Even Baddies Get the Blues
I've been in a slow, subtle down slump for a while now, made slow by me doing my best not to be. After years of learning to sense the on come of The Sads like you can sometimes feel the on come of a cold, I've been throwing all my best practices at it. We're exercising and reaching out to friends and washing our hair and eating enough calories and getting good sleep. We're doing our yoga and meditation set every single day no matter what and taking our vitamins and making lists to check off for cheap dopamine hits. We're stopping to smell every rose on our walks and flirting with the flirty cashiers at Trader Joe's and savoring the feeling of the sun on our skin while waiting at the stoplight. But The Sads linger, peering in around the edges.
I tell you this not to be discouraging, but so you can manage your expectations of what your practices can do for you. Nothing is a silver bullet, guaranteed cure all. I'm doing a large combination of things and even that's just leveling out the dip...but that's not nothing! If you've ever been down a deep well of Sad, you'd do a lot to avoid going back there. I'm doing a lot to avoid going back there. Maintenance is easier than repair, and always worthwhile.
What is encouraging is finding myself in this familiar, uncomfortable place and yet "standing in a different position" to it, as author Lidia Yuknavitch said in a recent writing class I got to take, fittingly titled: The Abyss, Both Playful and Devouring. When we find ourselves in a moment of repetition, she encouraged us to ask, "Where am I standing in relation to the thing that's coming back around?"
When I ask myself this question about my most recent visit with The Sads, I notice that this time I'm not consumed by it. There's enough space in the room for my Loving Inner Adult to sit and have honest, compassionate yet firm conversations with the cruel, critical voices that have been swelling in and threatening to drown me. Lidia so wisely pointed out that, "You get many chances to face the same shit over again. And that's beautiful because then you can ask, 'How do I stand in a different place? And what inspires different action?'"
Standing in this different place, I'm getting that I'm not actually entitled to constant ease. Suffering is terribly common and very human, and the quality of discomfort I'm experiencing won't actually kill me. The aversion I've had to my suffering has worsened it, and more importantly, prevented me from taking a different mental action. Standing in this different place, I can soften to curiosity and ask my Sads questions; "What is your purpose here? What is important for me to understand? How can I help?"
This is when I feel the earth shift deeply underneath a great mass that previously felt forever immovable. This is how I settle a thrashing, nasty beastie down into its raw truth; sad, scared, tired and small. Aching to be taken seriously and tended lovingly. Hungry to be seen, acknowledged and understood.
Repetition is only a waste if you can't find a different place to stand.
How are you relating to what's happening?
What can you notice that feels new?
Can you soften to some curiosity?
Can you ask a different question this time?
You'll get another chance to face this later, but why not make this rotation count?
(I’m a Contemplative Educator; I teach contemplative skills and tools. Everything written here is an expression of my own experience and perspective. I’m not a therapist or a doctor, y’all! It’s not within my legal or ethical scope of practice to assess mental health, nor provide diagnosis, treatment planning or treatment for any mental health or substance use condition. I’d be so happy to help connect you to resources outside my scope.)