I once wrote a song called “Black Dog.” No, that’s not quite right, it came rolling out without invitation one day when we were about to leave for a long tour right after having done another long tour. I spent three days cooking and doing laundry and getting new markers, paper, and library books for the kids, and as we were about to head out for Kansas I lost it, just collapsed into a noisy wet heap of bellowing sobs and snot. I was mortified but helpless, unable to pull myself together, and Conrad did the only thing he could: piled the kids and me into the van, gave me a roll of paper towel to sop myself up, and started driving west.
The Black Dog was how Winston Churchill referred to his depressive episodes. I inherited the depression gene from my father and unfortunately passed it on to our kids, and we’ve all dealt with it in our own ways. I haven’t had any over-the-top episodes like that for a long time, but between Covid and MAGA I’m having to pay attention to my baseline. On average, it’s pretty low now, and I sometimes catch myself having a hard time figuring out how to get up and take the next step.
Peace and joy are my allies. By some inner revolutionary magic I have become a morning person and I have the sunrise to myself every morning. I’ve come to recognize the carefully orchestrated layers of dawn bird-song, which ones sound off at the first gray light, who joins in later, and who serenades the first spears of gold. I rejoice in seeing the sun’s procession along the horizon, now always just a smidgen to the left of yesterday’s appearance.
Our Sunday treks to watch the ocean are a tonic for me; those waves wash tangles out of my soul. Touch is essential; CB and I embrace often. And my two cats are my secret weapon. They have taught me to accept the simple comfort of being purred upon. I usually take a short nap after dinner, and am learning to feel no guilt about lying on the couch for another fifteen minutes, accepting their furry warmth and thinking about nothing whatever. If I have to do another life, please let me be a cat.