Conversation with Dieuwke

Note – one item of profanity

Dieuwke comes into my bedroom and gives me a hug when she enters. It’s always like this, every night she’s here. It’s been about 10 years since she’s been working for me as a caregiver and we have our set routines, just like any long-term relationship. After hugs, she goes on the other side of my bed, where I’m lying, and sits in the rocker by the sliding door. We catch up on our week, but our conversations are never light or superficial. When we ask each other how we are, we tell the truth. We get down and dirty. This soothes me, even when the truth is hard to take. Speaking my truth and listening to hers, releases something inside me and calms me down.

Tonight, she tells me she realizes she’s depressed. “About what?”, I ask, sitting up. I really want to hear this.

“It’s taken me awhile to figure out what I’m feeling. It’s this searching thing…”: She looks off into space as if whatever she is searching for is out there somewhere. “Nothing is fulfilling”. I furrow my brow, trying to understand. “We look for the next thing to make us feel satisfied, you know(?) We want to fall in love, or, in our restlessness, we want to move somewhere… or…” – she drifts off for a second – “but any real satisfaction we get doesn’t last long”.

This interests me. I understand what she is talking about. She’s talking about the human condition, I realize, and this I can wrap my mind around. Buddhists are often talking about this sort of thing.

“To me”, I say gingerly, testing out my thoughts and words, “this realization is actually good news, even when it doesn’t feel like it”. We both laugh, understanding.

“Yeah”, she says, her blue eyes brightening. “We’re supposed to be happy about this. When we get it that we can’t be truly fulfilled by outer experiences, we stop searching so much and go inward”.

“Yup”, I say, watching her.

“But I’m fed up with these spiritual teachings and reading books on spirituality”. She sticks out her tongue, then laughs.

“Yeah – fuck them!”, I say gleefully and laugh along with her.

The truth in not always easy. It’s kind of depressing when we remember we “can’t get no satisfaction”, at least long-lasting, in worldly pleasures. I mean I love my Rice Dream bars, and going to my book group & hanging out with my friends when I can, but when the ice cream’s done, or I come home from a gathering, there can be a subtle sort of emptiness or let-down that can come with it. That’s the kind of depression Dieuwke is talking about. Everybody feels it; just maybe not aware of it.

This doesn’t mean we need to become nuns and monks and close ourselves off from the world; like going to gatherings or doing things that give us pleasure – those of us who have chronic illness often feel cut off from the world as it is. Understanding that these things come to an end at some point, we can, for example, more-fully appreciate and enjoy the soft sweetness of ice cream or a lively conversation with a friend. In this regard, life becomes more poignant. While we are engaged in such activities, we begin to understand that there is something else that is continuous, that holds these passing experiences, that lies within them, and is not separate from them that we can depend on.

This type of awareness comes slowly and is something all of us (able-bodied or not) must go through repeatedly. We need reminding to wake up out of our reverie. And this requires patience. And it requires conscious practice. And it requires kindness.

What do you think?

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