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."
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 over 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,” the acclaimed British author 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 hold on and ride 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 Häagen-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, order in or fix something simple, like sandwiches. Stream 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. The day is done. There’s one. You’ll catch up tomorrow. 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, put on some lipstick, perfume, and earrings. 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 and your favorite takeout.
No matter which route you take, within twenty-four hours another day will begin. Tomorrow should be better. But if it’s not, nor the next day, or 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. Or as Fay Weldon reassures us: “Nothing happens, and nothing happens and then, everything happens.”