On Imbolc, Sadness, Being Gentle with Yourself, the Kindness of Strangers, and Getting the F^#$ Out of the House

I’ve been having a hard time getting out of bed this week.

This is nothing new for me.  I spent a really long time being depressed.  Like, most of 20 years.  The mornings are still a rough time.  I wake up feeling sad, or lonely, or anxious for no apparent reason, or worried about whatever ‘thing’ is going on in my life at that time.  I have vivid dreams most nights and they often color my mood in the morning.  It’s great when I have a sexy dream about Dax Shepard (this actually happened a few weeks ago, THANK YOU subconscious) or something, but more often it’s dark and scary like scenes from a horror movie, or I’m visiting a place I love and can’t get to (the house we lived in when I was a teenager, and the cannery I work at in the summers in Alaska being the most common), or dead loved ones are coming to visit and then I wake up and have to get used to them being dead all over again.  Point is, having a hard time getting out of bed is not, for me, unusual or a big deal.  The big deal is that I DO get out of bed, and that I am usually able to shake off the sadness after a few hours or a few days.  During all those years of depression, just a hint of sadness or anxiety would send me into a very fast and very intense spiral of, “oh shit, I’m getting depressed, oh no, it’s all going to fall apart, I’m not going to be able to get anything done, it’s just going to get worse and worse, everyone is going to hate me, oh god, what if this is the time that I kill myself…” etc etc, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I would jump up and start wildly running around trying to distract myself from the sadness, and it would just make it worse and then there I was, down the deep dark well, watching TV for weeks at a time, crying in the bathtub, and eating Wendy’s because I didn’t have the energy to cook anything.

I have since learned a few things.  First and foremost, that sadness is just an emotion like any other.  It has its place, and you have to honor it and give it space.  I’ve learned to be gentle with myself at these times, and go easy.  To not expect so much from myself.  To not label my feelings as anything or meaning anything, but just let them come.  Sadness manifests physically in me (maybe it does for everyone?) and I have learned to just let the big dark weight in my chest and the low energy and the drooping shoulders have their time in my body.  This morning, instead of getting up and exercising and walking Bear and making a big breakfast and cleaning up, I got straight into the shower and listened to music and sat on the floor of the tub while the water ran over my head (a habit I picked up at the cannery, where there are no bathtubs).  I stared into space and fiddled with my toes and sang along to ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ and just FELT SAD.

At the same time, I’ve learned that energy can get stuck easily, and I have to push through this desire to just lay in one place and not move for an entire day, and GENTLY get some energy moving.  We had a lot of sunshine early this week, and so I took Honey Bear for walks in the morning.  Long, meandering walks with no route and no intention of ‘exercising’ or burning calories.  Just wandering.  The first day, I was in such a terrible mood that I was probably scowling as we walked.  Bear had stopped to poo and an old man was walking toward us on the sidewalk while she squatted.  People are weird about dogs, and I have been glared at or yelled at for Honey Bear’s waste enough times (even though I always pick it up!) that I am a bit defensive anyway, much less on this day when I hated the world and everything in it.  So when this man yelled something at Bear, I whipped around and said “excuse me?!” in my most severe, don’t fuck with the cabbie or I’ll cut you, voice.  I still am unclear on what he was trying to say to her, something funny that didn’t translate, but he came up and started petting her, cooing at her that she is such a good dog, so pretty, etc etc while vigorously scratching her butt and patting her belly.  He was a very tall, slender, wrinkled man in his 70s or 80s with longish blonde/white hair under a hat, plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers.  He looked like what I imagine my dear friend Eric would have looked like if he’d lived to be that old.  I think that about all tall, thin, light-haired old men.  It gave me the same bittersweet, painful but welcome pang of grief that it always does.  He finished loving on Bear, smiled at me and walked off slowly, grinning into the sunshine.  We walked around a corner and came upon one of those rings in the sidewalk that someone once told me were meant to tie up horses, which I totally don’t believe, but why are they there?!  You sometimes see little plastic horses tied up to them around Portland, and on this one was a plastic Triceratops with a plastic T-Rex riding on his back.  My sadness was not gone, but how can you stay wrapped up in your own worries with sweet old men that look like your dead friend, crazy dogs pooping in the grass, plastic dinosaurs tied to the sidewalk, and the sun shining and the air feeling like Spring at the beginning of February?

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The next day we walked to Laurelhurst Park, where I took pictures of the ducks and Bear was admired by everyone we passed, including a sweet old white-haired couple who spent 5 minutes exclaiming over her.  The woman had once had an Akita (Bear is part Akita).  The man ‘didn’t like dogs’ but just couldn’t stop petting Bear and repeating how darling she was, in his English accent.  She accepted this worship as just dues for a Queen such as herself.  On the way back from the park, we passed the house of a sweet old mother/daughter pair (mother, at least 95, daughter in her 60’s) who I’d given a cab ride to.  They’d insisted on letting me borrow all of their Chelsea Cain books and left them on the front porch for me to pick up on my way home.  The daughter was in the yard when I passed and I reminded her of who I was and we chatted about the books and TV shows and the sunshine and how our dogs were barking at each other over the fence.

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I say thank you to all of these people.  The dinosaurs on the sidewalk and whoever put them there.  The ducks and the sunshine and the birds.  The little girl ‘fishing’ in the pond with a stick.  All the people running with that terrible look of pain and concentration on their face.  The people standing in a clump near the off-leash section of the park, watching their dogs play and awkwardly avoiding eye contact with each other.  The old man and the white-haired couple and the book lady.  None of this ‘fixed’ my sadness or made it go away, but it moved some energy, gave me perspective, and made me feel a little less isolated.

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The day of the dinosaur toys and the sweet old man was Imbolc/Brighid.  As a pagan, this is one of our 8 big holidays of the year.  It is one that I have never felt much of a connection to.  It is a time for spring cleaning, initiations, pledges and dedications.  It is halfway between Yule and the Spring Equinox… halfway to Spring.  I really felt Imbolc for the first time as I walked around the neighborhood with Bear that morning.  Spring is in the air, but it’s not quite time yet.  Everything is waiting, conserving energy, doing the quiet work of getting ready.  And so I say to you all, and myself:

Happy Imbolc.  The light is coming.  The seeds are there.  They are sleeping.  Give them the space and time they need to blossom.

shower song

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