I’m at my friend C.’s lakeside cabin in Maine. We have done nothing the past three days besides eat, sleep, talk, and swim a little. He is here on a sort of retreat from his life, and my situation is similar. Good place for it. Sitting on the deck, we hear the sounds of water, birdsong, insects, the occasional powerboat, the cry of a loon.
I am here on my motorcycle, breaking in the beautiful new machine — my old bike died two weeks ago, and in a burst of extravagance I bought a 2010 model. Unheard of, to have a vehicle so new! (My last one was as old as I am.) She doesn’t have a name yet, but she is already covered in dust from the dirt road between here and civilization. Tomorrow I continue on to Vermont, a ride of at least four hours, to spend the rest of my week off with Sal. It will be ninety degrees, a beautiful day for riding through a beautiful part of the country.
Things are nearly as quiet inside my head as they are outside of it. I credit the pills. They have given me relief from the old vicious cycles. Is it my imagination, or have they also created a kind of shallowness of mind, a distance from contemplation as well as from pain? During prayer time I have been disinterested, distracted; the rest of the day my mind is content to bounce around on the surfaces of things. Is this unusual, or is it just part of my normal cycle? I won’t worry about it yet. The doc and the priest and the shrink and I will sort it all out later, after vacation.
I am still adjusting to the idea of depression as a chemical problem, something solveable, something exterior and undeserved. Last weekend, staying at my parents’ house before the trip, I admitted to my mother that I had always thought of my depression as a moral failing, a character flaw, something that I had more or less brought on myself. She was surprised to hear it, and I was almost surprised at her surprise. I suppose these things are more obvious from the outside: from the inside, depression always feels like a judgment.
I’ve never wholly believed that, but maybe I’d let the idea get more purchase than I should. To friends and family, it is obvious that my depression is something inflicted, something suffered — not, as they say, a part of Who I Am.
Enough. I’m out of cigarettes. Time to take the bike into town.