The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.—Marcus Aurelius, 121-180 c.e.
I sit down to write and feel blocked
because my open and honest expression
might be twisted and used as evidence
by the one I formerly trusted with my heart
that there is something wrong with me.
(That something wrong being that I’m a human
going through a particularly tough time.)
And so I embrace a sort of forced positivity,
which cannot be all bad, right?
I mean, for God’s sake,
I have clean drinking water, on demand,
water to bathe with, a toilet inside my house…
This puts me in the top 20% of the world’s population.
I have voting rights.
I have my health.
I have my mind.
I have a college education.
I have work that I love
and two beautiful children
and an opportunity to start over fresh
every single blessed day.
In essence, I’m being blocked from complaining,
and this impediment to complaints
advances my ability to celebrate what is working.
This open and honest expression
might also be twisted and used as evidence
that there is someting wrong with me,
but if this is the case,
then it only reveals what is wrong
with the reasoning faculties
of the person doing the twisting and judging.
Therefore, thank you, dear soul,
for giving me cause to pause
and go on a negativity diet.
I shall grow fat with gratitude and grace.
We think 74,000 thoughts every day.
Over 90% are recycled.
Of those thoughts,
the vast majority are negative.
After two years of living in terror,
I’m ready for some new thoughts.
This afternoon I was really wallowing
(Hey, at least I can see it.)
I was feeling sorry for myself,
lonely, listless, lethargic, worthless,
abandoned, powerless, broken.
And it finally struck me…
If this is my rock bottom,
then I’m doing pretty well.
I’m safe, warm and dry in a home
(even if it’s going into foreclosure
and I have no idea how much longer
I’ll be here).
I have plenty of food available,
electricity, running water, a car that works.
I love my work as a yoga teacher
(even if I am not currently being paid enough
to support myself and my two children).
I have so many books chock full of information
right at my fingertips; I can read and learn.
I can write.
I can reach out to a friend
(even if Depression lies to me
and tells me that no one cares).
And I realized that this is all about focus.
Which thoughts am I focusing on and believing?
And can I focus on thoughts that will help?
I can try to shift my mind
(even if I have tried and tried a million times
and I keep ending up back here).
I can put one foot in front of the other.
I can breathe.
(even if I doubt this will ever change).
Clearly, I need to focus on facts
and ignore the parenthetical nonsense
(even if it seems impossible in this moment).
I thought it would get better by morning.
If anything it was worse.
After getting the kids on the bus,
I got back in bed,
hoping to sleep off
some of the depression and anxiety.
I got up a while later;
my body was hungry.
Made myself a protein shake,
went back to bed.
Then the guilt and the shame arrived.
You should be working.
You should be making money.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
You’re a piece of shit.
That didn’t help either;
it just made it worse.
You know what?
Depression really, really sucks.
It was a honeymoon.
With the marriage of
insight, the proper context
and the right timing
I experienced a moment
from the pervasive inner negativity
to which I had become so accustomed.
I was so excited
about this newfound freedom
that I shared my story with everyone.
But what goes up,
must come down…
and my emotional system
pushed back hard,
not wanting to give up so easily
the ground it had gained
during its long reign.
I have come to expect
this kind of systemic backlash
and so I wasn’t surprised
when the negativity
came flooding back today.
I’m working hard to wake up
and to stay awake…
and I’m learning to reframe
so that they flow
into the path
that leads to joy.
The honeymoon isn’t over…
This is just a lull,
a chance to see
if I really mean
to talk the talk
and walk the walk.
Now that I’ve experienced
the sweetness of union,
I can’t go back to the old way.
Thank you Teachers
for taking my hand
and keeping me on the path
as I move from inner struggle
to universal integration.
Oh god. More laundry?
I’m so tired of spending my time
taking care of all these clothes.
I’m practically buried
in the mountains of laundry my children
and husband create.
I’m so sick of this.
I wish I didn’t have to do this.
But wait a minute.
Does this story help me to be happy?
This story helps me to feel put upon and resentful.
So how can I reframe it?
Wow. I get to do laundry!
I have a wonderful washer
that cleans my clothes
and a wonderful dryer
that dries them.
I am so fortunate.
I have two hands and ten fingers
capable of folding each shirt crisply,
and strong arms
that can carry the full basket
up the stairs.
I have a home and two beautiful children.
Here are the clothes they wear.
I’m so grateful I have these healthy children,
so glad I can keep them in clean, dry clothes.
I have a husband.
Here are his clothes.
He wears them to work.
He works hard
so that our family
can live in this comfortable home
and eat good food
and have a fulfilling life.
We are so incredibly fortunate.
The difference in my experience of life
as I shift from the first story to the second
is so profound
I can feel it in my heart, my body,
my eyes full of emotion.
that’s better, isn’t it?
Does this story help you
to be happier, more peaceful,
more open, more generous?
This is the power of changing one’s story,
of reframing the situation,
of shifting one’s mindset.
I have a lot of work to do,
but I’m grateful, so grateful
to have the tools to do it.