Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Being Down with Being Down

"According to the cosmology of Thomas Moore, it's OK to be complicated. It's OK to be sad, too. Being 'normal' doesn't really do much for anyone except deaden the connection to the soul. Being present, according to Thomas Moore, means being aware not only of what's right in front of your face, but also hanging out with memories, hopes, worries, and the imagination, all of which accompany us every second of every day."

I don't know anything about Thomas Moore, but I so appreciated these words, written yesterday by my blog sister Reya. I am very bad at being sad. I often push away "negative" feelings such as sadness or anger, believing them to be unproductive or harmful. I come from the "if you can't say something nice" school of thought, whereby only "positive" expressions are allowed, even to myself.

It's bizarre, because this impulse runs so contrary to my Buddhist practice (such that it is these days). Zen emphasizes being in the moment, feeling what's there and not turning away from it. Even though I understand that on an intellectual level, being there, really being, is hard.

The other day, Dave was talking about some classroom issues that have him stressed out. He turned to me and said, "What stresses you out, anyway? You're never stressed." I said I could be situationally stressed, such as when I'm driving down the New Jersey Turnpike and my gas tank contains only fumes (which in fact happened to us just a day or two earlier), but that I wasn't easily stressed on a deeper level.

That's not really true, though. I am stressed by my joblessness, my hazy future, my neither-here-nor-there living conditions. I just don't readily allow myself to see the stress, or to express it. I keep going to the gym and try to do useful stuff around the house, to maintain a sense of control and self-worth. (I guess this is probably pretty common among the jobless.)

That control, though, can be soul-deadening. If I'm honest with myself, I've been feeling down lately. I miss the city and the creative spark it gives me -- it's honestly hard to keep up my level of daily activity and creativity here in the 'burbs. There's just not as much stimuli. Also, so many of my habits have changed -- I'm eating more red meat and ice cream, sitting less, watching more television -- and I miss some aspects of the "old me." I think perhaps I need to be more conscientious about staying in touch with myself, and making sure I get into the city more often.

And I need to let myself be down now and then, if that's how I honestly feel. I'm alive, and I need to experience my life, whatever it may be!

(Photo: VFR in Chinatown, on Monday.)


  1. You're right...Following your instincts and intuition will, in the end, lead to insight...and potentially new paths or ideas for you.

    You're also right about the burbs. That's part of the reason I go to the gym and work on myself inside and out...It is also why my itchy to travel feet are rearing their ugly heads continually, and I'm researching options to go to Paris and London, and trying to write off blog everyday.

    Did you see my questions to you a couple of posts ago???

    Hugs to you!

  2. This is profound.

    I believe there are city people who need the hum and buzz of a place like New York, at least intermittently. I think it's why I knew at age 5, when I first visited the city, that I would live here one day. Maybe you're a city person too.

    Or maybe you're just in transition. Self-awareness is key. Great post.

  3. I love the honesty that runs through this post. You really have figured out what makes you happy. It just seems difficult to put all those components together right now.

    Life in the suburbs is definitely different than city life. I think that's one of the reasons I use every excuse to go into DC. Besides being able to walk to most things of interest, it's just a much more stimulating environment.

    Like you, I tend to muddle through depressing times, trying to stay busy and get out of the hole I'm in.

    I wish you luck as you forge ahead into the unknown. You've embraced the reality of your current situation in a constructive way that should serve you well.

  4. i had to smile when i encountered your line: "I am very bad at being sad."

    there is a time to be sad, a time to be bad, and a time to be glad.... and sometimes all are happening at the same time

    to you steve - actually I think you may be quite good at being sad, in the big scheme of things.

  5. "I love reading people's take on themselves. I love it even more when their observations differ so much from my own. I never considered you, my brother, in all my 39 years, to be that much different from either myself of our mother when it comes to our general happiness. The only difference I see, frankly, is that while mom and I have no reservations at all about complaining... endlessly... you feel the need to stifle that complaining. I don't mean that as an insult, just as an observation.

    Unhealthy to hold it in, I say. Grump it up and just remember to keep all things in perspective.

    I smell a little too much 'support group' in this post and comments. Too much "Fight Club".

    "I am Jack's raging bile duct."

  6. I should clarify...By 'stifle complaining', I mean, I believe the complaint in many cases, is still there with you, you choose to not put it to words.

    The three of us talking about our home town being consumed by urban sprawl, for example. I say it sucks, mom says it sucks, you say, "well I don't know, whatever." and then go for a run. The complaint is still there, its just tired and sweaty.

  7. What do you have against support groups??

    Seriously, I see your point -- I do stifle complaints. I wouldn't argue with that. As for basic happiness, well, I can only guess where we all are relative to each other, so why go there? :)