Saturday, May 11, 2013

Walk the walk

Life is full of paradoxes, isn't it? Yin and yang. On the one hand, but on the other hand. I wrote a few days ago of being so furious with the ex-husband and at the same time grateful he's finding whatever peace he'll allow in his life. The only way I can explain this dichotomy is to say there cannot be just black and white, that life's episodes are on a continuum from bad to good. Or maybe it's finally dawning on me that narrow-minded thinking, a byproduct of fear and hate, just takes too much energy that is better used on improving the quality of my life.

About a year ago I got into a downward spiral toward a depression that I know from experience would be a long haul out of. Six months before, we'd closed the magnificent failure of the family business, blame was being cast hither and yon, and most of us weren't speaking to the other most of us. After working an exhausting 60-70 hours a week on my feet, I suddenly had nothing to do. For someone who likes and needs structure, I was destined for The Pit. 

There were weeks I didn't leave the house; when I did it was a major event I had to hold my breath and unthinkingly charge into to accomplish. I started running looping tapes in my head about what a failure I was. In a massive demonstration of self-flagellation I began searching online for people I knew from high school, excuse me, more than 40 years ago, to see what successes they were, so I could add some grease to the spiral. Of course everyone I found was a success! None of them appeared to be criminals so I made the highly logical assumption that if they were Googleable, they were successful.

I still had enough sense to know I'd better stop this martyrdom sooner rather than later so I saw a psychiatrist. He heard my tale of woe and made a small dosage change in my antidepressant, but it's what he said that has really stuck with me. He said to ask myself, "How is this helping me?" That's it. Five words I've said to myself a thousand times. Five words that are a reality check, words that bring me back to the paradoxes my sister's death has stirred up.

It would be so easy to feel nothing but sorrow and loss. How can anything good be dredged up from losing a sibling? Just dive into the awareness of one's own mortality, look at positive proof that life isn't fair, or acknowledge the long-ago waste of her potential and try to find the good in any of this. I asked myself, how is being lost in this darkness helping me?

Well, here it is: Know, really know, that life is short and its end can be unexpected, and you'd better do something with that knowledge. Take advantage of every opportunity to tell those who matter to you that they do - never let a phone call or email end without saying, "I love you." Call the sister you haven't spoken to in years, not out of bad feelings but just because you haven't. Mend fences. Say thank you. Believe in something. Stand up for something. See beauty everywhere. Don't imagine slights. Allow events only the importance they deserve. Cultivate perspective as a sixth sense. The crisis of Mary's death put the ex-husband out of my head for the first time and when he slunk back in I had kind of a "who cares" feeling about it. Even if I have to continue to battle his demon, I KNOW this new feeling exists, it is real, and it will return.

There is a continuum from sorrow to joy, from hate to love, from craving to giving, from denial to acceptance. Find your place on your line and open yourself to ways of nudging yourself from darkness to the light because that is what helps you.

Thought of the day:

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.” 
 Mother Teresa