Posts Tagged ‘winter’

The Care and Feeding of Your Sad Little Panda

I’ve been sort of a droopy little person these past few weeks. Part of it is the time change and the season — such a bummer that it gets so dark so early! — and part of it is moving, the end-of-year pile-up of obligations, work and events, some health/medical stuff and such.

I had been holding up well in all the sturm-und-drang, keeping things organized and humming along….but it’s funny how the smallest thing can derail you, the things you don’t expect and plan for and anticipate. Comcast royally fucked up my moving order and prematurely disconnected the Internet from my old home before I could move into my new address. Yes, a First World Problem, I know, but I work from home via the Internet, so it really messes with my operations. And when I realized the problem was basically a quagmire that would require freaking HOURS to unravel — time I don’t have! — I basically had a full-on meltdown: tears, sobbing, that feeling of wanting to lock myself in a dark room. So much for aspirations of Zen composure! Since then, everything’s kind of set me off, and I have no real sense of equanimity.

Still, you know me, wringing out some kind of insight in a rather shitty situation. Even in all the glory of my meltdown drama, I couldn’t help but observe that part of me is always fighting how I feel, especially when I’m not feeling all puppies-and-rainbows. I grew up being told always to “cheer up” or “think positive” when I was sad; I know my parents meant well, but I internalized this feeling that having “negative” emotions were a BAD THING and a burden to those around me. It’s not just my parents, though; we live in a culture where we absolutely must be fine all the time.

So now, when I feel crappy, I immediately want to rush in and fix it, just because it is so unbearable to feel so crappy. Who wants to feel sad or angry or awkward? No wonder we immediately rush into fixing how we feel, whether it’s shopping, exercise, chocolate, essential oils, your libertine substance of choice or whatever. Sometimes you just need relief, and there are lots of “100 things to do when you hear the sad trombones” types of lists out there that cater to relieving sadness.

Lately though, I find the best thing is to just let myself be sad. Not really wallow or get paralyzed by it, but just acknowledge the full shittiness of the way I feel and let myself sit with it for awhile, letting it work its way through my system. Telling myself: It’s okay to have a grey day, it’s okay to sit in bed for awhile and cry. It’s fine to have a few days of accomplishing nothing, being unproductive, dissatisfied. So that’s what I did — I went about my days and my tasks, but I didn’t force myself to cheer up, be positive, exercise to get my endorphins up, or whatever. I just did soothing things, slept a lot, felt blue and stayed quiet. And then, after awhile, the sad-panda feeling passed and I woke up feeling…right. Like I’d honored myself and my need to be sad. And was left with a nice open space inside of me, filled with a genuine peace and quiet.

That’s life, what the Buddhists call dukkha, or just the discomforts and dissatisfactions that come from everyday existence. Just kind of let myself be quiet instead of throwing myself into the busyness of solving or fixing things. It’s a little scary and uncomfortable, but it passes through you so much faster than immediately going for that psychic Band-aid. And then after a few hours, or a few days, it just kinds of mists away.

That’s one of the gifts of the constant ebb and flow of existence: if life is impermanent, then as much as we’re told that we can’t grasp onto the things in life we want to stay, the things that frustrate us don’t last forever as well. There’s always motion in emotions.

Of course, sometimes you just need cheering up: you need that silly comedy, that retail therapy, that panacea. But every now and then, maybe sometimes it’s fine to just let yourself be absolutely truthful to yourself and just be sad — and see what lessons, thoughts and realizations bubble up from that.

Winter Sunshine

20140308-102120.jpgLately I find it hard to wake up. My dreams are dense, deeply felt and vivid — I’ve been doing a little yoga before I sleep at night, just little videos I find on YouTube (LOVE YOU TARA STILES) and doing shoulderstands and plow poses to stretch out my neck and upper back. I haven’t done yoga on the regular since I lived in San Francisco, but working out those knots and kinks is really firing the synapses. They must be firing in my brain something fierce, because I wake up from my dreams feeling like I’ve lived a whole second life that’s pulling energy from my waking one.

Or maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, and the baroque, sprawling, labyrinthine structure of the novels — where stories lay coiled within other stories, nested like Russian dolls — is kind of influencing my night-brain. I don’t know. I wake up and I feel walloped before the day’s even begun.

The days are getting longer, and the tumult of the past few months is smoothing out. I rediscovered my own “ways to beat the winter doldrums” post, and what do you know — the advice still holds. There’s a time in life to push yourself, to exceed your own self-defined boundaries — but there’s also a time to be kind and gentle to yourself. Now is one of those times, I guess. I mean, even if I wanted to push myself, outside there’s just piles of slush and snow, and it’s just a battle to get anywhere.

But I’m excited. I’m sitting now in a patch of sunshine coming through the window at the coffee shop where I’m writing. I kind of feel this itch in my fingers, and I’m just writing, and writing, and writing. The gift of going through tumult these days is that I realize now just how anchored I feel in everything basic: who I am, what I love, what I’m about. Not all of life’s mysteries have been illuminated, but the most central ones have. Not that I’m a static entity and I’m not married to the form and content, but if the self has a core — and I’m not entirely convinced as a Buddhist that it does — then my core is solid. It makes you realize that doing the hard work of sovereignty and self-reliance in the best senses of those words matters. Life is unpredictable, but you are always there.

I had more written here, but the crappy new WordPress iOS app somehow destroyed my previous draft, and the last 600 words of this post are somehow gone to whatever ether words go to when they disappear. The Island of Unexpressed Expressions? It doesn’t matter — those words and thoughts belong to the past. Some of those impressions remain: a smile from a handsome stranger, the sunset staining a horizon, the way my five-year-old nephew’s head emerged from the huge infinity scarf he tried on, grinning like Curious George. Right now a day lies ahead of me, waiting to be filled and savored. Have a beautiful weekend, everyone.

In Between Days

I’m sitting here writing this wearing sweatpants, drinking coffee, sitting on my sofa surrounded by notebooks and magazines and half-read books. I’m sort of just being lazy, though, maybe reflecting a little, filling out my yearly planning thingies, but otherwise not up to very much. I’m savoring the quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s, taking the time to read and simply not do very much. It feels good, and necessary.

I like holidays, but this year felt particularly stressful, and my spirits felt a bit low. For a day, I felt a strange feeling, like my brain wasn’t quite right and I couldn’t enjoy all the love and generosity around me — that Sylvia Plath-y feeling of a glass existing between you and the world. It’s been a particularly dark, cold winter, and I’m sure that — plus the usual frenzy that holidays can turn into — had a lot to to do with that mental fugue.

But you know, it’s also cumulative. I haven’t had a proper vacation in ages, a real genuine break, and that really kind of fucks with me. By the time I get to these supposedly restful idylls of “time off,” they just feel gritty and mucked up and I spend most of the break clearing it out. I need spiritual exfoliation! Which usually involves me sleeping for 14 hours straight one day (glorious) or spending a whole day in bed after Christmas, watching episodes of “Girls” and any animated children’s fantasy in my DVD library. Lots of hot tub and sauna time at the gym helps, as does a therapeutic massage. So does making bread — my new culinary experiment — and reading the Keith Richards biography my sweetheart gave me for the holidays. And going for a ride on Saturday really brightened me up. But mostly, sleep and rest. I’ve been having particularly vivid dreams lately, and that’s a good sign.

I have some new things I’m up to, and I’ll tell you about them in due time. I have some changes to make, and I suppose I’ll make them in my poky Cancerian way. I have things to share. All in due time.

In the meanwhile, I hope you have a beautiful, safe, glorious New Year’s, whether you’re swanning about town or holed up inside or simply vegging on a sofa and waiting for 2013 to finally be done with. Wherever you are in the spectrum, lots of love and light to you.

Blah and Bleh: 9 Ways I Fight Off the Mid-Winter Doldrums

I’ve been fighting off a cold most of this week, feeling a bit more lethargic and achy and throat-tickly than usual. And it’s bitterly cold out, and it’s cloudy all the time, and blah and bleargh and bleh…yes, it’s the mid-winter doldrums in full effect.

I usually enjoy winter, but it’s usually because I make it through the season without illness. This year, I’m realizing nothing sucks harder than being sick when it’s cold out. You feel like you will never be well again, and everything is starting to taste like those Halls Vitamin C Defense drops I keep sucking on. Yick!

Still, I am a trooper. And when I’m not sick, I’m still a winter fan, because I love how everything slows down, takes a deep breath, snuggles down and maybe gets off the grind a little bit — enough so that you’re refreshed and energetic for spring. Maybe this cold is some way of making me slow down a bit, at least until the rest of me catches up. Until then, here are some of the things lifting my spirits just a bit this season — no trips to tropical paradise included!

Go Bowling

I like any indoor sport where you can play while drinking beer and eating potato skins topped with sour cream and bacon. If someone put a gun to my head and forced me into a weekly group leisure activity, bowling would be it. But in all seriousness, it’s nice to get a bit of movement in, even if it’s just a spot of Dance Central or bowling or lazy human yoga or something. It feels like the last thing you want to do when you just want to lie there in your bed all day, but it always feels worth it to me once I get going.

Eat More Fruits & Veggies

Another thing I don’t want to do when it’s cold outside is eat more fruits and veggies — but when I do, it’s like this switch goes on in my body and I’m like, Wowwwww, all these vitamins and minerals are good for me, I need morrreeeeee. I was really good about green smoothies for most of January — and I’m great at them in the summer, when fresh produce is super-abundant. I feel 10x better when I have them, so I just need to get over my odd seasonal aversion to fresh things — and my craving for rich, creamy, yummy buttery things, I suppose — and incorporate them back into my diet, because my body and immune system is starving for some green freshness, even if my taste buds aren’t.

Bake Stuff

I like to cook, but I am not a baker by temperament. The whole enterprise confounds me. However, I found a crazy-good local sale of those Babycakes donut and cupcake makers, and I just couldn’t resist the idea of my apartment filling up with the cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla smells of yumminess — a nice panacea to the icy, grey ickiness outside. I know buying a “maker” is a bit like cheating, but I’m completely discombobulated when it comes to baking and it reduces the intimidation factor. Because baking is mad intimidating to me. How do you soften butter? What’s this sifting? What do you mean, only mix enough until large lumps are gone? What about small lumps? I really don’t know how baking relaxes people because it only makes me anxious! But I’m game to find out…and dying to make cardamom and peach donuts.