Today, a woman I know said she was depressed. Depression is a woman’s form of anger. My heart went out to her. I know the feeling. I fought it all of my life. Although I don’t define myself that way, I know it is still there. It’s like the residual effect of it. Like the grass that is left lying flat after a hard summer rain. The sun is shining, but I know that the skies were once dark and angry over my world.
What do you say? How do you fix for someone else what has taken twelve years of counseling to heal for yourself?
I always feel I am full of advice, like someone standing in the kitchen, as someone else is cooking. I can yell, “Don’t forget to cut back on the salt in that recipe,” and it may help that small aspect of the outcome, but it by no means makes a tasty dish. That person may forget another ingredient or put in too much of another. Life is a lot like cooking.
So when this person shared her feelings, all I can do is offer books that I have read and that once encouraged me and gave me hope. I tell her to write it down, journal her feelings – even the “bad” ones. So many people don’t want to write down the bad feelings, because they say they are afraid someone might read them. I tell them to use a password on the document. They still seem hesitant. Maybe they are afraid if they write it down, it will be too real. But it is a method that I have used to capture the pain and make it stand still long enough to wrap my arms around and hug it till it no longer hurts – or at least, not as bad.
Somewhere over the past twelve years of counseling, I have realized that life is full of choices. The biggest one is to choose to be happy. I used to feel sad, and I would sit with that sadness and wonder where it came from. I’d loll it around in my mouth to see just what it was made of, thinking if I just knew its components, I could break it down, then heal each tiny piece. And maybe that helped a little. Like owning it. Maybe that’s when I did the healing.
Even so, I feel the best tool I have acquired is the choice to change my perception. When I feel loneliness creeping in, I remember all the times I have been surrounded by people and smothered and overwhelmed by their needs, and I embrace the aloneness and thank the Universe for the opportunity to nurture myself. I will admit that when I feel that old familiar sadness knocking at my door, I might crack the door just a little, look out and ask it what it wants, but most times, I just walk away and tell it no one is home. Then I get busy doing something that makes me happy, like writing a story or working on a quilt or reading a good book.
This evening, when I was fixing dinner, I opened up the cupboard to put some spices back, and I saw the trays that I made to sort the Mexican from the Italian and so on. I smiled inside. Those trays make me happy. And as silly as this sounds, I looked at my spices and I felt blessed. But I think that’s the key, you know? Instead of looking at life like one huge picture, break it down into little things. Little things mean a lot. I think that’s where that saying comes from. There was a time when I would have been angry or resentful that I was home alone cooking for everyone, while they were off having fun. Instead, I let myself enjoy what I was doing.
I think of the scene on The Sound of Music where they are all sitting in Maria’s room, because they are scared of the storm. She tells them to think of happy things. “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” I practice this a lot. I used to think it was denial, but now I realize, it’s just perspective.
Don’t get me wrong – things still make me sad, but I just don’t stay there. I pray. I sew. I write. And I thank God and the Universe for all the pain that I have had, the rough roads and the long journey, because it opened me up and let me spill it out, heal it up and now have compassion for myself and for others.
I guess my biggest hope is that I can give hope. I know I don’t have all the answers, because we are all different with different histories and experiences and perceptions of the experience. Regardless, though, I know that life doesn’t hand us anything that we cannot persevere through. We are here to grow, and pain is the catalyst that gets us there. The key is to heal the pain, move up through that narrow stem of the flower, till your face is kissed by the sun and becomes the flower. And then – embrace the sunshine!