Limits

Andrew Solomon has written
“Notes on Accepting Care”
in the new anthology
An Uncertain Inheritance.
He describes a time
when he was clinically depressed.
Even getting up and taking a morning shower
was more than he could handle,
so he would stay in bed all day.
His mother had recently died,
so it fell to his father to care for
this unmarried adult son.
Andrew depicts what it’s like
to be on the receiving end of care
as a very depressed person.
He makes two points (among others):
“A depressed person cannot be drawn
out of his misery with love.”
Love alone will not do it,
however hard we try as caregivers,
however much we care.
A truly depressed person
may not believe that love,
or be able to accept,
or know how to respond to it—
that’s beyond them.
The second and related point is,
“You cannot undepress another person.”
As people who want to help,
we may not wish to read Andrew’s words.
They seem to call into question
our ability to make a difference.
But that’s not the case, really.
For his complete sentence reads,
“You can’t undepress another person,
but don’t leave.”
Choosing not to leave—
that what we can do.
As trying as it may be, we can stay,
refusing to desert them.
We can sit with them in their woeful place,
so they’re not left entirely alone.
We don’t have to talk—
in fact, talking may get in the way.
We don’t need to hover—
in fact, waiting around the corner
may be what works best at times.
We can resolutely remain within reach,
performing small everyday acts of care,
while believing and hoping
and patiently continuing to love.
And those acts of ours
can help make a real difference,
in the fullness of time,
as other factors come into play,
as healing comes to work its magic.
We cannot undepress another person,
but we can accept them as they are
in their bleak darkness.
We can wait with them there,
holding a light that glows
more than it penetrates,
believing that their own light
can one day return.

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