Blue Monday, Blue Everyday – 18 January 2021
A woman is alone, sleeping. The blue colour palette of the picture, cool and harsh, suggests the constant presence of suffering. The woman appears gaunt and ill. The arc in the upper left, and the shape of the table, emphasise the bent posture of her body. The title of the painting (Sleeping Drinker) tells us some of her story. She has lived in lonely poverty as an addict. She is inhabiting a hard cycle of life, from which there seems to be no escape. The picture confronts us to make a response.
As we look we might notice that the woman’s bent body is wrapped in a blue cloak, reminiscent of the Virgin Mary. On the table her empty glass and plate have the appearance of a chalice and paten. Has the church, with its sacraments that bring comfort and feeding, failed her, or is a response still possible?
Buveuse assoupie (Sleeping Drinker) (1902) was painted by Pablo Picasso during his so-called ‘Blue period’. Following the suicide of his friend Carlo Casagemas, Picasso entered a period of depression. From 1901–1904 he painted monochromatic pictures using mostly blues. The subjects in the paintings are commonly single figures, alone, and often in poverty. The subject here is thought to be from a prison hospital in the Saint Lazare women’s prison, where inmates often suffered from venereal disease.
Today (18 January 2021) is ‘Blue Monday’, described by some as the most depressing day in the British year. This is not the case, but the day serves to raise awareness for those for whom depression and consequent hardship is an ever-present reality. In this time of pandemic, those troubled by mental health problems have been particularly adversely affected by lockdowns, isolation and loneliness.
when I woke up
the sun fell to the ground and rolled away
flowers beheaded themselves
all that’s left alive here is me
and I barely feel like living
Rupi Kaur, Depression is a shadow living inside me
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
The darkness has taken hold me and I can’t find my way back to the light. In this moment, ending it all seems like the best option, the only option, the only way to escape. Yet, there is something in me that wants your light to snuff out the darkness. So I ask, Lord, that you would do just that. You are the only light that can shine in the darkness. I ask Lord that you would remind me of these truths:
when I feel alone, you are with me;
when I feel invisible, you see me;
when I feel worthless, my value is knowing you
and being known by you. Amen.
Beth Ann Baus