This is one in a series of posts about the summers of my life. It has seemed for years that my depression gets worse in the summer, and I’m looking for patterns to discern why that might be.
The summer of 2011 was a time when I was looking for something new. I felt stuck, understimulated, and cranky. I journaled an awful lot that summer; I have a nice record of how I felt, and what I did.
One of the themes of that summer was reaching out to try and do more. For one thing, I was working hard at trying to be a different sort of leader at church. My default leadership style has always been to encourage other people to take charge of things. I was learning, however, that that didn’t work as well as I hoped in all situations. I was toying with trying to lead in new ways, actually taking charge of a vision in things. One way I did this was by developing a creative way to help the congregation meet a serious budget deficit. That program didn’t come to pass during the summer, but I spent a lot of the summer designing and tweaking the program. That was what this summer was all about, in retrospect: making plans that wouldn’t see fruition yet.
In June, I also submitted an application to my old seminary to start a new degree program, an S.T.M., “Master of Sacred Theology,” which sounds far more cosmic and pretentious than it really is. I eventually was accepted, but took no courses yet. Shortly after submitting that application, I found out that the chaplain at my alma mater was resigning, and I got really excited, feeling that that would be a perfect job for me. I spent weeks checking their website over and over again, wondering when they’d post the position. I contacted my bishop to see what, if anything, he could do to help. Once they finally posted the position, I quickly cobbled together my application, and submitted it. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. It wasn’t easy.
During the meantime, I explored existentialism, a particular interest of my therapist. I found it exhilarating and frustrating at the same time, the thought that there is no meaning in life except what you give it. I tried to find meaning in all the waiting I did that summer. It wasn’t easy.
In the waiting, I asked my wife to help to alert me when it seemed like I was giving into the Dark Voice. In the waiting, I decided to preach a sermon in which I “came out” to my congregation about having depression. In the waiting, I revisited an old project I’d worked on about seven years earlier, a project I called “1997,” because it was to be a narrative of a particularly powerful (and potentially interesting) year in my life. In the waiting, I tried to improve myself. It wasn’t easy.
The summer of 2011 turned out to be a rough summer, because I was searching so much for something that kept not appearing. In a way, I’ve been living in that same place for about a year now, since I began to send the manuscript of my book Darkwater to publishers, only to get rejections or silence. There is still hope for it, but it requires so much waiting. And I don’t find it to be easy. But the summer of 2011 can teach me that in the midst of this waiting, I can learn from it. In the midst of this waiting, I can work on other things. In the midst of this waiting, I can count blue cars and tilt against windmills.