The Secret Saboteur: When You're Feeling Blue
Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want.--- Sue Bender
After self-nurturance, listening to the whispers of our hearts is probably the hardest task we've ever attempted. Some days the Simple Abundance path comes naturally. You realize that all you have is all you truly need. Other days, it's impossible to quiet down the wants. It seems as if you have too many unfulfilled desires and delayed dreams. You're sick and tired of waiting for inner changes to manifest themselves on the outside.
When the dark days come, we need to remember that even if a secret saboteur - depression - is at work temporarily derailing our progress (or so it seems), each day offers us a gift if we will only look for it. Sometimes we're sad for a very apparent reason - an overwhelming loss, for example, or worries about money or health. Other times we don't know why we feel so bad, which makes us feel even worse. It could be for a million different reasons - an appalling lack of appreciation (by ourselves and by others), exhaustion, the weather, hormones, the advent of the flu, or simply part of the process of personal transformation.
I wish I could tell you that spiritual and creative growth was smooth, predictable, and without pain. "All the best transformations are accompanied by pain," Fay Weldon tells us. "That's the point of them." Personal growth also comes in spasms: three steps forward, two steps back, and then a long plateau when it seems as though nothing is happening. But it's important to realize that this dormant period always seems to precede a growth spurt. Unfortunately, during the dormant period we very often become depressed and decide to give up.
It's on days like these that you can barely get yourself dressed and out the door. You look like hell and couldn't care less. You can't remember if you took a shower yesterday or when the last time was you washed your hair. The children's voices are insistent and yours is shrill. You haven't any patience. Life seems bleak, not bright with promise. It's taking more work than you expected to discover who you really are, and now you're no longer sure you even want to find out.
When dark clouds hover, what should you do besides holding on and riding out the storm? You have two choices. One is simply to give in, stop resisting. You've got the blues, so sing them, baby. But before you do, ask for grace. Then have a good cry. Leave work early. Take a nap and try to sleep it off. Indulge - without guilt - in something purely for medicinal reasons, like a piece of cheesecake or a bowl of Haagen-Dazs, but don't eat it standing in front of the refrigerator. Sit down, eat your treat slowly and savor it. If you have the energy, fix comfort food for dinner tonight. If you don't, fix something simple like soup and sandwiches. Rent a three-hanky movie. Put the kids to bed early. Soak in a hot tub. Raid your comfort drawer. Pull up the covers and snuggle down. Find five things for which to be grateful. Turn out the light.
The alternative blues-kicker is to shift gears. Ask for grace. Call a good friend and talk. Put the kettle on for a fresh pot of tea. Wash your face, comb your hair. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Straighten the living room so that you can find a place to sit down. Take a walk around the block and clear your head. If you're working in an office, give yourself permission to put off that new project at work until tomorrow when you can concentrate. Instead, clean your desk and organize your papers. On the way home, treat yourself to a bouquet of daffodils. Peruse your cookbooks and prepare something different for dinner.
No matter which route you take, within twenty-four hours the day will be over. Tomorrow should be better. But if it's not, nor the next, then know that it's okay to ask for help from friends, a support group, a therapist, a doctor, or your Higher Power. Dark days come to all of us. Yet discouraging days bring with them golden opportunities when we can learn to be kind to ourselves. Believe it or not, today offers you a hidden gift, if you're willing to search for it.
-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy © 1995
I was visited by my youngest daughter this week. She is struggling with changes in her life, at a point where it is time to move forward, and to leave those things behind that she used to enjoy. Making changes takes courage, I told her. In many cases, the changes required may be huge, but no valuable result is to be obtained in this world without exertion, without a cost of some sort. Part of that cost is turning 20 next December - no a more teenager.
It was a quiet and relaxed visit. It was a chance for my daughter to be alone with her thoughts while my wife and I worked. This was also the first opportunity that she and my wife had had time together without others to disturb their conversation. As Nancy and I have both been through huge changes in our lives, we can appreciate that my baby girl is struggling now, and yet we admire her for her maturity and drive, and we know that she will be successful. She will make of her life exactly what she chooses to make of it.
It is in our choices where things go south or north. And she was raised to know that we own our choices, no matter what may come of them. Would that you or I had learned, understood and applied these "life-lessons" so young! (She has always maintained that she is a wise old black man trapped in a young white girl's body…. In addition to her young wisdom, she has a most interesting sense of humor.)
I remember dark days when I was 19, about to turn 20 - soon to be married for the first time, and settle down. It wasn't the worst time in my life, but I was depressed by what lay before me. Recently there were other days that I seemed to barely survive from minute to minute, just wanting to get through the next hour. Being kind to yourself helps. Reaching down inside, finding that person who knows you best and letting them care for you - it works. Let it work for you, and hours will turn into days, days into weeks, and "this, too, will pass." You have enough against you in this world, why should you also join that fight? Be your own cheerleader instead. Be grateful for the lessons you are being led to learn. Pay attention - it's all important, no matter how trivial the details seem to be. But pay attention to yourself, too.
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