Toby

Toby Ziegler is my favorite West Wing character. Kirsten and I came to the show late, but once we started watching it on DVD, we couldn’t stop. Of course, we like the politics, but the show was critically acclaimed, and for good reason. Like all good shows, it’s character driven, and quite literally well played. I like Toby because he’s smart and he’s a writer. He’s also a bit of a cynic, which means that like many cynics, he’s a failed idealist. He’s also very, very sad. Obviously I identify with all of these traits, and so with Toby. I’m thinking of Toby today.

The actor who played Toby wondered (at first) what made him so sad. This element of mystery, this monumental gap in the character’s back story, intrigues me. I think I still wonder this about myself. On the one hand, I “know” what drives my melancholy, but the source of it is an (almost) objective, remote fact. It isn’t felt, or remembered, and that’s (mostly) how I like it.  Of course, what’s great about Toby is that he’s a pretty functional guy, being a power player in the White House and all. His relationships are a mess, but he manages to hold down (for a long while) an important job which he uses to change the world for the better, or at least he desperately tries. This is one of the (I’m sure) many areas where I fear Toby and I differ. I don’t feel very functional these days, and I haven’t for a while…and I’m not sure that I’m changing the world much for the better. Some may try to dissuade me of this last fact, but I remain unconvinced.

Naturally, I have some idea of what I need to do. Therapy could help, some, but I’ve been down that road many times. Perhaps I haven’t ventured down it far enough to see the results I might hope for, but it’s not like I haven’t tried it. I know medication might help, but I don’t just suffer from depression, I suffer from anxiety too, and one of the things I’m anxious about is, you guessed it, medication. So that really isn’t an option for me, and I know, I know; that may be all the more reason to give it a try, but in a word, NO. It’s interesting too as I write this that somehow it’s easy to talk about depression and anxiety, but a bit more daunting to discuss the umbrella diagnosis that they’re likely symptomatic of- (Complex) PTSD. I’m just throwing that out there. It’s an observation; I don’t intend to do anything with it. Nonetheless, what I “need” to do is quit thinking about myself, be grateful for my family and our privilege as rich white Westerners, and start pitching in to help those who don’t enjoy such privilege.

I know I need to do this, and yet it’s so, so, so, so very hard. It’s not that I don’t want to help or even (so much) that I don’t know how, though the latter plays a role. It’s that it’s hard to get out of bed every morning. It’s hard to care for myself in even the most basic ways (quite simply, I’m not). My meniscus tear and the resultant inability to run for a long while has certainly played a part, but before I couldn’t run, I didn’t, and that’s the bigger sin.

In the meantime, there are lots of situational factors that exacerbate my depression and anxiety. Of course, I’m keenly aware of the increasing likelihood that the next pandemic may be on the horizon whether from bird flu or novel coronavirus or something unknown, but none of that will matter much if the world is mired in WWIII, perhaps started by a N. Korean blunder; or if the weight of consumeristic crony capitalism finally leads us to global economic collapse after all. On a more personal level, as we continue to struggle with the economic hardship resulting from our sojourn in TX and a sudden need for full-time daycare, I’ve been reminded that debt collectors don’t care if you’re depressed or that it’s better not to get their calls while at work or that you have philosophical hang-ups with the mere existence of their industry, let alone how they conduct their business. But I suppose I digress.

I keep talking about how tired I am. I’m tired of telling my story, tired of struggling with my weight, tired of depression and anxiety. I’m tired of trying to build community, tired of wanting to try to follow Jesus, in community, but feeling unable to. I’m tired of being angry at “the church” and even God for lots of really good reasons, and I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of waiting for something to happen, for my life to really “start” in some way. I’ve passed a lot of the big adult milestones. I got married almost seventeen years ago. My mom died. My father-in-law died. I went to seminary, and my dad moved in. We moved into my mother-in-law’s house, with my dad, in an effort to help them both (obviously, that didn’t last long). We had a child, and bought a house. My mother-in-law moved in with us (that didn’t last all that long either). We moved to TX, temporarily, to watch my dad slowly die. We had another child. I’ve been a part of a couple of great church communities (and many more that sadly were not so great). I’ve done lots of higher education. I’ve had a grown-up job with the potential to be meaningful for (off and on) seven years. What, in the world, could I possibly be waiting for?


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