Finding a bright side to a dark situation.
Going with it. Allowing it. Honoring it. Moving beyond not in spite of, but because of.
Because we can learn the greatest lessons from our darkest days.
This is the natural cycle of life. And death.
This is not what I meant to write about this week. A whole essay on another topic open on my desk top ready to share with you. It can wait. This came up. And so we go with it. Ride the waves of life. For to miss out is to lose those greatest lessons. This is living.
Here in the high country, rain and hail continue. Clear mornings bring heavy frost. Clouds amass by mid day and the sky is awash in striations of deep grey by afternoon. Maybe in evening after a good downpour, the sun will break through far to the west and illuminate the tops of the snow covered peaks, glowing like stars on top a Christmas tree.
Leaves challenge the elements and slowly emerge, blending hillsides of the most vibrant greens into bands of waving white above tree line. Dandelions are quick to open their sunny faces in fleeting moments of sunny skies, and tuck themselves in with a sense of self preservation and practicality when the clouds wash over again.
Now is the time of rebirth, yet what I feel is the oppression of loss.
No one I know has recently died, nothing has changed, nothing is really wrong.
And yet, I feel I have lost something.
Something deep and primal and personal and essential.
A part of myself.
And for that part, that something I can not fully define, I find myself in mourning.
Amazing we can feel this way, so strongly, when on the outside it appears everything in our lives is “just fine.”
I need to rant. Please bear with me. I think you can take this, and maybe, just maybe, you’ve felt this way too.
Winter was hard. It’s a long story; I won’t bore you with it now. But the season on one hand left me empowered and with new focus; and on the other left me tired, empty, something in me missing, hurt, off, wrong. The wind got me. That sounds weird and I don’t really understand how and I can’t explain it better than that, and believe me, it doesn’t make much sense to me either. But I think that’s what it was. The wind.
I thought I was strong. Impenetrable. (At times we may find we are weaker than we think, and the lesson may be in finding the beauty in that softness which only weakness allows.) Well, I don’t particularly want to be weak, so I went to a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor and she noticed the wind right away. She said my chi was weakened and the wind got in me and got me bad. Believe what you wish, think what you want, this really made sense to me. It just felt right. Something deep inside was off and needed to get grounded.
So, I’ve been working to balance my chi again, and thought I was doing well… but then suddenly… WHAM.
Suddenly I am sad, angry and depressed.
What triggered this? Where does this stuff come from? I thought I was doing great… everything was fine.
I walk down to my beloved bridge – my way to get away – and the river is so crazy high with spring melt off from the warm temperatures mixed with the abundance of rain, swirling café au lait colored brown and raging, loud, wild, powerful and intense like I have never felt her run before… and I just sit there, legs dangling off the bridge in the middle of all this powerful water… and I cry. Hard. I have visions of falling into that water. I think how easy it would be. Just let go, slip away. No more problems, confusion, hurt… But I don’t want to end my life or miss out on what will be or cause pain to others.
What then, can I do to end this suffering?
Don’t worry, I won’t kill myself. I’m not suicidal. I’m just really sick of life today.
The next day, I walk back down to the river, that bridge, and stand there over the mighty river and smile. The sun shines warm on my face and my husband holds me and says just the right things, and my dog sits by my side as I stop and listen to the strong white noise and I can’t imagine a better life.
Nuts, you may say.
Or maybe, just maybe, this is living life, wild and free.
And what can we do but go with it, and make the most of it?
Considering balance. Our life is fuller if we allow the cycle of life to ebb and flow and even over flow at times. Remaining in balance at all times denies us this vast array of human emotions, creative expression, wild adventures, amazing acts of beautiful passion and tremendous bravery, and ultimately, great achievements. Balance is an over-touted safety net by which we can remain level, in line. Mediocrity, if you ask me. And missing out. It’s not easy, riding the pendulum, but it’s a wild ride, and well worthwhile. And I’m just starting to get it: this is what living life fully means.
(More on this can be found in the fabulous excerpts from this week’s Brain Pickings.)
What can I say? Don’t say a thing. Instead, let’s hold on to our hats and stand out in the wind and pouring rain, raise our heads back and howl!
Because remember this too: What about love? What is level and balanced about love? Would you be willing to miss out on love in order to keep your cool and maintain control and live your life well balanced?
And yes, that means risking a broken heart.
A little bit of death every time.
Would you have it any other way?
And so we must die. Leave the past behind.
What does it mean to die and remain among the living?
Is this not an intense part of the spiritual journey, and like all experiences, unique to each of us?
Giving everything, going to the ends, letting go, a complete release, and opening up to that which is absolutely new.
Or do we prefer to let go of those extremes, find center, be steady and stable and secure, and live life only from that balance point?
There is no one right way.
What way do you choose?
I won’t tell you your way is wrong if you won’t tell me mine is.
Suddenly in meditation it all makes sense. Fleeting glimpses of great wisdom and the Divine. The intensity is intoxicating, though it does not last long. I don’t have the answers, but the questions become more clear, and I can’t help but want to know more…
There is such comfort in knowing we are not the only one. And so I share this, with you. Maybe you’ll think I’m nuts, and prefer to remain safe and stable. Or maybe you’ll feel this way too.
Dear Amy of SoulDipper shares the following wisdom:
We do have to die before we are reborn. One book used in my study of the mystical principles in Sufism (borne from the wisdom of the Desert Fathers) contains a chapter titled “Die Before You Die”.
…Rumi, the poet who was a devout Sufi, is also quoted in the chapter. He wrote:
The mystery of “Die before you die” is this:
that the gifts come after your dying, and not before.
Except for dying, you artful schemer,
no other skill impressed God. One Divine gift
is better than a hundred kinds of exertion.
Your efforts are assailed from a hundred sides,
and the favor depends on your dying.
The trustworthy have already put this to the test.
(Mathnawi, VI, 3837-40)
(Amy is a wonderful friend, well known resource, powerful guide, and fellow soul searcher along this journey. She offers two invaluable services for the awakening mind. First is her Operation Blind Spot, helping you help yourself in understanding, accepting and healing your past. Second are her Intuitive Sessions, channeled readings bringing insight and wisdom into the Self through spirit guides, and ultimately, through the Divine.)
Can we call it depression in the literary sense, not the clinical: low, slow, down, dull?
Finding a bright side to a dark situation… for is not depression a little bit of our soul dying and being reborn with every wave?
I think those of us who think a lot about things like… say… life… are going to have our spells. How could we not?
We are not taught to treat ourselves, to trust ourselves and even to understand ourselves.
I am challenging you to begin. With me. Let’s give it a try.
To clarify depression, I do not mean the clinical term but the emotional state. As in sad, down, low, dull (for none of us can be up, high, bright and light all the time!).
The label of Depression for disease, chemical imbalance, mental illness are of separate concern and beyond my realm. Not that I don’t want to give this matter value, but I don’t deal with labels (nor the medical model). I deal with life, and hope to share my little glimpses with you, not take on medical assumptions.
What I speak of here is the inner turmoil of the eternal seeker. The natural part of life for those living fully. The low on the waves, the ebb of the tide, and dark cycle of the changing moon. To avoid darkness is to deny half of our life.
As we are all unique, so are our maladies, and so are our treatments. Listen to yourself; trust yourself; know that you are your own best excerpt – no one knows you better than you know yourself. And yes, sometimes knowing our selves means knowing when to turn to others for help…
For those of us for whom depression is but a dark spot to dive into, it serves as an opening to the light on the other side. Maybe a cliché. But you get what I mean.
Because there must be death before new life.
Leaves will wither and fall before new buds emerge.
Which promise then new blossoms, fragrant and bright and wild.
My husband tells me he was told you haven’t really lived if you never thought of dying.
Does the cycle ever end?
What would the alternative be? Balance?
Missing out on the lows would mean missing out on the highs.
Am I willing to forgo all that to remain somewhere safe?
At times I am tempted, but these times do not remain for long.
I return to life with a childlike zeal and curiosity and passion.
Lost as the young women I try to help.
How can I help when I don’t know the answers?
Somehow just being there, reminding others they are not alone, you are not the only one and this is not wrong… in fact, within this is something very beautiful indeed.
I am still on the path.
Some days wildly wandering.
I don’t know where I am going with my writing.
I don’t know where I am going with my life.
Saying that at nearly fifty seems wrong.
I want to know. I think.
Some days I don’t want to be searching still.
I want to have found the answers.
Maybe we never do.
So, I write.
I can’t keep up though I try, and have no idea where these words will lead me, will lead you, if you will even read. And somehow this matters, not for vanity so much as sanity, and just the same, I must write.
I want to reach people, help people, that’s why I write, I think that’s why words come to me, through me.
Some days I just don’t know.
Maybe today is one of those days.
Tomorrow will be different.
After nearly fifty years of asking questions, suddenly I find myself being asked the very questions I have asked a hundred times. Although I still feel so often like a child in body, heart and mind, what others see must be different: graying hair and spreading wrinkles like hoar frost on a winter morning.
The natural progression of things. I’m not sure I understand, but go along with it. What else can I do?
This is the curious order of awakening minds.
And the random wisdom we share,
as both the asker and teller
Widen your gaze!
Embrace all of life.
The light and the dark.
My world is wild, and natural, and trusting and nurturing. It’s cruel, harsh and raw and real at times, and more beautiful than anything I could dream up other times. I don’t want to refute, refuse or change my world, only make the most of it, be fully connected, and do my best to understand, integrate, and be one with it all.
I want to live.
As fully as I can.
Working in the high country yesterday, along the Continental Divide. Pouring rain, soaked through slickers and boots well packed with mud and I’m just grateful it’s not snowing. We’re wet and chilled and working with saw, shovel and ax until we feel we can’t do more and then of course we do a little more because really it just feels so good to be out there in the elements and giving our all and this is living, and that’s how I feel so alive.
Once again, I am re-born.
~ ~ ~
17 thoughts on “On Death, Dying and Depression: Dealing with our Darkest Days.”
This is a beautiful post, Gin. What strikes me is that I’ve always imagined you living this natural, freeing life and yet, here, from my contrived life in suburbia, I experience many of the same feelings. It feels like there are so many restraints placed on one’s true nature, that depression could only be the likely outcome. For me, I keep seeking what is true for me and what I need to be not as a “balanced” human, but as a fully realized one. It’s a tough ride, either way.
Yes, Michelle, you’re so right – a tough ride either way, and no right or wrong for we all have different paths, challenges, and directions. Everyone has there thing, someone once told me. I try to always remember that, and try to understand. I guess this helps give one a more compassionate view of others, and of one’s self. We remain our own toughest critics with the greatest demands. That’s the one thing that seems to hurt us the most, rather than allow us the space to grow when the opportunity presents – be it a high rise or a low blow, for both are of equal value.
Beautiful Gin…have to share to some of my friends…
I guess ya’ll are working the Ditch but isn’t it a little early yet?
Miss the mountain…
Early for the ditch, but had to address an issue while it’s flowing, so just in for a LONG day to get it done, and back to our warm dry bed at night. Loved your comment about the beer, too :)
When I crashed emotionally 39 years ago and realized I had been depressed my whole life, my first reaction was to go into mourning for myself for life lost. It’s like my old life had died. Only through mourning could I recover that part of me that was still alive and never lost.
Beautifully said, Dick, and like Amy shared above, you serve as a wonderful view of the living Phoenix…
Like a phoenix shaking off ashes of fires from past joys, you’ve risen again. I cheer the happiness arising from you – a nod to your surroundings. I hear your reverence for the wild beauty in a part of the world where nature does exactly what it wants. Thanks for bringing it to my tamed world. Too tamed, most often!
And thank you for referencing what I LOVE to do. You may even be encouraging a new blog post that lives up to the Soul Dipper name. Even blog writing has cycles of withering, drying and springing anew.
A long, continuous journey for those who seek as you well know, but what could be more fascinating and rewarding than finding inner truth? I thank you sincerely and always will for the guidance you have shared to me and so many others along this wild ride… I hope others may find and reach you too!
And yes, I’m looking forward to that new blog post on SoulDipper because I feel the words awakening within you and know I’ve got plenty to learn from them. Remember, dear Amy, it’s not just for you for whom you write. Your words (and work) touch others immeasurably.
Interesting personal perspective, Dawn, thank you for sharing your views. I can’t say I see things from the same light, though respect your opinion as yours – something that has worked for you, and thank you for reaching out. It is our personal beliefs and diversity that teaches us each to trust ourselves first and foremost. We are each our own best expert – not the medical model, as we are too often told. Likewise, I feel it’s the common story to blame emotions on hormones (PMS, Menopause, you name it… oh, those scary women things!). I’m not buying it. Some of us are and always have been emotional beings. The point I’m trying to make is this: stop being so scared of it and feeling you need to subdue. Stop putting a label on it as “bad.” Why not learn to love it? Make the most of it. Hold onto your hat and enjoy the wild ride! Likewise, I’m not scared of menopause at all though my body’s not there yet. Further, I have ALWAYS felt this way, deeply and wildly, and expressed myself accordingly, so what a cop out that would be to blame it on my age? I’m not yet fifty but can’t wait to be, and don’t plan on blaming any life problems on my age. Isn’t that what the system wants us to do?
Anyway, most woman I know buy into the medical model and go for drugs. Most end up thus dependent on said drugs for the rest of their life, fooling (not) their bodies they’re still sweet young women. I’m done being young, or will be soon, and that doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m not interested in chemically altering my body, but wisely and sagely nurturing it, and allowing it. I’m ready to move into being a wild passionate beautiful menopausal woman when that time comes. The few I know who handled menopause naturally made it through faster, healthier and with greater ease than those that turned to drugs. Seems the logical choice to me, though not the current popular trend. I don’t know if the natural route is right for everyone – that is personal choice and I don’t advise anyone to follow my path – only to consider their own path, listen to and trust themselves, and decide what works best for them. Thank you for sharing what has worked for you.
A wise friend stopped me recently and pointed out that depression comes to slow us down. It’s a blunt tool to pause the headlong rush towards wherever we’re going. Gin, you’re a stone that rolls, most creatively too. Perhaps you need to gather a little more moss?
Julian, You are truly wonderful!
I read something not long ago that put all of this in lovely perspective. I can’t remember who was writing about it but she gets the credit – not me. Her words pushed me thru another growth spurt. And yes – I certainly hope you are still having growth spurts when you are 60 too.
She said (my words) that balance sucks. There’s a lot to be said for it. Even keel. Smooth lines. No bumps. Nice. But who lives a life like that. She said – and it’s been my experience that she’s correct – that she doesn’t try to be balanced (So. Much. Work.) But she goes for the tilt. Think of a top that is NOT spinning wildly. It lays quietly tilted to one side. A little nudge, another day and the tilt has shifted to another point on the circle. It only rests at one place at any given point in time.
Her point was that in order to stay “balanced” you basically have to work yourself to death both mentally and physically.
In “tilting” we allow ourselves to be or do whatever and where ever we are at that particular time. One day depressed. Ok. The top will move and another day joyful. The point being to give each moment – each emotion – its due. Simply tilt.
Anyway I loved this description and it helped me get a handle on what I was both doing and what I was struggling against. And it wasn’t so bad at helping me relax a bit.
Maybe we don’t have to die to one thing in order to move ahead. Maybe we just need to roll to a different place on the top. Then when we come back around to that original spot we will see it through the eyes of experience and can tuck it away or grow from it in a different direction. That’s been my experience anyway.
Thank you to whoever it was that conceived of it in this way.
This is great, Elizabeth – thank you for sharing. I love it. I passed it on (good ol’ cut and paste!) to my son, too, with whom I’ve been having a good discussion on the subdued nature of balance vs the intense greatness of a rich life… His take was a reminder that we must be active, create it, not just “flow” with it, in order to make the most of one’s own life and live life most fully. I’ve read a bit on the “flow” philosophy, and I’m not convinced – it appears to me to be the lazy mans path to whatever will be will be… but an easier route indeed!
Reblogged this on Changing Skin and other stories.
OH DEAR—BETTER AFTER THIS SHARING BUT I AM NOT READY TO AWAKEN—-I REST KNOWING, THIS TOO SHALL PASS…..SENDING LOVE IN THE S´RING TIME OF PATAGONIA
ABRAZOS,GINNY, THE OTHER VIRGINIA
Hi Gin, I found your blogs and writing tonight. I am not really sure how as I was sifting through several portals, looking for something else as it often happens. I have been randomly reading through several of your posts and will have to come back later to catch up.
Your writing, well, I don’t have the words to describe, but it speaks of truth and beauty to me.
I am putting a comment here, on this post because I recognize this place you describe. I am a few years older, fifty three, and have lept into another life once I began to wake up from my maiden sleep. I am not a writer, but an outdoor painter.
I do not have the mountains to turn to as you do, instead I have the sea. The storms are here now, it is their season, and I love to be out in them. They give me the solitude I need to ride the same storms you describe so eloquently above.
I understand. These rhythms are part of life, just look at the rhythms of our Earth. Sometimes we all forget that we are part of the Earth. Our culture medicates us in so many ways, particularly us women. I am becoming a subversive crone. I refuse the bad and highly addictive food, and the chemical treatment of symptoms rather than nurturing the body to heal. I also refuse the fear mongering and the constraints on our thoughts, the siren call to buy more of nothing truly useful. I chose to be nurtured instead by wholesome things, by whole food and satisfying/challenging work and play. It is more work to walk this path, and it requires more self responsibility, but so very worth it.
Thank you for being who you are. We need more voices like yours. The beautiful pictures of your area truly take my breath away.
Thank you for taking the time to write and share and already I feel honored to have met you. I am curious as to your work, your art, your sea, your storms, your sense of simplicity empowering you. It forever amazes me the connections we find or that find us, and it seems more so now as we dare to step out from within the shells and evolve into our bravest, wisest women souls, no longer needing to impress and conform and be confined.
Yes, Renee, it is an awakening, and a transformation, and though it may be a while before we can hold the well earned throne of crone, before then there is the Matriarch calling, and so into her I am shifting, opening, serving, and finding how to become what is unfolding into the most powerful stage of life.
The wings began to unfurl only months ago. They are still damp, drying, learning to catch air and lift me. And when they do, I have found myself higher than I have ever been. It’s not a giddy stage, but a solid one. As if the ground beneath me too has risen.
And though I wonder if I will ever fall back down again, the inner wisdom in me tells me not to fear. We find our truth in those dark corners and hiding under places others dare not peak. And so we overcome as we become.