49+2: Walking Beans


February 28th, 2018

I spent every summer from the time I could walk until I graduated from high school “walking beans”. Simply put, we’d walk row after row of our bean fields pulling out every weed we could to make room for the crop to grow. We’d start down the dewy rows early in the morning, often before six a.m. Just maybe there would be a bit of a chill but only until the sun rose high enough to burn away the mist and dry the leaves. It was not fun work. Before chemicals allowed us to carry spray bottles that we’d direct a stream of killer to the unwanted plants, there were only knives to dig out the roots of the largest weeds. Sometimes the most stubborn weed was cut low to the ground when the digging failed. It was always a bummer to leave a stump of something behind that I knew would grow again. My gloved hands pulled the rest. Some weeds, such as button weeds, came out easily with a satisfying “pop". While I can’t say I looked forward to any of it, a little patch of those button weeds could be annihilated in two minutes to the tune of pop!pop!pop! and it always made this unforgiving job seem possible.

I’ve been thinking about this year like the bean fields of my teenage years. Is there something in my life that needs to be pulled out by the root? And what makes the unforgiving parts, the parts I cannot remove, seem bearable? And weeds or not, things still grow, right?
I live with depression. It waxes and wanes with the seasons and my hormones. Sometimes outside events can trigger a bout. I haven’t yet detected a true rhyme or reason despite my efforts to observe. I know what to do and how to manage it. I have a playbook that involves talking and writing and silence and walking and friends and reclusion and cat videos. I used to take medicines and now I don’t because, for the most part, I feel decent about how I manage it. I am also smart enough to know that there may be a time when it doesn't pass or I may get a bit too dark and then I will re-evaluate.
I think perhaps the single biggest part of my “success” in living with depression is simply allowing that it is. It might seem silly to someone not familiar with depression, but I’d wager that there are other people besides me who like to ignore what is really going on inside. And this year, I have been working hard at taking note of those things and naming them and letting them just be.

I’m learning about mindfulness and meditation and I admit, I don’t really see how paying attention to these things makes me feel better, but ignoring them is not the answer either. In either case, it’s there and I can name it or not. And because I like words, I use the word- depression. I am not making it the primary part of who I am. It is not the star of my story. But I can’t lie and pretend it’s not a part of me.
My depression is a stubborn weed that I cannot take out by its roots. It will not detach with a satisfying pop, but I can cut it low enough to the ground by admitting that it’s part of my life. It will either wither in the hot sun or find a way to bloom until I find my way towards cutting it back again.
It's funny how much I hated walking beans. I was always longing to be somewhere else. But those hours wore on me and it was only when I surrendered to the reality of bending and pulling and walking that I could ease into life as it was and that gave my brain a place to daydream and wonder and plan.
As I head towards 50 I can’t say I am making friends with my depression, but I am making peace with what is rather than longing to be someone else. I left the bean fields long ago, but the what remains has helped me to see that weeds or not, I can still find ways to grow.