The Winter of My Discontent

I’m sitting in my living room with the sun streaming through the window. It feels warm on my face and I close my eyes in an effort to take it in fully, soak it up, hold onto it. This is a rare moment of peace these days. A moment when it feels like things are going to be okay. There’s room to breath. The sun is shining…all is well in the world.

This has been—and may continue to be—‘the winter of my discontent.’ (I’m sure Shakespeare will be cool with me borrowing that line from “Richard III”.) But for those of us on the positive thinking track, it appears negative, ungrateful, destructive. Many days I have shut myself off from the world believing I should feel better. Other times I’ve written about it and then felt guilty for focusing on it. Truthfully I’m just trying to learn how to navigate—an ultimately accept—this is a part of my life.

As early as middle school I can remember having these feelings—fear, anxiety, depression–and wondering what was wrong with me. In my 20s and 30s I took anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to quell the thoughts and feelings that seemed too dark to face. But taking medication to ‘fix’ the problem left me feeling like there was something wrong with me. So I stopped. It’s been almost 14 years since I used those drugs to get through the difficult times.

But something else has happened; something more insidious than the low moods themselves. Over the years and in the reading of self-help books too numerous to count, I am back to believing there is something wrong with me; that I need to be fixed.

I do believe positive thinking can be vey helpful. I’ve seen it in my own life. But the downside of taking positive thinking too far is that when I’m feeling angry, fearful, frustrated, or sad, I beat myself up. Mentally and emotionally I kick my own ass. And I gotta tell you…it’s exhausting!

What do we say to someone who’s feeling down? “I hope you feel better soon,” right? Because we believe (myself included) that ‘feeling better’ is the goal. But what if ‘better’ is part of the continuum between suffering and joy? Neither one of those states is superior to the other. They are equal participants in the human condition. What if we could say instead, “I love you no matter how you feel and I’m here if you need someone to listen”? What if we (and by we I mean I) could be more accepting? Especially of those feelings that are uncomfortable to us.

Moods are just like the tides…they follow nature’s rhythm. Sometimes they’re high, sometimes they’re low. But you don’t think there’s something wrong with the ocean just because the tide is out. And if it feels like it’s been low tide for far too long, don’t worry. High tide will return when it’s supposed to. In the meantime, think of all the treasures there are to discover when the tide is out—seashells, creatures of all kinds, the occasional message in a bottle.

The treasure I have found is writing.

Writing, for me, has become a way to talk about the things I don’t really know how to deal with. It’s also my way of finding ‘my people.’ Not as a vehicle to commiserate or feel sorry for myself. But just to feel heard and understood. This is how I can do something constructive with what I’ve learned; how I can help those who have similar struggles and feel like no one understands them. I write about my life to say, “I get you…and there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Like me, you may be sensitive and not realize it, feel things more deeply than other people and not know why. That’s okay. Really.

For most of my life I’ve tried to understand what I thought was wrong with me so I could fix it and be like other people I’ve admired. But now I’m taking a different approach. I’m learning to find more acceptance and love for myself. To be honest about what I’m feeling or thinking and not force it to be any different. To realize this is the way I am and I don’t need to apologize for it. It might not always be pretty or seem ‘in control’, and that’s just fine.

The irony is in accepting the parts of myself I’ve worked so diligently to fix, I realize more and more there was nothing wrong with me to begin with. And in the wise words of The Beatles…I’m learning to “Let it be.”

**This post is in memory of Debbie Ford who taught me to accept all of me…the good and the bad, the light and the dark. She believed our gifts are in the shadows. And it is only in accepting the whole of who we are that we will really become all that we are meant to be. I am forever grateful for that lesson and for the many other ways she changed my life. Wherever you are, Debbie, I hope you realize the impact you have made on the world. But most of all I hope you know how much you are loved.**

……………

I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. S. Lauria
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 14:39:03

    Ok, I’m not a stalker really! I just was trying to fix up some picture albums, and was getting really bored. I saw this pop up on FB and decided to read it. I found myself teary eyes about a third of the way in.

    Teary eyed because I was relating so much to what you were writing about. Good job by the way… I know it is difficult to write, not only write, but somehow put down in words how you are feeling. Getting that grasp of it, and expressing it in a way others can make sense of it.

    I recently have had some of the same self-discoveries that you have made as well. Maybe it is our age, or maybe by some weird spin of circumstances that here we are. Sharing.

    Either way, I really enjoyed your post and just thought you might enjoy some positive energy. Oh, and discontent isn’t such a negative thing. It means we are ready for change, feeling unhappy does not mean we are ungrateful. Us women (the women who feel a bit too much), we beat ourselves up sometimes – most times right? We have to learn to stop that.

    Thanks again for being vulnerable and sharing.

    S

    We all need somebody to talk to. It would be good if we talked… not just pitter-patter, but real talk. We shouldn’t be so afraid, because most people really like this contact; that you show you are vulnerable makes them free to be vulnerable.
    ~ Liv Ullmann

    Reply

    • Shannon McDonough
      Feb 20, 2013 @ 12:05:05

      S….so glad you found your way here. Feel free to embrace your inner stalker ;) I write because it helps me make sense of things, but also because I hope others will see we are more alike than we realize. This acceptance thing has been (and continues to be) a long road. I’m happy you have been a part of the journey :)

      Reply

  2. Meagan
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 15:17:05

    I enjoyed this Shannon. I have thought more about your previous post Faking it on Facebook as well, and this just helped to clarify.
    I think you are working through a deeply personal journey of self-discovery, and learning to accept the whole of yourself. When you talk about being more ‘authentic’ you are talking about accepting all the parts of yourself, without labeling them good, bad or ugly.
    When I look up the term ‘authentic’ Miriam Webster says – true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. I think that you are working on that. I think to be honest, I had a strong reaction because you titled your piece ‘faking it on facebook’. ‘Faking’ or ‘unauthentic’ have such negative vibes. What I really read was that you want to present yourself in your entirety – your yin and yang. There is a perception in the western world that yin and yang represent good and bad…yin and yang are actually complementary, not opposing, forces, interacting to form a whole greater than either separate part; in effect, a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects. I guess what I’m saying is that I wouldn’t categorize what you were doing as faking, or unauthentic, but rather as only representing a part of your being. All aspects need to be there, for you to be a whole and complete being.
    The work you are doing is learning how to accept and love both the yin and the yang of yourself and that is good and strong work!! I greatly enjoy your writing – I’m glad that your journey has brought you to doing this, as it’s powerful and thought provoking.

    Reply

    • Shannon McDonough
      Feb 20, 2013 @ 12:12:39

      Meagan, I love that definition of authentic…true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. That is spot on! For most of my life I’ve worn this mask…I’m happy and I’ve got it all together. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes it’s not. Oftentimes I’m a hot mess! And that’s okay because it’s all a part of me :) I guarantee there will be more to come and I will likely change and contradict myself as I continue to peel back the layers. Thank you for being a part of the conversation :)

      Reply

  3. Cindy Livingstone Ministries
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 16:02:30

    I am praying and declaring that you are an over-comer, you were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Heavenly Father. God Bless♥

    Reply

  4. conniepace
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 17:14:53

    Thank you Shannon! Right on the mark. I loved this: “But what if ‘better’ is part of the continuum between suffering and joy? Neither one of those states is superior to the other. They are equal participants in the human condition. “

    Reply

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