Stag’s Leap 2015 Chardonnay “KARIA”
I was so depressed on Monday, July 2—after several days of being depressed, and several weeks, really, with some short breaks—I was like, “OK, maybe this is the end.” I was afraid to drive because I thought I might just drive my car off the road. I have a lot of experience with depression. When measuring how bad you feel, it is all about the physical consistency of the feeling. Is it like milk, is it like pudding, is it like cement in a cement mixer, moving around but staying thick? This was cement depression, new-level cement depression. When you are cement-depressed you can only talk to other people who get depressed. I wrote one friend: “I have reached a new level of misery.”
I hadn’t gone to meditation in a while. For weeks, the idea of sitting in silence for 45 minutes had seemed less than appealing, especially when contrasted against having a drink and talking to Tor, or someone else, even myself. But I thought going that day might be helpful. That said, it also had the potential to be awful. I had been home all day and stayed at the same constant rate of misery. If I stayed, I wasn’t going to feel better, but I probably wasn’t going to feel worse. I was very worried about worse.
Then there was the matter of actually going, actually moving my body. I didn’t see that coming together at all. I got an email back from the friend I told that I was worse than ever. It read: “Oh, me too. I think I need to adjust my meds!” This made me feel good enough to stand up, put on my shoes, and drive three blocks. There’s only one good response to “I’m so depressed,” and that is, more or less, “So am I.” “Why are you depressed?” is the worst.
There’s all this evidence lately that meditation literally doesn’t do shit. I think that is hilarious and possibly true. I also read a piece about how meditation is making people bad at their jobs because they realize life (commerce) is pointless. What I have to say about this is LOL. Still, for sheer entertainment value, you can’t beat sitting in a room with other people in total silence.
As I walked up to the door, the cement feeling persisted, possibly increased. Upon actual arrival—walking into the air-conditioned, scentless space with its clean wood floors and its walls of books, placing my Toyota key in the footbed of my last-season Frye sandals, urinating and washing my hands in one of the identical pristine bathrooms—I sensed that a happier person would experience such things as mildly pleasant.
There was a free seat next to a man in his 60s who is maybe some kind of tech millionaire. I went to a group thing here one night where he and I were paired off for an exercise where we actually spoke. When it was my turn to talk I sobbed, and he held my hand, tears welling up in his own eyes. When I talked to the entire group afterward I sobbed again. Sobbing is not big here, but it seems to be supported. People who were there that night are always coming up to me and saying how impressed they are by my honesty, which, at this point in my life, I realize is both a true compliment and something else. One woman said to me, “I thought that night you were just a silly girl, I think you were wearing a dress or something? I didn’t know you were, like, a mature, normal person.” I said, “Thanks.”
I am so bad at meditating. I have no intention of improving: I just go when I go and do what I like, think about whatever. I outline articles, decline verbs, plot revenge. Sometimes I go to meditation a lot and act like I will go a lot forever; sometimes I don’t go and assume I will go back. You know the old saw “We can only heal other people if we ourselves are healed”? No one at my meditation place has ever said that. I basically like it, my meditation place. I’m sure it’s filled with people who think the main problem with the United States is that it’s not run by Democrats, but I still like it.
The meditation started, and I thought about prisons for a while. Then I thought about someone who had made me mad and wondered if they were mad at me, or if I should even be mad at them. The fact that I couldn’t figure it out made me madder and madder. Then I thought more about prisons. I thought about how I went to a rally and all the signs said things like “Keep Families Together,” “Kids Shouldn’t Be in Cages,” “Babies Belong With Their Moms.” I thought about how none of them explicitly said that none of these people should be in jail in the first place. The signs were like a not-funny version of the old fortune cookie joke, where instead of ending the sentence with “in bed” you end it with “in prison.”
Then I thought about being mad again. I was mad at a man who I felt had been sexist. But maybe he was just a dick. I parsed the differences between “sexist” and “just a dick” until the bell rang.
We have a 40-minute sit here and a talk of similar length that is sometimes longer in ways that I find vexing. I could not stay for the talk. I thought about it, but my mood had elevated from “cement” to “pudding,” and I couldn’t risk a setback.
I had to go to SPD, the world’s most pleasant supermarket, to buy rice. On the way to my car, I saw Polly, a whippet. Polly used to belong to my friend until she moved to New York, leaving behind her husband and—this is actually the more complicated part of the story—the dog. “Polly!” I shouted. Polly continued to sniff a rosemary bush. I talked to the woman walking Polly, who I knew slightly. I said Polly’s owner was my friend. She said she was pretty sure Polly—also a long story—might be her dog now.
This woman was extremely young and thin, with long blond hair. She wore short pants and vintage glasses. We talked about whippets and heelers and how they did not care about anything except maybe their personal safety. I said I related. We said goodbye.
The supermarket where I live is called SPD, and it is the best supermarket I have ever known. I got my rice. Then, standing in front of the toothpaste, I saw the woman again. Somehow we started to talk about anger. She told me that Mars was in retrograde. I did not think this explained anything, not really, but I was super into it because it felt like so exactly what was wrong. She told me she had trouble accessing personal anger but had a lot of world anger. I told her I had no trouble accessing any kind of anger. She nodded. “We are all feeling it right now,” she said. “My boyfriend said he had to just run and run for miles today until he wasn’t angry.” I told her I always forgot her name, she said she always forgot mine. We told each other our names. “I think I might buy some white wine!” I said to her, and she said, “Yes, that’s exactly what you need to do!”
“Buying wine in a supermarket is terrible,” my friend Evan said once, with complete earnestness. He then added, “One just feels so helpless.” I stood in front of the cold white wine fridge for a while, weighing my limited options. In the end, I got the most expensive bottle there, a 2015 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars chardonnay called “Karia.” “Karia is derived from a word meaning ‘graceful,’ and that is the very character we seek most in this wine,” the folks at Stag’s Leap had written on the bottle. They went on to promise a “bright acidity” and a “mere butterfly kiss of oak.” It was $30, which is ridiculous. But when you’re depressed and think you can pay to be undepressed, you do it. You see the greedy stag with his little hoof out, and you willingly cross it with silver.
I will tell you a secret about myself. I, like Hillary Clinton, love very cold, somewhat expensive supermarket chardonnay. It’s so embarrassing. It’s not as embarrassing as being semi-restored to mental health after talking to a kind stranger in front of the toothpaste, like a fucking Tom Hanks movie, but ballpark. I drank this wine—which was fine, truthfully, and not too oaky, but not remotely interesting, because that wasn’t the point at all—and after I’d had a few sips, I thought about how I’d actually saved money. I’d saved money because usually I buy a $22ish bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer chardonnay. Since the Sonoma-Cutrer is actually a lot better than this Stag’s Leap stuff, I would never buy it again. I would thus, every time I bought the Sonoma-Cutrer, be saving $8. An infinite number of times saving $8 is a lot of money.
Tor came home. He was upset because his aunt, who was involved in a community project he was involved in (to prevent developers from doing their job, essentially) had gotten mad at him. “Then it turned out that she just thought the thing I wrote should have three bullet points instead of five. But she was so mad first. And now I’m mad she was mad. Yes, I want wine. My God.”
I poured him a giant glass. “This is good!” he said. He drank half of it. He called his friend Sol and told him everything he had just told me. “I’m wasted!” Tor shouted with great joy. “I’m going to call my aunt!” He talked to her for a long time on the porch and drank more wine. I wrote this thing and enjoyed myself for the first time in many days. Tor fell asleep in bed holding his phone. I took a clean bath mat and draped it over his body in a comical manner. I texted the photo to Sol. He wrote back, “Hahahaha.” In the morning, when I opened my eyes, the depression was gone.