Yesterday afternoon I walked in Rockefeller State Park. Blue sky. Soft breeze. Birds singing. Sun shining. It felt like the first official day of Spring … but my thoughts were not cooperating: they were spinning self-defeating little webs.
No matter what I did (yoga practice, walking in nature) I could not find the off switch for that pesky cluster of cells that Jill Bolte Taylor, in My Stroke of Insight, says lives in the left-brain hemisphere and is responsible for our maniacal thought streams. Round and round they go. Once the thoughts gain momentum they seem to have a life of their own and yesterday, despite my efforts, I could not detach from what they were telling me (that I have not reached the milestones that I should have by now, that I should give up on everything I’ve worked for because I am obviously not making any progress). As if that wasn’t enough doom and gloom, every bad memory (from the most minute to the more disturbing ones) seemed to be bubbling their way up into my consciousness.
I felt heavy, like it was a giant effort to place one foot in front of the other. A moderate hill that I usually enjoy walking up felt like Mount Everest. I was frustrated with myself because I knew I was wasting a beautiful day distracted by dark thoughts, and the more annoyed I became by my inability to ‘snap out of it’ the worse I felt.
Some days are just like that.
It feels impossible to detach from thoughts and the best we can do is to put one heavy foot in front of the other. I couldn’t even write my thoughts out yesterday because I felt so low and depleted. I stared at the computer screen for a few minutes and then promptly shut it down, poured a glass of wine and made dinner. The wine made me sleepy and I went to bed early, but it did not feel like what I needed.
Some nights I drink wine or eat cookies to stuff my emotions inside me and on other nights, I do a restorative yoga practice or a meditation or take a bath and read a book. It can be hard to do the thing that nourishes you when you want to reach for the cookies or the glass of wine (the quick fix) and, essentially, get numb. Knowing what’s behind the cookie or wine party can gradually shift the behavior. It is a process.
We must be kind to ourselves because when we beat ourselves up we wind up turning to the wrong things for comfort (at least the cookies don’t talk back). And, by the way, sometimes a glass of wine or sweet treat, in moderation, is just what the doctor ordered (if, of course, it is not a serious addiction). It just depends on what the motivation is, but being too strict with ourselves doesn’t tend to produce balance in our lives either.
I remember Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now & A New Earth) revealing, in a live web discussion with Oprah (back in 2008), that people are often surprised to learn that he enjoys a cup of coffee or glass of wine. He added that it’s rare he will want a second cup/glass; I suppose because he is truly enjoying and present for his drink, so there is no need for more; there is no attachment to it. For us non-enlightened folks it may prove a tad more difficult to refrain from that second cup o’ joe but we can all bring more mindfulness into our days by slowing down, smelling the coffee 🙂 (really) and accepting that particular moment as it is, even and especially if it is a bad mood or a lot of self-defeating thoughts. The bad mood or thoughts tend to shift once we make some space for them.
And, so, this concludes my 30-day writing challenge. It wasn’t perfect but I reached my goal (this is more consecutive writing than I have done since I was in my MFA program) and I think, ultimately, that’s what counts. Yassas (cheers), as they say in the old country.