So I recently had an epiphany. Epiphanies for me involve realizing that something sensible that I’ve heard my whole life is actually true. There is usually an aha moment when I – BAM – get it down deep in my soul. My epiphanies are hard to share because there isn’t much to them. Things like “Be grateful” – well, yeah. But if you’ve ever felt sustained gratitude, you know it’s pretty mind-blowing. Right on.
Here’s the first part of my recent epiphany: A good mood isn’t something you are just handed. A good day, or feeling kind of great isn’t something you hit or you miss, like the weather. One can and one should manifest a good mood or a fabulous feeling every day. Regardless of the weather inside.
The reason this has taken me 54 years to understand and manifest is that for most of my life, moods have come and gone whether I’ve wanted them to or not. I haven’t been able to think myself happy or will away the crushing sadness. Not much. Not really. My moods have been very much like the outside weather and I’ve gritted my teeth, hidden under pillows, bravely put myself into the world, and just dealt in every imaginable way. Chips and guacamole, petting the dogs, helping others when I can, my favorite song….I’ve got pretty good rainy day skills. But oy.
So here’s the second part of the epiphany that isn’t really an epiphany because I kind of knew it, I just didn’t get it. You gotta play the right tapes. When you say stuff to yourself, you are listening. It seems obvious but when you say you are this or that (lonely, sad, tired, angsty, full of ennui) – guess what? You are! We tend to believe ourselves when we tell ourselves just about anything.
I know this may represent a mental-health-as-we-have-come-to-know-it crisis. I mean, aren’t we supposed to get in touch with our true feelings and hurl them out where we can “deal”? I would argue that mostly the answer is no. I see all your hands going up. BUT BUT BUT. I know. I get it.
If you aren’t enjoying how you feel or how your day looks, dwelling on it is probably not going to deliver anything but more of the same. So within reason, most of the time unless something major is going on, best to focus on how you want things to be. Sometimes you can laugh about the poopy parts but careful that you are actually laughing and not sealing some shitty fate. Keep moving. Don’t let it fester.
Example. I can wake up overwhelmed and floundering on weekends. Too many choices, and I am sometimes sleepy until noon and the free time I’ve longed for can close in before my feet have even hit the ground. Lately as soon as that feeling starts to sweep over me, I think about something fun I want to do and I turn off the chatter. You know all that chatter? Well, it’s no good most of the time. I shut myself up.
Lately I have been blocking the begeesus out of anything I don’t particularly find helpful. Money worries? Work hard and stop angsting because it generally works out. Not fond of the recent five pounds I accidentally gained when I was trying to get off the last ten? No one else actually cares and besides if I just keep moving and eat vegetables it will take care of itself. I can only play six songs on the banjo after two years of lessons? Sing more and learn a seventh. Lonely? Nope, feel the love all around now would ya?
As soon as the negative stuff starts, I immediately redirect and it’s working. I feel great, even when maybe I shouldn’t (old tapes). I walk out on my deck in the morning and spread my arms like a cormorant and as I feel the sun beat down I consciously let in all the good in the world. I am walking on sunshine. Woo dang hoo!
I am being kinder to myself. If I need to stay in bed til eleven or twelve, then I do it without guilty mutterings in my head. If I do something silly or embarrassing, I don’t look back. Last night at 1 am I ate some baked beans because I wasn’t sleeping and I wanted leftover baked beans. Hmmmm…but they were good and they helped me conk out finally so no harm, no foul. I am setting my sites a little lower and expecting less of myself sometimes. Less is more. I can do that!
Sometimes more is more so I also get busy when that’s what’s on the menu. Because I am not telling myself I am tired, I go on more hikes. Because I am not fretting about my charting, I tend to just get it done. Because I realized I don’t like to move too fast in the morning in the wake of that vertigo, I have started working an hour later. In the past I might have beat myself up and forced the earlier mornings until I turned into a jangly mess, then lived in jangled mess-land beating myself up for being too jangly. I do neurotic well, but turns out, with the pressure off, I can be chill. Especially when I say nice things to myself all day.
This isn’t just baked beans at 1 am. It’s more about getting through the rest of my life feeling fully alive and okay. In the past I have swallowed antidepressants and cried for days and been unable to see my way out. I have never doubted that I would keep going with all my might, but I can’t afford (don’t want?) that kind of drama any more. I’m alive, dammit, and I won’t be forever.
So all that stuff about making every day count, thinking good thoughts, smiling no matter what, feeling gratitude and focussing on the good. It’s true.
You can bitch with your friends, pay someone a lot of money and vent, get your panties in a bunch and be miserable – you can say that’s just the way it is and you’ll be right. Or, you can remind yourself of all the miracles that await and go grab your daily share of bliss and heaven.
Many of you may have already had this epiphany. The one where you decide that you are your thoughts and beliefs. But if you are (like me) a person who sometimes wants to slap someone for saying stuff like this, just try rainbows and unicorns for a few weeks. Just stop saying mean things to yourself. Quit the judgements and live inside your happy place. Be a cormorant and spread your wings and take in all that is good, deliberately. Turn off the news (15 mins is ok, all day will probably make you crazy and sad). Turn off the worry unless you can do something right now about whatever it is. Channel your inner Dalai Lama and have a friggin good day. Make it so.
It’s noon and I am just getting up and I get to fold a few clothes and go to a barbecue. That’s it. Sometimes by noon I have done big things but today I have just taken sips of air and watched the sky turn blue from under the covers. How lucky. How smart of me to rest and recuperate like this. I am a genius for staying in bed!