When I am happy for too long I become lazy. Not my physical self but my spiritual, existential self. The compassion-for-the world’s-suffering self gets complacent. After all, who has time to ponder that heaviness when there’s stand up paddle boarding and happy hours on patios to be had?
My blog post at the summer solstice — when I talked about my love for nighttime bike commuting and calculated risk — as compared to my essay now as we hit the winter solstice, exemplifies my current pendulum swing. I have gone from blissed out to blah’ed out. Thankfully, as Rilke says, “no feeling is final.”
My current crankiness has forced me back, at first kicking and screaming, to my more curious and tender self; that part of me who knows I can’t hide from my discomfort. Texting or shopping or Netflixing or eating will not make it go away. Those are just temporary false refuges.
So it’s back to school time. Gotta go inward. Happy hour on the patio will return eventually. Now is the time to read from my favorite spiritual teachers, listen to Pema Chodron, write in my journal, and take more yin yoga. Time to delve back into the RAIN method of relating to my feelings: Recognizing what I’m feeling, Allowing it in, Investigating what it means, and finding Nonattachment or Nonidentification with it, because this crud does not define who I am. It is simply a messenger that something within needs attention.
“But it felt so good to indulge in frivolity and distract from your sh*t!”
- says the impulsive, pleasure centers of my mind
“But you can’t run and hide any longer with your frolicking. Things are falling apart: Trump will be president, your heart feels broken, and the sun sets at 4:30pm (if there even is sun that day).”
- says my gut
All the playing and indulgence had its time and place, but now its time to indulge in learning from my doldrums. This darkness helps keep me real. It circles me back to my shadow. Although I sometimes hate this humbling reality check, it has traditionally helped me cultivate empathy for myself and all the others in the world who are feeling the same way. It’s the darkness that helps me love the human condition and the way we’re doing the best we can, in our own goofy ways. It’s this darkness that helps me feel proud of the way I let myself love fully and let myself be vulnerable, no matter the outcome.
It’s December in MN. We’re in survival mode. We’re sleepy. But these can also be the moments that awaken us.
Time to do the work and connect to our wise and weird and raw emotional selves.
Because soon enough it will be spring. And when it is you’ll see me raising a glass on the patio and toasting farewell to the darkness!