On Monday night, I went to sleep with depression lurking in the corners of my room. I woke up Tuesday morning with melancholy breathing over my shoulder. As I hit snooze, as I scooped coffee grounds, as I sat down at my desk, as I opened the blinds to let the gloomy gray light in.
“What is the point?” it whispered savagely. “What does any of this matter? It doesn’t. It won’t help you now. Go back to bed. Settle into that hopeless place, Elizabeth. It’s the only place you have left to go.” I heard it seep through my tone in my meetings and conversations. My voice was heavy and my mind was coming up short searching for something, anything, positive. I opened Instagram mindlessly, only to scroll past every encouraging story or graphic. Not out of annoyance exactly. More like incapacity. I didn’t feel like I had space to hold a smile or a chirpy tone of voice or one more quippy version of HASHTAG WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER. The darkness loomed too large; there was just nowhere to put any light.
I made a playlist a while back. It’s called “Remember Your Narrative Of Joy,” titled for a phrase from an Emily P. Freeman podcast episode I had listened to that week. She had talked about remembering the story arc of your whole life. That a chapter did not define a whole narrative. As believers, she gently reminded her listeners, ours is a narrative of joy.
I wasn’t feeling particularly joyful at the time, but I knew I needed to act fast and find a way to remember my narrative. Thus the playlist.
It’s not even a full hour of music. Twelve songs. Eleven to start with. I didn’t think too hard about it. It was a moment of desperation, and it’s difficult to to think critically in moments like those. I just threw in the first songs that came to mind when I asked the questions, “What calls something good out in me? What makes me smile? What will make me dance?”
A little voice reminded me of my playlist – made specifically to remind me of what’s true. “You should turn that on,” it whispered. “It will help.” But I don’t want help, I huffed. Like a petulant teenager, I shrugged the voice off. “I’m miserable; leave me alone in it.”
By 10:30AM, the living room which is currently functioning as my office was crowded with shadows, both literally and figuratively. Though I had turned on every light in the room and opened all the blinds before I set to work hours earlier, the dark skies and rain were hard to overcome with a few 40 watt bulbs. I needed more light.
Unable for the moment to focus on any task in front of me, I decided that it would be a good time to stretch my legs and go in search of another lamp. Somewhere in the process, it became a determined battle march. I came back in the room a few seconds later with a brighter lamp and a singular phrase rolling through my mind:
“I’m going to fight back.”
The light clicked on with a roll of my thumb. A light came on in my chest and behind my eyes. The tide was turning, and I now held the upper hand in battle. I grabbed an unlit candle from a corner in the room and set it on my desk. “Heirloom Tomato” it was called. If I couldn’t go out in all this rain, I could very well make it smell like a garden inside.
As I sat back in my seat to try it all again, I popped in my air pods and opened the playlist. Remember your narrative of joy, I told myself. My thumb hit the shuffle button and waited for the machine’s choice. The first notes of “Glorious Day” came jumping through the tiny speakers. I leaned back in the chair, breathing in the victory of the last five minutes. Everything changed because I decided I didn’t want to be bullied or dictated to by my fickle emotions or the bleakness of my present circumstances. I didn’t want to just lie down and take it. I wanted to fight back. So I did.
About half an hour later, the sky brightened, lifting the whole room with it. It still rained heavily, but it wasn’t quite as dark. It felt like a beaming smile from a kind Father, a loving God. I think it felt like that because it was.
“I needed rescue, my sin was heavy, but chains break at the weight of Your glory.
I needed shelter, I was an orphan, but You called me a citizen of Heaven.
When I was broken, You were my healing, now You love is the air that I’m breathing.
I have a future, my eyes are open.”
With my open eyes. I saw leafy branches full for the first time in months. I saw a tiny firefighter walking with his dad, splashing in puddles. I saw birds and squirrels flitting through growing grass, trusting their Maker for the life they are living. I opened my front door and saw the rain calling out all the budding things, waking up sleeping life, softening hard ground.
I saw all the things I would’ve missed with a downcast soul. For such a limited view, there is certainly a lot of goodness to be seen. Some days will be bigger battles than others, but in every one, I want to choose the fight. I want to rage against the dark that tries to creep in. To push it back with the great force of what is true. To swing my sword of truth with ferocity and wield my shield of faith with strength. All so I can see His goodness in the midst.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, for the help of His presence.”
“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”