On Fridays at the Jesus Creed blog we converse about a book that helps us form friendships, and we are now reading through Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me: Marriage, Monks and the Writer’s Life. This is a book that paints pictures of “acedia” — something that wanders in between depression and apathy and a simple lack of care. Our chp today vulnerably sketches her shaky marriage.
Honest, not always pretty, narratives of marriages reflect the Bible’s way of narrating the lives of folks like Abraham and David and Solomon and others. There’s a warts and all approach to an honest narrative. Why, then, are we so prone not only to fudge in the direction of telling the stories of Christians with “it’s all good” but also to speak of marriage as if there will be no struggles? What are your thoughts? What about solutions? What do you think we could do?
We need more real stories like this. We need them so that those whose lives are wrapped up in depression, double depression, marriages in stress can hear the words of others that might give others words that tell their story. And find there are others in the journey with them. (And the post just below this one is one in which the author, Matt Rogers, didn’t find others who were in his [not unusual] story.)
Both Kathleen and her husband, David, suffered from depression — but as poets and artists they were agreed that the depressions were actually also moments of creativity. Complicating their relationship was his deep problems with the Roman Catholic faith of his mother and Kathleen’s discovery of her Protestant faith, shaped as it was also by Benedictine spirituality.
What Kathleen didn’t know was the depth of her husband’s distress. She discovered a suicide note; David had left the home and miles away; she sought help — and gratefully he was found miles away. “It was as if David had turned inside out.” The psychiatrist’s diagnosis: “psychotic melancholia” along with “exceptionally well-defended neuroses.”
How did she cope? The Psalms.
After David had healed enough to return home they were near strangers and had to learn to love one another. She sums it up: “The person you’re committed to spending your life with is known and yet unknown …” — only in her case this was an acute situation.
They chose to “stay together. We took our two steps forward, three steps back, then one forward and five back. But we kept on walking. For us, it was the only way.”