I finished the book with a ringing and surprising affirmation: “I am not like that!! I don’t wrestle with acedia or depression. That has never been who I am.” I had just put down Acedia & me by Kathleen Norris, a writer whom I really admire, struck by the differences between us, both women on a deep spiritual path.
I have always affirmed how different each of us is. I believe that our journeys towards God are highly individual, but I have never experienced that like I did in reading this book. I had bought the book when it first came out several years ago. I had tried to read it then, but the few pages I managed sounded so like depression that I was not interested.
Just last week I picked it up again, called by some inner impulse, and began to read it in full. I learned that acedia and depression share some things in common, but that acedia’s roots go back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers—it was a fact of life for them, a challenge to the very life they chose, a kind of globalized longing for an escape from the very routine and life they embraced.
My husband, I suspect, would have loved it the book, because it mirrored his struggles. His depressions culminated in a ten-year long one that finally healed the wounding of his child’s soul—his parents’ divorce(in 1947) and the denigration of his mother then lost to him whom he resembled both physically and personality-wise. Although we never knew the term, I think he would have embraced acedia, too, as part of his life.
I learned to live with a depressed husband, at first trying to cheer him up, then pushing away the depression, protecting my self from it, afraid of being consumed by it. Other family members have also suffered from depression, so by now it is a comfortable place for me to be. But it has never been my way of dealing with the world. I will admit to awakening very occasionally with depressive thoughts, but my nature is much more engaged than that. I am prone to self doubt and fear, but I also have a strong streak of forward movement, much like the Ram, under whose sign I was born.
It takes a long time in a life to heal these preconscious childhood choices, ways of dealing with trauma and difficulties in our lives—depression, self-doubt, timidity, aggression–just to name a few—that were made before the reasoning mind is formed. For me my life surrendered to Christ has brought me, time and again over thirty years, healing of the very basic woundings and unproductive thinking in my life. Freed at last of the power of fear and doubt which used to derail me, now I express more and more of my purpose, as revealed to me in Christ’s continuing call to me.
I have felt for years that I am following a very specific-to-me life curriculum that is bringing me more and more to my created purpose. Those lessons probably wouldn’t work for any one else, each person’s path is designed only for that person. Christ knows us so well—our present reality and the grand plan that expresses our life’s purpose–that only his ministrations and those of the Holy Spirit can bring us to our own fulfilling wholeness.
I so admire Katherine Norris who has been an inspiration to me in my own spiritual journey. Both youngish widows I might have assumed that our paths looked alike. Now I know that she and I are not the same at all, nor has her journey been like mine at all! And yet she still inspires and enlightens me.