November 10th, 2011

Not long ago I heard from someone who thanked me for giving her permission to struggle with her depression. Oh yes, I assured her, by all means, struggle! Depression is the sane response to the insanity of our lives. Depression is the struggle to be sane! We’re not fools if we struggle with depression. We’re fools if we don’t. It’s crucial that we seek, so we can finally exhaust ourselves, turn around, and find what we already possess.

They say every sickness is homesickness, and when I hear that, I feel sick for every moment I spend running away. They still outweigh the length I stay.

Even on a good day, when we’re snug in the bosom of our sweetest sentiments, in the Eden of our dreams, it doesn’t feel like home for very long. The stirrings start. The restlessness rears. We become feverish with longing, a longing that consumes our every thought. We might even make a home of our homesickness, becoming naturalized to a state of unrest and alienation. I’ve got to get out of here. How many times have you said that to yourself today?

Much of the time, our own life feels like a foreign country we can’t wait to get out of. And not a nice foreign country, either.  Even life with the people we profess to love, to whom we have promised fidelity. (Especially those people.) Even the half-decent job, the nice neighborhood, the loyal friends, the adorable kids, the good luck, the manifold blessings, the plan realized, the wish come true — nothing settles or calms for long, nothing feels quite right. There’s no place like the home you think you don’t have.

We’re all looking for something more, in a state of mild-to-moderate or even chronic despair. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you’ve got — how well you can manage your store of talents or prospects — you are somehow convinced that you haven’t yet got “it.” Not the whole of it, not enough to be completely satisfied or secure. Maybe you haven’t yet figured it out, had it happen, gotten it done, or pulled it together. You might think you need a lucky break, a promotion, a new body, another lover — or the old lover — another child; you might call it higher purpose, passion, or simply, inspiration. Maybe you want things to be as good as they were before, back when you didn’t know how good it was. Maybe you want things to be better than ever, as good as everyone else seems to have it. Feeling as if you’re not enough and don’t have enough, I want you to know, is good enough. It’s what got you this far.

Thus we arrive at the first step on the path of faith, a step that Buddha called “right view.” It is the slender flicker of wisdom, the illuminating certainty that you are lost. As verification of your own insight, it is followed immediately by the second step, the realization that you have to turn yourself around. You have go back home.

And here you are.


  1. It is hard for me not to see my depression as a weakness sometimes. A shadow lurking and waiting to pounce when I am not mindful. I much prefer your view.

    Comment by Natasha — November 10, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  2. How do you do it?

    Comment by Swirly — November 10, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

  3. “There’s no place like the home you think you don’t have.”

    Powerful words. And what I needed to hear today. Thanks for such a timely post.

    Comment by Stacey — November 10, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  4. Swirly: bleeding, like breathing, is truly effortless.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — November 10, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

  5. Well, this really hit home! 🙂 And what I needed to hear, too. Thank you.

    Comment by Michelle P — November 10, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  6. Did you just enter my mind or what?! This is exactly where I am in my life. Thank you.

    Comment by Michelle — November 10, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

  7. Holy crap. Thank you. Talk about smacking me in the face with EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Words can’t even express how well – and how timely – you described where I’ve been.

    Comment by J — November 10, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

  8. ‘Much of the time our own life feels like a foreign country…..’ That pretty well sums it up for me. The best post!

    Comment by Jim — November 11, 2011 @ 5:30 am

  9. I’m smiling with appreciation to be reminded with such lovely and loving spirit and with compassionate and kind recognition. Thank you, Maezen. Also, thank you for the link “The Eightfold Path”. Peace ~~~

    Comment by heather carter — November 11, 2011 @ 6:24 am

  10. As always, thank you for your words Maezen.

    Comment by lee — November 11, 2011 @ 7:01 am

  11. Natasha if I may. I am a psychiatrist. I have seen so much depression and not once have I seen a case where weakness was the cause. Depression has many causes. It takes strength to surrender and then recover. I wish you good health.

    Comment by Bobbi — November 11, 2011 @ 11:31 am

  12. This is brilliant! I’m curious how you know that so any of us can feel this way…I always think that I’m the only one… Thanks for pulling the curtain back and reminding us of “the right view”! I will be following…

    Comment by Eniko — November 11, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

  13. Ah, the words you put together always cut so close to the way of things. Words, tricksters though they may be, can also serve to get us closer to where we have always been, unawares. Yours do. The day I finally gave up and took the backward step was the best day of my life. Tipping into what I feared was annihilation I found, instead, unimaginable joy hidden in plain sight in every nook and cranny of my life.

    Comment by Connie — November 13, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  14. Thank you for this reminder again and again and again and again. I believe that I’m on second step as we speak … xoxoxo

    Comment by Shawn — November 13, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  15. Dear Karen,
    Your book “Momma Zen” found its way into my life after bringing home my second little boy, just over a year ago. And now I find myself diving into “Hand Wash Cold.” Today I read something that switched a lightbulb on for me. You say, “Only when our hands and head are empty do we discover what we’ve been aching to find.” YES. I’ve been reducing physical, mental and spiritual clutter in my life and practicing yoga for over 10 years. Stillness is very important to me. And yet, I still struggle to find a balance between my creative work and being a stay-at-home mom. As I’ve been reflecting on where to focus my work for this next year I read your quote in between making breakfast and baths – and for whatever reason – everything has just clicked. This is becoming my new mantra as I continue to create space and embrace the present moment.

    So today, I THANK YOU for all the beautiful wisdom and goodness you share with the world. I so appreciate you. Peace & love… Warmly, Shannon

    Comment by Shannon — November 13, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  16. These are the very words you told me so many months ago, just when I needed to hear them most. It’s taken me a long, long time, but I am finally learning to live like this. It doesn’t mean every day is good, in fact most days are bad, but I am just more patient about it. How amazing that is.

    With love always,

    Comment by Christine @ Coffees & Commutes — November 14, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

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