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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