This is one of a series of posts about a trip I took to walk labyrinths in July 2022. See this post to see why I refer to these labyrinths as my “Emmaus labyrinths.” Note: the numbering refers not to how many labyrinths I walked on this trip, but to the total number I’ve blogged about so far.
This is a seven-circuit classical labyrinth, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Stone walls mark a gravel path. By the time I reached this labyrinth, it was getting rather hot and humid, and the clouds were not blocking the sun very effectively. I’ve never liked being in the sun on hot days, and I was wondering if making this trip in July was a mistake. So the question I carried into the labyrinth was this: “I’m hot and tired, and feeling like this may have been a mistake. What do you [God] want to tell me?”
I was very surprised by what I heard. The first thing I heard was, You can learn a lot, even when you are uncomfortable. Okay, that wasn’t surprising. Annoying maybe, but not surprising. So I responded, “Like what?” Here was the surprising thing: Like the fact that how you’re feeling on the outside now is so much like how you feel on the inside so often.
Huh? I had a strong feeling this was a reference to how I feel when depressed and anxious, but that didn’t make sense to me. I always thought of feeling depressed as being cold. I always thought that’s why I loved late autumn so much – because the world was starting to get so cold and dark, the hot edge of summer gone, the melancholy smell of death in the air. I thought I loved it because it resonated with the goth melancholy running through my veins.
But under that hot sun, I thought about it. When I’m cold I want to bundle up and keep moving. But when I’m hot, particularly when I’m under the sun on a hot and humid day, I just want it to stop. I just want to hide in the shade, and make the sun disappear. And I’m so angry at how long the days last on these hottest days. And I often feel so annoyed that so many people love this kind of weather, love to be outside and play in it, while I find it miserable. And I guess that is actually a better description of how it really feels when I’m caught in a loop of self-hatred and misery brought on by guilt over something I think I did wrong. It’s not cold. It’s not melancholy and cool. It’s overwhelming and nightmarish. I can’t think straight, and all I want is for it to stop. But the days are so damned long.
So yeah – this hot sunny day is kind of how it feels inside. And maybe the reason I like late autumn so much is precisely because it offers respite from that. Maybe the melancholy isn’t the problem I fight inside. Maybe melancholy and depression aren’t the same. Maybe I am just a goth at heart, and the melancholy of October and November resonates with me.
People so often associate depression with “the blues.” But maybe depression really isn’t blue to me – maybe the blue is the profound baptismal waters washing over me. (Maybe baptism is melancholy? That doesn’t sound half bad.) But depression is the orange of the dog days of summer, burning and smoldering.