Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Today's Laments :)

I want to write about today.

It started rather normal. I did some stretching because of my recent knee problem at tennis. It has been a few months that I have -not- done my morning exercise/stretching/my-own-version-of-yoga. I did not feel like doing it and I did not do it, as a way of being kind to myself.Anyway, today it felt good and reduced the pain in my knees.
At the end of breakfast, however, I was talking to Sima about taking some food with me for lunch/dinner because I will be teaching two classes and the second one finished before 10 p.m. and Sima suggested that she could make some eggplants and add to a stew (KHORESH GHEIME BADEMJAN) from a few days ago. I said "NO", in a sudden, angry tone disproportionate to what was happening at the moment. Clearly, something was lurking in my subconscious.
Things with Sima got back to normal after some talks, but not my mood. I smoked a cigarette before I left the house. I quit smoking for a few months, but recently I am smoking 3-5 cigarettes per week, which is something that I like to do if I can keep the number under control. I have been successful so far. Anyway, while smoking a lot of negative thoughts flooded me, thoughts that were gone for quite some time. I was blaming myself and was angry at myself.
While driving to work, I was listening to the ``Writer's Almanac'' on WABE. (link) At some point, Garrison Keillor was explaining the events of civil was when General Lee surrendered to General Grant, that Lee was disappointed as he was leaving the meeting, but he was faced with his troops cheering for him and patting his horse. At this point tears came to my eyes. Then, he recited a poem, "The Widow's Lament in Springtime,'' by William Carlos Williams, and I tears started coming down as I was driving the car.
When I reached office, I was checking the statistics for this blog and the post the were read/visited recently and this post came up, [Wandering Mind and Inner Critic] and I listened to Joyce DiDonato talking about our inner critic [link] a couple of times. It was useful. It gave me reassurance that I am right in not paying attention to the sad, judgmental voice of my inner critic.

I am not sure what was bothering me today. I am done with my first class now and I already feel better. Not that there is anything wrong with being sad and emotional every once in a while, either. But today the return of  that old sense of hopelessness and helplessness that is the critical feature of my depression was irritating. I am going to be patient with this too. In a way, my depression has turned out to be a gift for me :)

From the "Writer's Almanac":
On this day in 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to the General of the United States Armies, Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the Civil War.
Lee and Grant's armies had converged in Appomattox, Virginia, and fighting began at dawn; within a few hours, Lee realized his troops were outnumbered and surrounded. His choice was to commit most of them to slaughter and ensure a continuing guerrilla-style war, or to surrender with dignity. "There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths," he told his staff.
Lee dressed in a crisp, new uniform, including a red silk sash, gloves, and a ceremonial, jeweled sword. He feared that he would be taken as a prisoner of war, he said, and wanted to look his best. Riding his horse Traveller to the front lines, he stood under a flag of truce in full view of the Union army, and requested a meeting with Grant. When the reply came that a meeting would do no good, Lee responded to tell Grant that he wanted to discuss the question of surrender. It was a full hour before a ceasefire was ordered, and almost another before Lee's letter reached Grant.
When he did receive the request, Grant — younger, less experienced, and until just a few years prior an undistinguished soldier and unsuccessful businessman — immediately grasped the importance of the moment. Although President Lincoln had expressly ordered that only he was to negotiate peace and it was Grant's job only to fight, Grant seized the opportunity. Lee, he wrote back, should choose the time and place for their meeting. This gesture allowed Lee to retain a bit of power, and therefore dignity. Grant had no intention of taking him as a prisoner, or anyone else.
Lee's aide found an abandoned brick house in town for the meeting. Lee entered the house alone and waited in the parlor; Grant and a dozen of his generals and officers arrived soon after. Grant, who'd expected only battle when he rose that morning, was dressed in a private's coat splattered with mud.
They had both served in the Mexican-American War, and Grant reminded Lee that they'd once met. They reminisced about it, for almost a half an hour — Grant wrote that he'd been enjoying their talk so much he'd nearly forgotten the reason for their meeting, but he also admitted that he'd been embarrassed to have to bring up the subject of surrender.
Grant assured Lee that the terms of surrender would be simple: Lee's army was to hand over their arms. Grant continued to talk, going on about the prospects for peace and reconciliation, his hopes for a united country.
After the terms had been written and signed, Lee rode slowly back to his camp, where he met soldiers lined up along the road. They were cheering wildly. He began to cry, and as his men saw the tears, their shouts fell silent. Men sobbed. Some fell to their knees; others patted Lee's horse for comfort as he passed.

The Widow's Lament in Springtime, by William Carlos Williams

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.

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