I don't know if it was April when I felt like I had to get out of College Station in 2001, feeling angsty and Ecclesiastes-souled. I don't know how many times I've read pages 130-134 of The Cloister Walk since that day when I brought it home from the Half Price Bookstore and found in it the name I'd never known for the state of my heart.
The noonday demon, lethargy, listlessness. A dried-up capacity for joy. A sense that I am observing my life more than living it. The certainty that all this has happened before and it will all happen again and life will stretch out in unceasing monotony, the sun rising and setting every damn day for the rest of my life. The dread of the daily.
Maybe it's because it was colder than April should be for a southern-blooded woman, or maybe it's because it was that point in the school year where it's been going on for so long but the end still isn't close. Maybe it was because my idealism got creaky and too many sad things happened in the world and change of all kinds just takes so long that it's hard to hope for.
Acedia makes me not want to do the things I do. I don't want to write, to cook, to wash the dirty dishes or fold the laundry or put on clothes and go to meetings. It makes me do things I don't normally do, just as a way to try to break out of the monotony. Leave town, drive all day, cut my hair off, delete my twitter app. It makes me want to retreat from the world and go all Walden-pond for a month or forever.
In the midst of (and sometimes as ways to combat) acedia, here were a few things I loved (or tried to love) in April.
Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery
I thought it might be comforting to go back to a world I love and haven't visited in many years, re-reading Emily of New Moon and (now) Emily Climbs. I always know I've found a kindred spirit when she admits to loving Emily more than Anne (of Green Gables, that is). Her melancholy, dramatic little soul sings to me.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Easily one of my favorite novels of the year, this story of a Shakespeare troupe performing across the post-apocalyptic Great Lakes region is stunning. I will say, though, that I don't believe the author treats religion fairly, and that her story suffers from a one-dimensional portrayal of human spirituality. There is no empathetic imagination in her for religious people, I suppose. (If you've read this, let's discuss!)
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy was the Red Couch book club selection for April. I'm only a quarter of the way through it, and it is devastating. It's easy to read in one sense; the author is an excellent storyteller with stories to tell. But it's so sad that I have to take breaks. Everyone should read this.
Drew is a writer, teacher, and speaker who explores theology done from the underside, focusing on Anabaptist and Black theology. The Honors Guild brought Drew to Taylor this week to speak about activism and social media. Watching events unfold in Baltimore, talking with Drew, reading Just Mercy: these things are combining to shape my understanding of race in America in new ways. Grief might be the best word for it right now.
Finally, like the rest of you, I am catching up to the greatness that is Tina Fey's newest show. Also crushing on the music and design, which happen to be the work of my very own brother in law.
Blame the tv show Nashville, blame the way that wanderlust goes with acedia in my life, blame my compulsive need to take road trips and the fact that no one understands the lure of the road better than country writers. I was too cool for country music for most of the nineties, but somehow growing up in Texas and Arkansas I couldn't avoid it. If you, like me, grew up in the south in the nineties, see if this playlist brings it all back for you. I've listened to "Amarillo by Morning" at least seventeen times this week.
If I can salvage any of my indie cred here, I did go to see Sufjan's Carrie and Lowell tour. It was gorgeous.
Jack ran a marathon. He's awesome like that.
I made a baby quilt for my new nephew, who was born two days ago. (My children were happy to wrap up in it for a picture.) Sometimes, being creative and working with your hands does help.
How was your April? Any recommendations for treating acedia?