“Depression is something that makes you lose your sight.” ~Michael Schenker
Dark night. Black cloud. Thick fog. Darkness. Shadowlands. Blackness. Black sun.
All of these common ways of describing depressing describe conditions in which we can’t see very well. Our sight is dimmed in darkness, fog, and shadows. Familiar objects take on distorted appearances. Color is washed out. We can’t see where we’re going, and we can’t even see our current surroundings with any clarity. Everything appears gray and misshapen.
I’ve always been fascinated by the stories friends tell of the odd food cravings they got while pregnant. These cravings may be for things that they normally don’t enjoy or for unusual food pairings (like pickles and ice cream) or even for things that they would not normally considering eating (like the story I heard of someone craving dirt while pregnant).
I am fascinated by the stories partly because I have never been pregnant, so I have never experienced such cravings. But I am also fascinated by the specificity of the cravings these friends report. I am well familiar with that sharp edge of craving, but my cravings are too amorphous to identify and name. I hear these stories of specific craving with a bit of envy, wondering what it would be like to know with such certainty what it was that I desired.
I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to people and relations appearances can be deceiving, words can be used to trick and to hide as much to expose, feelings can’t always be trusted, and that the “truth” in any given situation usually depends on who you ask. In short, there is seldom an absolute truth to any interaction between human beings, and even the truth that can be reliably nailed down in some way is likely to be interpreted differently by each participant and each viewer.
For many years, this made me hesitant to trust my own perceptions of situations I found myself in. I distrusted my feelings, questioned my motives, doubted my observations. Most of all, I ignored my intuition. At the slightest hint of contradiction to my own opinions, I accepted the “truth” of those around me above my own knowing.
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” ~Abraham Joshua Heschel
One of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to a YouTube video of a flash mob that grew over the course of the performance into a full orchestra (including timpanis!) and choir. I love watching videos of flash mobs like this one as much to watch the reactions of the surprised audience as to hear the quality of the performance.
As with many of these that I watch, I am struck by the number of adults who exhibit little expression even though they may stay to watch and listen to the performers. I do see a few people smiling, and there is one gentleman at about the 4 minute mark whose whole face lights up with delight and clearly mouths an amazed “Wow!” as he arrives on the scene, but there is much less reaction than I would expect from suddenly finding a full orchestra and choir doing an impromptu performance in the middle of a public space.
Stories. I love ’em and can’t live without ’em. But they also make my life hellish, if I’m not careful.
Today was day two of this migraine-like sinus headache. I don’t get these often, but when I do, they are a doozy. They come complete with nausea and severe sensitivities to noise and scents to go along with the pain in my head. So I took a sick day and stayed home where I could limit my movement (and noise and odors) to control the nausea. I spent the day on the couch crocheting, which requires very little motion except in my hands.
It also meant a day that allowed my mind to roam, and when it’s allowed time to roam free, it tells stories. And especially when I’m not feeling well, my mind can come up with some pretty depressing stories!
“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” ~Emily Dickinson
For most of my life, I’ve believed that at some point I would arrive someday at some magical set of circumstances that would allow me to be happy. I had moments of attaining this kind of happiness, but they never lasted because the conditions that caused the happiness always changed.
“When you refrain from habitual thoughts and behavior, the uncomfortable feelings will still be there. They don’t magically disappear. Over the years, I’ve come to call resting with the discomfort ‘the detox period,’ because when you don’t act on your habitual patterns, it’s like giving up an addiction. You’re left with the feelings you were trying to escape. The practice is to make a wholehearted relationship with that.” ~Pema Chödrön (from Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, page 36)
I get a weekly email with Pema’s Heart Advice of the week. The above quote was the one I received today. (It can also be found in blog form on Shambhala Publications website.)
I know this feeling of being in the detox period well. As I have been working on shifting patterns in my life that are no longer helpful, I frequently encounter these detox period where my emotions have been triggered but I’m choosing not to engage in my usual coping behaviors. Instead, I am left to sit with those feelings that I normal try to escape, minimize, or at least distract myself from feeling.