By Richard Bleil
Today was beautiful. I elected to go for a drive in the Black Hills, and found it to be cathartic. I meant to run a quick errand, but honestly, my depression was getting the better of me, and frankly, when I’m depressed, driving helps, especially in the Black Hills.
The Black Hills is considered to be highly spiritual by the Native People. I tend to agree. A friend of mine contacted me very late last night, complaining of her church. Her concern is that the people in her church are too judgmental, and don’t understand her and her struggles with depression. My advice to her was that, whether one belongs to a church or not, each person has a highly personal relationship with God, and it’s important to “screen out” the voices of those who detract from that relationship. And, frankly, if somebody does not have direct personal knowledge of depression, meaning if they do not deal with it themselves, they will likely no understand.
My relationship with God is probably more Wiccan than anything else. I say this because I tend to feel closest to God when I am in a forested area, especially near running water, as in a gurgling brook. When I drive, I often speak with God, and let my mind relax. A couple of weeks ago, I tried this on a drive to an interview, and it failed miserably (well, the drive did thanks to a pot hole, or perhaps more appropriately, a pot crater). Although they did allow for a video conference interview and have been invited back for a second interview. But, driving I can let my mind wander, and my cares fade.
What is always missing on my drives, sadly, is a partner. I often wish I had somebody to explore with me, but, frankly, when I have had a companion, it seems they have been disappointing. It’s not just having somebody breathing oxygen next to me, but rather, being with a partner that feels like a partner. One of my former students shared a photograph today from a hockey game, with his wife and two (very young) children. It’s not the first time they’ve done this sort of thing; they are a fantastic couple, or so it seems on social media. No doubt they have their bad days, but his wife frequently shares photos of them together, their children, all sharing time together. But for a relationship to work, I believe the two have to really care about each other.
When you’re depressed, you don’t always want to talk. Sometimes, you need to be alone, but when you’re alone knowing that somebody is waiting for you somewhere, somebody cares, you can turn to somebody is different from being alone with nobody anywhere. It’s the difference of being alone, versus lonely. Today, I was lonely.
I was lonely last year as well. Okay, big shock, I know, but here’s the true surprise: last year, I had a girlfriend. But, I’m not convinced that she actually cared. Sadly, she was rather immature and self-involved. I think she wanted to care, but I don’t think she knew how to get beyond her own needs. There is an old song, the lyrics of which are “Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one.” She taught me what that means.
I suppose there are two lessons from today’s catharsis. First, if you are with somebody who is a partner, truly a partner, there is no way to put a value to it. I certainly don’t mean it has no value, but, rather, there is no way to assess a value. When I was six, NASA landed men on the moon. The original plan was for the astronauts to walk on July 21, 1969, but they radioed that they would not be able to sleep anyway, so they walked on July 20. My parents had bought commemorative brass coins, minted in advance, with the wrong date. I don’t know where they got them, and there seem to be no coin experts that believe it has any value, but that doesn’t mean it’s without value to me. A great relationship has value that is beyond measure, and if any of my readers are in such a relationship, I strongly urge them to express to their partner how important this relationship is, and find a way to make the partner feel special.
The second lesson is an old one, that, frankly, it’s probably better to have no relationship, than to be in a bad one. I’m a lone, and lonely, but when I was in a relationship, it added a layer of confusion and guilt. I was with a woman, and I felt bad that I still felt alone. I wondered what was wrong with me that I had a girlfriend and still felt alone. In fact, as I reflect on it, the fault was not with me. Let’s be fair, it may not have been with her either; chances are we just were not compatible, but nonetheless, I was still alone.