An Inclination Toward Melancholy

Lord Alfred Tennyson, Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack London.

The thought has crossed my mind that all great writers have an inclination toward melancholy. Some of the most well known great works of literature are either dark, deep into real life issues, or the author themselves are severe alcoholics. Maybe being prone to sadness and a pessimist outlook gives a writer the view into the world as it truly stands.

I like the phrase ‘inclination toward melancholy’ rather than saying depression or sadness, because I think it’s more honest in its explanation. I suggest reading “Ode on Melancholy” by John Keats. The way I think about it is this- melancholy is a warm place within oneself that is numb to the outside world, and as much as the person hates being in this place, it tempts them further into it; to bury within themselves. And still they feel too much (this is where I think alcoholism takes over).

I can relate. But I’m not here to tell that story.

I wanted to show my definition of what it is and how I don’t think it’s a good place to be (obvious) but the real question is, how do you change this inclination?

You don’t (pessimism at its best), but I think it’s a daily choice. I’ve decided to give the best advice I’ve ever been given.

When in the depths of melancholy you can’t look to being out of it tomorrow or the next day or starting again on Monday to begin with a new week. You’ve got to literally choose to do the next right thing. Literally. Do you choose to bury within yourself or force yourself to be around people- knowing you don’t want to be around people, but also knowing that it’ll force you slightly out of yourself? You choose the next second of your life to do what is right, and don’t even think about the next minute.

I realized what great advise this was because as someone who has visited that personal hell, it feels absolutely hopeless thinking of the next day.

Obviously as a Christian, I also believe you can’t do it alone, but I think the advise still applies.

I don’t want to say it’s a daily struggle, I think it’s a daily choice (biblically we can say that we should “crucify the flesh daily”). I don’t believe it’s gone either. An inclination towards melancholy is (in my complete theoretic opinion) a piece of someone. Like I said, I have to believe that it causes a deeper thinking within a person and that in and of itself makes me think that’s why it causes a person to disconnect from the world. So in some strange way I don’t think this inclination is bad, rather I think the inward suffocation of self is. There has to be a balance…and I can personally say it gets off kilter all the time, but when you find that balance I think it’s a weirdly beautiful place of seeing the world in a very deep (most times ugly) way and through outlets being able to show that reality to other people. (I’d say this is also where alcoholism comes in– no burying within the self, yet the need for escape.)

So, just do the next right thing.

The Unanswerable Question

“So, what do you want?”

Fresh out of college and my first reaction to this question is, “Oh, yeah, I guess I should know that.” And I’m not going to hide from it–I really should know this. The thing is I know what I want. It just doesn’t mold to peoples expectation.

I want a porch with a view that is untouched by man, a chair that’s positioned in the shade, a coffee cup in my left hand and a book in my right. I want hours to contemplate and to write. I want to sit atop a mountain and see a vast existence.

I want a lot of things, but when people ask “what do you want?” they’re asking what job do you want. Although my first reaction to that is, “I don’t care as long as I’m happy,” it’s not  going to be a real answer.

I see my life as a road of question marks, but ones I’m happy to uncover. I know I love to write–if my career leads me to this full time, great, but if it doesn’t that’s okay because I’ll still continue in it even if I can’t live off doing it. I live my life with one main objective–to  live obediently to God (and Lord knows I screw up plenty of times). I try to remind myself “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6). I can’t say it’s an easy way to live, I’m always wondering if I’m making the wrong choice or using patience as an excuse.

So what I should really be asked is, “How will you get to what you want?” and for me, that’s unanswerable.