Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Case Against Being Solitary as an Oyster

One of my all-time favorite holiday stories is A CHRISTMAS CAROL and I'm a purist.  I'm not a big fan of updated, modernized takes on the Dickens tale, because Dickens' language is just too magnificent.  Today, a phrase from Dickens was sticking in my mind, the first description of Scrooge, in which, among other things, Dickens says he is "solitary as an oyster."  What a great metaphor!  Closed up so tight nothing can get in or out without effort, prying, muscle, possibly killing the thing inside in order to retrieve its pearl.

This phrase came to my mind as I wrestled with the heavy oppression of dysthemia which hits me on and off especially as the darkness takes over and the sunlight grows scarce.  When my depression hits, I feel overwhelmingly alienated from others, like I can't fit in and should never even try.  The sense of disconnection is like being on a fog-shrouded island, all alone.  And the effort to reach out and connect with fellow human beings seems like climbing a mountain.  It is all too easy in this state of mind to self-isolate, to become, like Scrooge, as "solitary as an oyster."

But the lesson of Dickens' story is the power of human connection, the over-riding essential value of that connection, of remembering that we are, as Scrooge's nephew Fred puts it, "fellow travelers" on the journey.  Sometimes, when you least want that connection is when you most need it.  Lucky for me, I have a husband who understands this, and, more importantly, understands it about me.  He often reminds me of this lesson at critical moments.  So, as I rounded out my week, even though the grey fog was pulling me down, I made the conscious effort to connect, with my students and with my colleagues. It was worth the struggle.

If you, like me, find yourself on the fog-shrouded island at this time of year, I encourage you to reach out, no matter hard that might be.  Fight the urge to be as solitary and shut-up as an oyster.  An oyster's treasure is only revealed when it's open.

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