When I first got back from Israel, I was depressed. I had lost my world. I hadn’t realized good things were happening. I just needed to shake off the blues and look around.
It turns out that misery can be habitual. We get comfortable where we are and not realize how gloomy we’ve become. We don’t see the gloom and after a while, it feels normal. It doesn’t show in the mirror, after all, so unless someone tells us, how do we know?
I didn’t see it. I thought everyone felt the way I did. I also recognized there were challenges some of us can’t face or at least not until we have an epiphany that cracks the shell of our doom and gloom and gives us the energy to move on. I think I was in this latter group.
Because I had to leave my adopted kids in Israel, I needed to see a shrink to confirm my decision — about which I really had no choice. He was the one who popped me out of my misery and made me realize that while I was losing a lot, I was also gaining a lot. So I could choose to focus on the gains or the losses — but I did have a choice. I believe I made the right one.
I’ve noticed how online, groups of people form misery circles with others who feel they are up to their lips in real or impending personal tragedy. They support one another’s negativity without realizing they are doing it.
Some of us won’t be smiley people. We aren’t all built that way. That doesn’t mean we have to be grim and dour all the time. It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said:
“Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying any attention to you.”
I think many of us feel we are the object of other people’s negative attention and criticism when really, they are totally uninterested in us. We may be focused on them, so we assume it is mutual — but usually, it isn’t.
Among many things that keeps me from falling back into total doom and gloom is being selective about how much news I read or watch. It’s hard to be optimistic these days. Between the endless lockdowns and isolation of life during the past couple of years, if I absorb too much of the always awful news, I’d never stop brooding and obsessing. Periodically, I bring up worries and fears — and then drop them again. I can’t be in that head space all the time and live a life. I haven’t changed my opinions but I have changed the way I approach them. It’s the best I can do.
Garry showed me — unintentionally — how you can wrap yourself in so much negativity that you can’t see the light in the window. When Garry lost his job, he acted as if his life had ended. He seemed to forget all the good stuff he’d done and declared himself a loser. Total doom and gloom. He forgot every award he’d won, every kudo he’d gotten, every story of which he was rightly proud. Instead of remembering how good he’d been, all he could remember was he wasn’t working. That he’d “lost it.”
We have been together for most of our lives, either as friends, lovers, or married. I have seen him on top and on the bottom. I knew he hadn’t lost “it.” He’d had a terrible shock and forgotten the good stuff he’d done, how hard he’d tried to make a better world. What he’d lost was hope.
That was when I had my ephiphany.
Life is never all good or bad. In the course of a life, everything happens. We are not the worst things we’ve done or which happened to us. We are better than that. We are more than that.
We don’t need to become robotic smilers, but it’s okay to remember good stuff too.
Maybe we all need to take a breath and remember we’ve done some good stuff. Give ourselves and those we care about some some pats on the back. If you’re too arthritic to reach that far, find a friend to pat you. Or a total stranger who will merely think you are weird.
All back pats count. We’ve all done something valuable and deserve positive recognition, from ourselves first and foremost. Again, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’.”