A couple inches of dirty water in the bottom of an otherwise empty vase
That’s my emotional state right now, there in the title: An image worthy of haiku, perhaps, or of Rilke, who wrote so movingly of roses in a bowl. That’s depression, gentle readers–a few inches of stagnant, smelly water, with a rotting leaf or two, in the bottom of a vase from which the dead flowers have been removed.
I suffer from depression. And it is a kind of suffering, though much of the time depression means “not feeling much of anything” rather than “feeling bad”. Depression means I sometimes don’t make it to work because taking a shower, or facing a rainy day and public transportation, seems too much to bear. It means some days the only thing that interests me is Township, a mobile game where you plant crops, feed critters, and gradually build a town with houses, factories, and public buildings. (I’ve just reached level 35 and acquired an apiary!) It means writing is difficult or simply seems meaningless, pointless.
Yet I find myself holding on to my daily devotions in spite of everything. And yesterday, in spite of not being able to cope with work, I managed to clear a space and set up a minimal shrine for an ancestor elevation. I am once again participating in the Trans Rite of Ancestor Elevation, for the benefit of the far too many transgender folks who died by violence in the past year. In addition, I am doing my first elevation for a personal ancestor, for my Aunt Margaret, whose birthday is the nineteenth of this month.
Aunt Margaret was actually my great-aunt, my mother’s father’s younger sister. Born in the ‘teens, she was several years old before being diagnosed with a hip out of the socket, probably a result of the difficult birthing. As an adult, she was still wearing a heavy metal brace on one leg and walking slowly, with a limp. Back then we didn’t call people disabled, or handicapped; we called them crippled, lame. Aunt Margaret was crippled, but that didn’t stop her from holding down a job for decades, or living on her own. She rented a room from another lady of her own generation, up the street and around the corner from our house, and had dinner with us every night before walking home around ten o’clock.
Aunt Margaret was a constant presence in my childhood. She gave me money for the collection plate at church and bought me a new winter coat every year. She played cards with me for hours on end. She went on bus trips with my grandmother and me; my mother hated to travel and could not sleep away from home, but Mom and Aunt Margaret and I travelled up and down the east coast from Quebec to Nashville. Did I mention that she stood all of four-foot-six? Outgrowing Aunt Margaret was a benchmark.
My life has turned out more like hers than I could have anticipated. Like me, she was divorced, lived alone, and supported herself. I have her body type, inherited from my maternal grandfather’s family. I fear I have her wonky hips, too. Her picture has been on my shrine all along, but this year I felt the call to honor her more directly and to do something for her benefit. She gave me so much when I was a child, and it took me far too long to appreciate that.
As for the transgender dead, I was informed, more or less, that participating in this year’s elevation rite–and next year’s, for that matter–is just something that I am required to do. It’s my job. I volunteered for it when I did it last year, and the Tetrad deities noticed me; now I have to keep up that responsibility. And last night, in spite of everything, I did.
I have some half-formed thoughts on what my calling is, what work the Tetrad want me to do, but they are not nearly ready for a blog post. In the meantime, think of your ancestors, dear readers, and pray for me in my depression. I’ll write again soon.