The Audacity of the Poppy

Depression is an old old acquaintance, welcome as a yeast infection and as easily recognizable.  The first sign is the molasses of inertia which prevents me from doing anything about it; the second sign is the realization that I really really really must do something about it.  So finally I do, and a therapist waits in the wings, ready to save my soul from more self-destruction.

In the meantime, I endure one of the four perfect days a year.  The perfect days are one’s days of preference; for most people that means sunny and 85 degrees.  For me, that does mean sunny, but a bit cooler: 50 degrees is just about perfect, and I prefer a breeze, please.  My friend Joan says that on one’s perfect days, one is working, or hungover, or sick, leaving just a single day a year for one to enjoy (awkward construction, that).  So last weekend, not working or hungover or sick, I suffered through a perfect day.  Dragged the dog outside, cursed the breeze, grimaced at the sun.  Bore poorly the sounds of birds cooing, felt affronted by the bath of fresh air.  DEFINITELY time for the therapist.

What grows within, though, is this tiny kernel of hope.  I start to look forward in the measured way you do when you’re at the point of a flu arc when you don’t actively want to die, and can picture having the energy to, oh, eat a cracker without groaning in pain.

And with hope, which is the opposite of depression (for me anyway), comes audacity.  Because, who am I to think I deserve certain things? Oh, my aims are modest, to be sure: I like to pay bills on time, I like seven consecutive hours of sleep,  I like a tidy house.  I like the feeling of contentment that comes with having treated people well, and rationally, without having to review tape and pronounce myself completely socially inept.  These are all things that don’t happen when I’m depressed, so when I can imagine them returning, I feel the same tall poppy syndrome others with bigger britches feel.  The tall, bright red poppy?  You know, the one that attracts the attention of fate, of its peers, of the mower.  The pride which goeth before the fall and all that.

You’d think I’d be off the hook– I’m the smallest of small potatoes, scarcely worthy of fate’s attention.  I’m not reaching for the stars, I’m barely reaching for the transom.  Yet maybe because my desires are so small, maybe because I have the capacity to be satisfied with little, I have more reason to be nervous. The cozy Kater Murr poppy of satisfaction, be it big or small, is what is offensive to the gods.

So in the event the gods are listening: I won’t be be at peace until I have professional landscaping, an iron fence, new windows and appliances and hardwood throughout the house.  While I’m pressing the dissatisfaction, I’d like to see Nova Scotia, and I’ll need a house on the coast of Maine as well.  (If I’m shooting for restless and unhappy, I think I should go big).