“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.”
― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Whenever something dark happens in my family or to myself I've had a lot of joy out of reading John O'Donohue; joy and strength and wisdom, all bundled. I got his first book - Anam Cara - as a gift from a man I had barely met, right in 2005 some weeks after I had been hospitalized with rampant anxiety. He sent it by snail mail, saying he felt I should have it. One of those small miracles. The book was my strength and you have to read it to understand why.
As for successful business-persons, lifestyle gurus, movie stars or other famous people who seemingly have it all together, you might get tempted to think that it's because of some extra special personal quality that they have, but you don't - or can never achieve.
Or worse: That it's just pure luck and that's why you should play the lottery, right? You might become one of them overnight! He ...
I have fallen into these pits from time to time - hell, more often than I care to admit.
My only real salvation has been that banal, but very powerful, realization that I only achieved some kind of peace, meaning and coherence in my story when I allowed myself to love it more.
Stress handling is NOT about trying to gain immunity from stress - that is silly and counterproductive.
It's about as quickly as possible regaining balance and calm when problems bring you out of balance - make you angry, confused, overwhelmed, etc.
I spend at least 2-3 hours per day cleaning, washing, shopping, cooking and doing dishes, and I can spend those hours better. Like trying to make more money than we pay the cleaning lady.
So I just have to do that.
And be patient until I can do that, because cleaning lady or not, I still have to get up at night and carry Jay to Char so he can get his food - and many times during day, changing diapers, everything. We can't hire us out of that as long as Char's hand is damaged.
We can only wait and remain calm and have faith that we have enough money - and help from our families - to do this, without too much cost.
So that is what we do.
I thought, pun intended, that I was good at this. And in a way I am better than most. I did recover from anxiety and depression which was serious enough to hospitalize me 12 years ago. I did it by changing my thoughts.
And I have been very resistant to falling into that whole again - to serious depression and anxiety. Ever since.
Whenever these feelings have come, mostly due to some outward event or me handling stress poorly, I have been good at controlling and diminishing those feelings, sometimes deconstructing them entirely. Or spotting what was going on and changing my situation.
But it turns out, ha, that I am not perfect. These tendencies to spend too much time (isn't all such time 'too much'?) berating others or myself ... they are dangerous.
Perhaps more dangerous than just coming to a feeling that nothing can be changed in your life anymore, nothing that is truly important anyway.
Or perhaps they are related, for I have felt at times - and that brought me close to depression - that I had indeed reached a point in my so called middle age (or mid life) where nothing really fundamental could be changed and my joy rapidly diminished as a result thereof.
It is hard to feel joyful and enthusiastic when you feel stuck on so many levels.
But what if a major reason I am stuck is that I - despite my experience - have allowed other insidious thoughts to reign for too long? Those thoughts that berate?
For truly, this morning as I ate breakfast at a nearby cafe, getting ready for work, I felt ... lighter. More joyful, if only ever-so-slightly. In fact, I felt a little ... younger.
Just like when I was actually ... that young.
Just getting up, getting out the door, going to the Royal Library, doing the best I could with my time there, but still taking care of urgent tasks that I felt could not be ignored for all sorts of reasons. Some of the good, some less good.
That's a bit muddled, but it's life I guess.
Not perfect, but keeping the right course.
I wish I could explain it better than a mere decision, but there it is.
It is, however, a decision matured. It has matured for a long time and it has to do with a realization of the futility of trying to sell out your present to insure your happiness in the future, so to speak.
Just as profound as the realization I had in 2006 which cured me of the deep and devastating anxiety that had gotten me into hospital: If I could never get better there was no point in hating and berating myself for certain thought and other matters, only in trying to make as much good time as possible to enjoy - during the minutes and hours I was not suffering.
Deep realizations followed up by definitive, all-encompassing action.
So I guess I have explained it better now, right?
Perhaps. But have I explained it enough for someone else to realize what they have to do to copy it?
Probably not in most cases. Besides, it is a state of mind that comes about not as a result of reading but as a result of experiencing, for a long time. Then a desire for change is cultivated in the soul.
But if I can aid that change, however little, I shall be satisfied.