So far 2013 has been a drag.
I’ve been a bit depressed. No, that’s not true. I’ve been VERY depressed.
I won’t go into details as to the why or how of it all. Let’s just say I was so depressed that:
- My Christmas tree is still up (if you know me, you know this is a CRIME)
- Uncharacteristically, I haven’t made a real meal in DAYS. Instead I’ve been living off eggs and pasta (yes, at the same time if needed)
- The only people I’ve talked to in ten days aren’t even people. They are cats named Willow and Zuzu and they are my best friends
- I ordered a pizza from Papa John’s last weekend. PAPA. JOHN’S. I’m so ashamed
- I don’t remember the last time I changed the sheets on my bed
- I’ve decided that washing my hair is optional
- So is shaving my legs
- When going out in public I consider yoga pants “real” clothes
Is this a case of post-Christmas blues? Do I need an intervention? Possibly on both counts.
But it’s more than that. A change is brewing in my heart. I know this because the only thing that helped me through this dark time was a passage from the book of Isaiah:
If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again. ~Isaiah 58:9-12 (The Message)
After reading these verses, I received some much-needed clarity. I was able to pull my head from underneath the covers and out of my Netflix fog and realize that my life has a purpose. It’s not what I thought it would be when I was a wide-eyed (and rather clueless) college student anticipating the future as I saw it.
Instead, I know my purpose/future might not be about ME at all, which kind of takes the pressure off. Yes, I have goals, dreams and aspirations to achieve, but my focus is shifting. Using my creativity and free time to pursue just my own agenda is becoming as empty as a plate of brownies after five consecutive episodes of Glee. Is that just the depression talking? I don’t think so. The key to getting the “glow” Isaiah talks about is one word: others. And not just in a general “do unto others” or Golden Rule kind of way, but in an actual I-will-make-sacrifices-for-those-that-need-it-most kind of way.
After slowly, oh-so-slowly, coming to this realization, I suddenly wanted to cook something, which is one of the first signs I’m going to be okay. That and a desperate need to wash sheets and yoga pants.
Problem is, depression breeds apathy which breeds an inability to leave the house for any purpose which gives birth to empty cupboards. I headed to the pantry to see what I could throw together with canned goods, a few veggies, and something from the freezer.
The result was nothing short of miraculous. The fact that I could conjure up something this good out of what I thought was NOTHING fed my soul, my spirit, and my belly.
Cod with Tomatoes, Fennel, Saffron and French Lentils
Make the lentils:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, chopped smallish
1 small red onion, chopped smallish (use any kind of onion, but I had red on hand)
1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup French lentils, rinsed
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the carrots and onion and cook until soft. Add salt and pepper and bay leaf. Add the lentils and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until just tender yet still firm, about 20 minutes.
Make the fish:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid
Kosher salt and pepper, to your desired taste
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon saffron threads
4 (5 ounce) cod fillets (This would work nicely with tilapia too)
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add fennel. Cook for 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, chicken stock, and saffron. Bring to a boil. Simmer for five minutes.
Push the fish fillets into the sauce, making sure to cover with broth and veggies. Cover and simmer over low heat until fish is just cooked through, about ten minutes. Serve fish on top of lentils with vegetables and broth spooned over the top.
After I ate this dish, I felt refreshed and nourished (literally and figuratively). I was reminded of another passage from Isaiah my brother mentioned to me just last week:
Do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. ~Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
I’m not sure how cod, lentils, the book of Isaiah, a few threads of saffron, and a fennel bulb conspired together to make me feel like new, but I think God speaks in small ways and everyday things. During my “down” time, I shut out the world and tried to listen. God whispered and assured me that He can make something out of nothing and old things new.
What inspires you when you’re down? Tell me! (I’m stockpiling ideas for when I inevitably fall into the pit of despair again.)