Sunday, August 28, 2011

Acedia? Really?

     Just finished listening to Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris.  Never heard of acedia, and it’s been around literally for ages. A malady of sorts afflicting solitaries like monks and hermits. It was considered a precursor to one of the 7 deadly sins - sloth. It’s a spiritual sloth.
     What attracted me to it? The blurb mentioned daily boredom, so I immediately downloaded it and listened to it all this week. While I hate to admit I am ever bored (I choose to do nothing), that choice is what drew me to this. Depression, ennui, nothingness all try to be wrapped up into one big ball. But she really had a number of similarities in her life that related to me. Phrases like "Why bother making the bed, it will only need to be unmade later tonight". The lack of even body hygiene was mentioned, shaving, brushing teeth, showering become chores to avoid.  Why Bother and Who Cares are common. The desire to avoid repetition was a real kicker to me because I couldn’t figure out why I avoided doing things, stacking materials, constructing quilt blocks differently…not following the same routine. I had recently been puzzled about this and then all of a sudden this author gives it a name - acedia. So how do I separate this from just depression? The latter is a chemical imbalance and acedia is a choice. But if I go back to Wayne Dywer’s Excuses Begone, the act of choice and attitude can change DNA and brain function. SO does that mean that someone's bipolar disorder could have been a choice? Could depression be a choice?
     I remember after my hysterectomy I was a basket case and in my mind I kept hearing “Suzy, snap out of this! You are better than this,” and I chose to ignore it. I wanted to be depressed. Even though I hated it, it was my choice.  Maybe I was trying to punish outside forces in my life - Wayne, our financial circumstances, work…instead of looking inside of myself and realizing it was all on me. The comment about Norris hating the woman she sat next to because her jaw kept popping as she ate. But aren’t autistic people wired to react to outside disturbances like that? Do they have a choice?
     Boy this is really big to me. I have been trying to figure out how I can continue to work, tutor, exercise, meet friends, and still feel incomplete, I sit and watch mindless TV, while avoiding quilting and reading and writing. - those things I claim to love doing. I seem to crave having a schedule but avoid repetition.
     So, what do you think? Has anyone else heard of this or relate to it?


  1. Suzanne, You've certainly opened a new discussion with a bang. I have a feeling more people will be looking into this than may post on your blog. I hope they'll write in their ideas and experiences. I need to do some research into all this. It's hitting a lot of nerves, just when I need more answers these days and to stop feeling ashamed of my predicaments. In the meantime, "Garcon! More chocolate for my friend and me, s'il vous plait." e

  2. I'm just finishing the Norris book. Interesting. Financial issues - when I've worked all my life for security, kid's issues as adults, retirement are all things I'm sorting through, trying to know where I fit in and where I feel safe and happy. Not easy. Unsettling inertia and the awareness that my life is going by faster than ever. Overwhelming. If a pill would help, I would take it! Certainly, I can get into the thinking that it's my fault and that if I were smarter, prettier, pluckier, etc., that I would have fared better. Not so. I've done fine. I look forward to finishing the book and posting again. This is a extremely pertinent to many of us. For some, live saving. You've put something out for discussion and maybe help to some, so vital out here in blog land.

  3. Still trying to take in all this information in this book. Compelling and unsettling. Not to be dramatic but it is evoking a lot of feelings. We all want answers to feel comfortable in this crazy world. There are many things I agree with in the book and will start taking what I need and leave the rest. However, it has come at very timely point in my life. You are not alone. No one every told me there would be a time in life that I would be a immobilized, though this isn't the first time. My own mother passed away young and so, she wasn't an example of a person in retirement, etc. You are providing a forum and I thank you. You are very generous in your writing about sensitive issues that affect all of us. Safety in numbers, I suppose, and smiling when the good things come along - not to miss. You've certainly shared those things, too. While I don't want to be intrusive, being a parent is obviously most important to you, along with your husband and your spiritual growth. Your own daughter will be lifted up by your example and your son, who passed away, must know and bless you now for your efforts in learning with others how to continue on the path.

  4. Wise decision to just take what works and leave the rest. I relate to your comment about losing your mother young. We lost our role model for this chapter in our lives. Thank you for your kind comments.

  5. Suzanne - Finally, almost finished with this book and learning more about acedia from other resources. I feel this information has been a gift. There is a lot of information and I'm sure, as an English teacher you appreciate that the book is a little "disorganized," but then, "Repetition is the Mother of Leaning" that the author repeats and overlaps thoughts and observations. Unlike me... I can always relate to what you bring to the table. As I sit here on a hot afternoon overloaded with chores and fun projects that I haven't gotten to in days, weeks, years, I really need help getting myself into gear. Maybe, it would be better if people around me complained. Frankly, I don't feel as helpless and I'm now on a quest - to get into solutions but to find out first what I'm trying to solve. All I know at this point is that I'm not comfortable. I believe it is largely circumstantial although I don't feel like a victim. I am not in pain - just adrift and aware of it. Sad. I feel like I have the periodic old lead suit on. One of the things I am getting from the book is that there is no outside panacea. I've tried many. That it will be an inside job. That I am open to medications but I have found that they are just a bridge, if they work, to modified behavior. I sometimes get envious and am perplexed at others in my family who have clear cut mental health issues and medication dramatically changes their lives for the better, no matter what spectrum of the mood disorder they fall into. They actually develop a zest. I just sometimes plod along as a garden variety neurotic with a big heart, worrying about my kids and being thankful my husband, though he is a big job, sometimes! I also feel that money issues can't be understated. It may not solve problems but it can certainly give more freedom and faster choices for possible solutions, helping others and more opportunities for respite from chaos. Most of all, Suzanne, I still love the Lord with all my heart and in the truest sense, I don't want for Him to believe one minute that I don't honor the life He gave me, just as it is. With His help, I'll be better for this introspective time. Bless you and take care. e

  6. E, If this is a malady that strikes the most reverent of religious ones, then I feel okay to embrace this condition. As you said, it is an interenal pill, no event, no incident can cure this. That gives us a lot of power don't you think? Yes, the book was quite repetative. It was one of the very few books that I was able to listen to rather than read; therefore I appreciated the repetition. I do not give it high marks on writing skill,however. ;o)

  7. Suzanne, You're a good egg. Some bad news though, maybe. New reading material: Dick Cheney, new Jane Fonda bio, Barnard's Breaking the Food Seduction about cravings - very negative chocolate stuff. The author does say that Wellbutrin can assist with getting that chocolate monkey off our backs. It worked on a woman who was eating 2 lbs. of chocolate a day. I really look forward to your next topic. Thanks for this one and lighting a fire under a few of us. Self-blaming is a slippery slope. e

  8. What a wonderful topic. My life has been non-stop, working, caring for others and issues that I haven't seen often for others. This isn't to say I feel self-pity. It's simply my story. I also don't believe God has chosen me for harder lessons. In many ways, the rewards have been extraordinary. I tend to compare myself to others - especially those who seem to have more seemingly interesting lives. This intensified with social networking and my class reunion - the 40th this year. I was intensely affected by those with greater financial success and their losses few. Slowly, I have gotten into some action - walking, a light aerobics DVD and looking at my nutrition - sugar. I pray. Taking on other things and needing answers will have to come gradually. I'll draw on this post and comments later. Your writing is an inspiration.

  9. Hi Gabby! Welcome! Thank you for sharing your posts. The true inspiration is linking with others who find some commonality in my writing. We are not alone! What comfort that is! I hope to hear more from you.
    Blessings -- Suzanne


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