me. I was curious, why were they standing on the outskirts of Central Park on a dramatically uncomfortable muggy July day offering their prayers as a service amidst the sweating men hocking bicycle tours? The writer in me couldn’t resist the urge to know more. And the human in me wholeheartedly agreed. Since it was unanimous (after waffling a bit at the corner across from Starbucks), I decided to go back.

It turns out that although these pretty women had bright matching smiles, they were not, in fact, mother and daughter. They came to New York City for the first time from Arkansas, and were here for a convention, and they were praying for people. They even had a centralized booth set up that they could refer me to (I am assuming that this was for extreme cases?), and they held stacks of blue flyers listing all the reasons that one might need to enlist someone else’s services of prayer, but I refused a flyer for the same reason I don’t watch the news – I didn’t want to get any ideas of what could possibly go wrong, that I would then latch onto and worry about. They used some religious-speak that made me nervous, so I wished them Good Luck and Have a Nice Stay, and crossed the street towards Starbucks.

But. These Pray-ers got me thinking…

In our society, to me, it seems pretty shameful to admit that you are depressed and to confess to having problems. In our society, to me, it seems pretty shameful to admit that you are human. It seems like there are a great many of us walking around, denying massive chunks of ourselves and our identities every day because these parts don’t fit into some sort of neat pre-defined box of acceptability.

I will confess: I have been depressed. I will further confess: during these times of depression, I have cried openly, on the streets and in subways, and felt lost, afraid, ashamed, and most of all, alone. I have walked down the streets of New York City, and stood in subways, lacking the mechanism that makes me stop crying and so I have continued to cry, and people will do one of two things: they will either 1) ignore me or 2) look at me, and both feel pretty terrible. And I have thought, during the worst of these times, I have tried to communicate, silently and psychically, with the ones that look, and even the ones that don’t – please pray for me, because I feel too far gone to help myself very much right now.

If this post feels preachy, it is because it is based on a prayer. That we can stop hiding the “unacceptable” parts of ourselves, maybe by simply just deciding to accept all parts of ourselves, and that this will in turn free others to do the same. And then, together we can inhabit a world full of whole, complex, complicated, perfectly imperfect self & other-accepting people. The opposite of alone. Here, I’ll start. Now you go.

Prayerfully yours,

Jen G.

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2 Responses to “Say a Little Prayer for Me”

  1. nicole July 14, 2006 at 11:05 am #

    before i launch into a whole post I’m testing this thing out to see if it accepts my post …

  2. nicole July 15, 2006 at 12:20 am #

    OK — I didn’t mean for there to be such a dramatic pause between my posts. My computer shut down, and then the day happened, and now I’m back with a drink in one hand (hypothetically speaking of course) and my computer in the other.

    The whole prayer thing … I don’t pray. I don’t “believe”. I think this is it. And we make the best or worst of it. That said, I’ve dealt with my fair share of depression. And trying to convince my parents (read: mother) that it’s not: a bad attitude, a lack of “trying”, a phase, etc.

    Depression sucks. Literally. It sucks the life right out of its victims. It’s insidious. I hate it. What’s striking (to me, at least, and hell, this is my comment) is that so many writers/journalists are struck by depression. Why is that? Or are the Wall Streeters hit too, they just don’t feel compelled to discuss it?

    I’m gonna post this puppy before my computer decides otherwise.

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