I didn’t realize until I heard it on the news — at new year’s we enter a new decade (well, unless you are one of those people who gets off on saying “no, it’s really 2011” or something).
So what about a recap of the 00s? Apart from the obvious addition of parenting to the daily agenda, there are some dramatic changes in my life since I tried to party like it was 1999 — which was not a lot, as I had an 8-month-old baby. What are the big deals of the last 10 years?
— On the downside, depression. I crawled into the year 2000 barely functioning, and by April I was afraid to be alone with myself. Depression has been a constant passenger on my bus since I was a teenager — sometimes noisy, sometimes asleep, but never totally forgotten. But those mothering hormones really kicked it up a notch, and I have spent much of the last 10 years learning about how to get well, stay well, and deal with the fact that I won’t always be well.
I’ve had at least two extremely severe periods of depression since 1999, and several smaller ones, and wow, they changed me and the way I look at just about everything.
— On the upside, conversion. In 1999, pregnant with Violet, I started going to various churches, beginning my on-again off-again courtship with Christianity. Early in the 00s, something stuck. I wish I could tell a great story about how Jesus gave me victory over depression, but that would be total crap. “Victory” — meh. Yet here I am, a reluctant-yet-happy convert, in that Mary Karr/Kathleen Norris vein. And now that we’ve moved and I’ve left the parish that I was baptized in, April 2002, I feel like a high school graduate leaving home. No one knows me as a catechumen, as a neophyte with leave to ask more questions and get a little more direction. I’m just another fellow Catholic, expected to jump in like the rest of the grown-ups.
I’m still adjusting.
— This has also been a decade of lowering expectations, which is better than it sounds. It often seems to me that the story of adulthood is finding out that no one else knows what’s going on either. The further up the ladder you go, the more you realize that most everyone else is just faking it the best they can, same as you. This can be disconcerting at times, like when dealing with doctors and psychiatrists, but it can be wonderful too, like when dealing with employers and teachers.
I am a slow learner. I am still brought up short when I discover, “Hey, the person in charge doesn’t really understand the situation any better than I do.” I still expect to find a reassuring expert or professional in charge, saying “don’t worry Shaun, we’ve got this all under control.” What’s changed is the rapid recognition and acceptance I experience when I once again discover I’m wrong. And that instead of saying “Holy crap, that person is a moron!” I remember that s/he is doing the best s/he can.
Not bad for 10 years. Depression + conversion + lowered expectations + 10 years of aging and life experience = humility, compassion, and responsibility.
And now what? I am inspired by reading Sarah’s thoughts on a theme for the new year.
I’ve already started my manifesto for new life: less work, more joy. Less drudgery, more faithfulness. This needs more than a year, at least where I’m starting from. You’ll have to check in with me in 2020 to see how that turned out.
Happy New Year to you!