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.**

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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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Faking It On Facebook

Image credit unknown

Image credit unknown

Do Facebook posts seem a little too unrealistic at times? A little too saccharine sweet? A little too ‘everything’s happy and wonderful all the time’?

I’ve been struggling with Facebook lately and it has me considering this: Are the selves we present on Facebook our real selves? Or are they the version of ourselves we want other people to see? Sometimes when I scroll through my page, I have this perception that everyone has it altogether except me. I want to show my true self, but I don’t want to be the one Negative Nelly complaining about not living the life of her dreams.

In Sheryl Paul’s recent post Delete Your Facebook Account: A Revolutionary Act, she writes, “The bottom line is that very few people – if anyone – tell the whole truth on Facebook. Most people present a skewed slice of their life which is inevitably their “best”, most polished self. This creates a fantasy world where the message is: Nobody struggles. Nobody questions. Nobody has anxiety. Nobody has depression. Nobody doubts.”

I definitely struggle, question, have anxiety, depression and doubt, but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always share my true feelings on Facebook. When I’m feeling lousy I generally tend to stay away…or at least not post anything. I don’t want to be perceived as “that person” as my friend Jina says.

But some days I just want to say fuck this shit! I’m feeling lousy so could you all stop drinking the kool-aid and let me have my moment? Don’t you ever feel lousy too?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting everyone air their dirty laundry or use Facebook as a place to be nasty to others. But I appreciate honesty. We all have difficult times in our lives. Our marriages fall apart, our kid gets kicked out of school, we battle life-threatening illnesses, we make big, scary changes, things don’t turn out as we expected. Is it really so wrong to let other people see our fears and disappointments? Why do we feel compelled to hide those parts of ourselves?

I, for one, would like to see more realism. And that starts with me.

My commitment with this blog and in all areas of my life is to be more authentic, more real, more me. But when I don’t feel safe to share how I’m really feeling (on Facebook or anywhere else), I’m not being authentic. I’m being the version of me I want you to see…happy, positive, together. The version of me I think you won’t judge.

But that’s not the real me. At least not every day. I have many ‘good’ days. But some days are hard, frustrating, and downright shitty! What if we could all share a little more of our real selves with one another?

I do love that I have so many positive people on Facebook. And I mostly enjoy their inspirational, upbeat and positive posts. But some days they just don’t resonate with me. And on those days I have to choose whether to be honest about where I’m at or just stay off Facebook for the safety of all concerned.

Today my tea had the best advice: “Appreciate yourself and honor your soul.” For me that means appreciating and honoring even (or especially) when I’m sad, depressed, unmotivated, irritable, or just plain shitty. And part of appreciating and honoring is being vulnerable enough to be honest.

Thanks Yogi Tea! I’m doing my best…on Facebook and everywhere else.

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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.

It’s Not All Puppy Dogs and Roses

bad_day22Life. Sometimes it sucks. I have a bad day. Or I’m in a lousy mood for no particular reason. What the hell is wrong with me?

Lately I’ve been beating myself up for not being happy all the time. If you’ve read some of my recent posts you know I’ve been feeling down, unmotivated, confused, afraid and ‘trying’ to accept that. My success rate is pretty dismal. Truth be told I’ve been resisting it with every fiber of my being.

Why?

Because I have a belief I’m supposed to be happy all the time. Or at least as often as possible. And when I’m not happy, I should be actively working to shift my mood so I can be happy again. Working at happiness. That sounds fun, right?

It’s not.

There’s a fine line between healthy positivity and neurotic obsessing. I should know. I cross it regularly. And when I can’t be positive and happy and in love with life every minute of every day, I beat myself up. I compare myself to other people who seem to have it altogether. But I had it all wrong.

As Bridgette Boudreau wrote in her post My So-Called Emotional Life, “Happiness in its healthy state is a passing emotion. Its role is to show us when a particular thing or event is joyful and then it passes. Happiness is not intended to be a static state.”

Whoa!

The down times don’t mean I don’t have a good life or I’ve chosen the wrong path, or there’s something wrong with me, or whatever other meaning I assign to them. They’re just a reminder I’m human.

When I constantly strive to maintain a state happiness, anything less feels like failure. I don’t blame myself entirely…I had some help. Everywhere you turn the message is happiness at all costs. We’ve created an entire industry around it. It’s called advertising. Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, read a magazine, or even my favorite genre of books, self-help, and you’ll hear someone touting happiness like it’s the end all be all. Buy this product, take this pill, get this job, go on this vacation, find the perfect mate. And on and on it goes. The message is your goal should be happiness…24/7.

And I bought it. Hook. Line. Sinker.

As Bridgette goes on to say (and I’m paraphrasing here) the real goal is peace…no matter what emotion you’re feeling. What a relief!

The last month has been difficult. And even though I’m not on top of the world, I am feeling like I’m slowly coming out of this. That’s the way it usually goes. My friend Donna reminded me, “Maybe you just needed to rest.” She could be right. I certainly did alot of that over the last month. Maybe there was some emotion I needed to feel, that I wasn’t allowing myself to have. Maybe there was no reason at all. I’d love to say I’ll handle things differently next time. That I won’t fight it so hard. That I’ll realize it will pass. But I can’t say that with any amount of certainty. What I can say is I discover a little more each time I go to that dark place.

Slowly I’m learning whatever it is I’m feeling–happy, sad, afraid, joyful–I can just be with it. Invite it in. Make peace with it. And let it go on its way when it’s done with me. I don’t have to hold on so tightly. It will take some practice. I will forget. And then something will remind me. Isn’t that what life’s all about?

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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.