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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Hi Sister, do you have any advice, Catholic advice, for how to get through the holidays when you feel sad, depressed, lonely. I have no energy. I wish there were no holidays. All the advice I read is about how to accomplish your shopping or entertaining. I want to know how to deal with God's birthday when you feel too sad to wish Him a happy birthday. Do you know what I mean?

Happy New Year!  Here I am with an answer to your question, a day late and a dollar short.  I'm sorry I'm so late to answer your question.  Perhaps I am just impossibly early, for next Christmas.

Although, you did say you wish there were no holidays, and there are plenty between now and what we have come to call the "holiday season" because there are three in a row.

Here's the problem, I can't really answer your question.  It would be rude for me to tell you to lighten up, smack a smile on your face and get over yourself if you are suffering from clinical depression.  If that's the issue, you can't do these things.  I understand that.

I might be able to help a little with some perspective.  We live in a time of abundance in everything. Even if we are poor and struggling and eating beans and rice for dinner every night, we are better off than the pioneers coming across the plains in Conestoga wagons eating lard and sugar and losing the little ones under the wagon wheels.  Or the indigenous peoples who were slaughtered to make way for those wagons.

We can eat our beans and rice in front of the tube, travel without too much work involved by sitting on some sort of gas powered chair or couch on wheels. We have an abundance of all kinds of choices of food, types of clothing, freedom of choice in how we behave.

We should already be clicking up our heels in joy and then...(dramatic musical sting) THE HOLIDAYS.  Somehow, we are supposed to ramp up our heel clicking and add even more of everything to everything for about a month.  That's exhausting, and sometimes utterly overwhelming. No wonder we feel sad and let down.

On top of that, we also have a lot of social media where we get to see what everyone had for breakfast and how lovely their lives are and how pretty their children look and how cute the dog is in his Santa hat. No one wants to post depressing things because no one wants to read them or think about them. So we have a very VAST false front. A permeating facade of perpetual happiness and success.

That could make anyone feel sad, depressed and lonely.

The simple answer, if there is one, is to let it go.  Focus your attention on love and gratitude and compassion. Try to ramp those things up.  And yes, smile.  Even if you don't feel like it. I will remind you that it takes less muscles to do that.

I emphasize the word "try".  Because maybe you can and maybe you can't.  But you certainly can't if you don't try a little.  One thing.  The smile.

Or the thank you.

Or the "Happy Birthday, Jesus".  After all, why do we wish people a happy birthday in the first place.  Why do we feel bad when we don't get a happy birthday wish?  Isn't it because saying "happy birthday" is a way of saying "I'm glad you were born"?

If you are not clinically depressed, you really need to examine why you are sad, depressed and lonely.  If your problem is not a chemical imbalance, then yes, I do have some advice for you.

But if you are, here is some advice from someone who bears the same burden.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post Sister, it made me smile!
God Bless,

hekates said...

I'm reminded of St. Teresa of Avila, who talked about the "Gift of Tears" and also the holiness of those who practiced the faith in "Spiritual dryness." (I'm not a Catholic, and it has been many years since I read her but those points stuck with me. )

Karen Fuller said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,your answers to tough questions never ceases to amaze me!
YOU are very good at what you do!
i loved reading what the other post said about Brother Martin. i know a priest who has a similar diagnosis--i do not know how this man does the work he does. I guess God does it, when he cannot do it himself. thats the only answer i can see. its the only answer i can see for myself as well.
God keeps me doing what i have to do--even when my mental illness wont let me. some days--i must accept doing nothing. and that is very hard to accept--i used to be a busy person and i liked it. you might say--i was proud of my self for being such a good worker. this illness has humbled me--i find no pride in it. yet, people will tell me how precious i am to them and how valuable my love is to them. and then i see my worth--it is in giving love to others. the older the body gets--the more it falls apart--but love knows no death.
thanks for answering a tough question--all the comments were great, too. i have been blessed by this. and i thank you!