I was in the throes of writing, researching and editing this post last night when my unruly sausage fingers accidentally hit “publish” somewhere between Thing One and Thing Three. If you received a notification that there was a bright and shiny new post only to be told “that page doesn’t exist”–whoops. It was late and I was two bourbons in. Here it is in the completely sober light of day, as it should be.
ONE: DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY
I had noticed the random sticky notes and white board messages popping up around the Health and Wellness office over the past few weeks.
Good things are going to happen! It’s a beautiful day, sunshine! If you can dream it, you can do it!
My eyes rolled as if they had a mind of their own as I fished around for a spare dry erase marker in the collection of pens and Sharpies. Chuckling to myself, I carefully printed in tiny black letters “Reallly? I need proof” underneath the cheery, rainbow-hued “good things are going to happen” sentiment. Pleased and amused with myself, I sat down and went about my appointments and tasks of the day. In my mind, I had imagined the start of a playful back-and-forth exchange between this mysterious Little Miss Sunshine and my natural Eeyore-esque self.
A Twitter friend once posed the questions 1.) Which Winnie The Pooh character do people think you are the most like, and then, 2.) Which character are you really the most like?
Two days later, I returned to the office only to discover my little black message was erased. Wiped away. My sad surprise was quickly replaced with a renewed wave of mischief and I drew a small, bleak frown-y face in the margin where my original retort had lived. Apparently, Little Miss Sunshine lacked my particular brand of humor. The next day, my bleak frowny-face was wiped clean away, too.
One of my favorite colleagues had recently moved on to a new chapter in her life and I had interviewed to fill her job. With her hundreds of miles away in a different state, I disgustedly snapped photos of the happy platitudes that were popping up everywhere since she had left and texted her the photos along with a panicked message: I know you would have never done this! Who is doing this? I can’t take this job with this stuff happening! I think I need to withdraw my application! Help me!
Change is hard. For me, anyway.
I could hear her signature belly laugh as she texted me back off the ledge. Between the two of us, we deduced who the cheery culprit might be and I took a few deep breaths. I mean, they weren’t death threats–they were just mindless, happy platitudes.
It’s the mindless part that gets me.
It was only a few days later when another friend posted this article on her newsfeed. It used a term I had never heard of before–“toxic positivity”–and I immediately began to understand why the happy little post-it notes everywhere had triggered me. Take a scroll through your social media feeds and you’ll come upon meme after meme extolling the virtue of “just think happy thoughts.” As someone whose moods tend to run a little darker than than your standard-variety yoga teacher, I’ve had issues with the “good vibes only” mentality that pervades the yoga industry as well as much of the fitness world. Those days when I’ve been grieving the loss of a loved one, the mornings when my hormones have pushed me into a muddy funk and my bed seems to be my only friend, or my struggles with tough transitions in my life–all of those days could have been eliminated with a positive attitude? Really?
I might say I’m an Eeyore, but there’s a whole lot of Tigger in me, too. Maybe even a bit of Piglet. Frankly, I see a lot of Pooh and Rabbit in most of us. Take all those beloved characters, mosh them together and you’ll likely come closer to what it means to be human. With September being National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I believe it’s more important than ever to stop the dumbing-down of our emotional health. Can you imagine what it might feel like to someone struggling with clinical depression to repeatedly hear “just turn that frown upside-down!” or, “no bad days allowed!”
I believe we are capable of accepting and experiencing the wide rainbow of complex emotions within us. Sadness–yours or mine–doesn’t faze me, unless it lasts for weeks and impedes one’s ability to function. (If that happens, it’s important to seek out help. Let’s de-stigmatize therapy and medication–both can be life savers.) But otherwise, give yourself a day or two or three. Journal. Meditate. Get outside and move. Don’t just “get over it” but be brave enough to mine those depths a little deeper, knowing that the shadows you might feel lost in are a beautiful, important part of you. Good mental and emotional health means feeling the full spectrum without being shamed into shallow cheerfulness. Shallow cheerfulness–that’s toxic positivity.
A well-meaning pal once told me that the dear friend that I was grieving the loss of “wouldn’t want me to be sad.” The hell she wouldn’t! When the day comes that I take my last breath, I sure hope there’s one or two people around who feel sad that I died. I hope someone out there sheds a tear or two because that means I made an impact in this earthly life. No one needs to be sad for long and certainly not forever, but just until the grief moves around and through and processes out the way it needs to. Because it always needs to.
Until then, I promise to practice my compassion and acceptance of the sunny, happy notes left around the office where I work. I’ll be grateful that they aren’t threatening or bitter or warning of imminent disaster. But I still might scribble a few dark remarks here and there.
You know, just for balance.
TWO: THINKING OF YOU
August sucked donkey balls.
It really did. And since we’re talking about mental health, I can honestly say I slogged through some pretty stiff depression during most of August. More circumstantial than chemical, and for a variety of reasons far too boring to list, but still. Depression is something that seems easier for me to see in the rear view mirror rather than naming and claiming it while I’m in the midst of it. It’s the nature of the beast and it’s what makes it so insidious and vexing. My heavy clouds are lifting as I write, I’m happy to say. The welcomed showers and cool gray skies have a way of seeping into those tough dark recesses and loosening stuff up so I can move it on out and breathe again. It’s so good to breathe again.
August was not without its bright spots, though, and some of the brightest were the unexpected cards and notes I just happened to get in the mail when I needed them the most. The simplest sentiment, hand-scribbled across a card that seemed chosen just for me was often all I needed to get through the most tangled up days. No one knew I was slogging through the mud of life, and yet these cards made their way to me at a time when I needed them the most. (Hey, thanks, Universe.) I wrote about the lost art of letter-writing just four posts ago and I believe so strongly in its simplicity, power and ability to connect with those you love.
My friend and yoga peep, Cat, recently turned me on to Thinking Of You Week. Cat is an artist, living and working in Everett, Washington who creates colorful, whimsical, handmade letter-press greeting cards that you can get here. I have an entire collection of her cards, some of which I’ll be mailing out beginning tomorrow for Thinking Of You Week. Here’s how it works: for one week–seven days–you are encouraged to send one card a day to seven different people. Just imagine those seven souls in your life, plodding out to their mailbox, expecting only billing statements and advertisements, catching a glimpse of a real postage stamp peeking out from their stack of mail. The delight! The surprise!
Why wouldn’t you do that?
Thinking Of You Week begins tomorrow, September 24th and runs through Sunday, September 30th. For all you cynics who are assuming it must be sponsored by Hallmark or some other corporate conglomerate, well, the Greeting Card Association (GCA) is the sponsor, but so what? Sure, it’s a made-up thing intended to sell cards–much like Valentine’s Day–but like Valentine’s Day, why not tell someone you love them? This is where my idealistic Tigger and Pooh Bear influences override the pessimism of Eeyore.
Who’s the first person that comes to mind? Send them your first card tomorrow. If you’re like me, the first three or four recipients are easy to imagine. After that, pay attention to that one name or face that keeps popping up in your head. Doesn’t make any sense? Maybe you feel shy or embarrassed to send them a card? Do it anyway. I believe there’s a reason we think of people at some times more than others. Pay attention to that. Then, act.
You know, just do it.
Our world is bananas right now. So much of what we are going through is out of our control. Everyone has something they’re struggling with. Each of us has the power to brighten someone’s day and spread a little love around. Not in a mindless, syrupy-saccharine way, but in a way that is personal and intimate. Sending someone something that comes from your heart, something tangible they can hold in their hands and take out again when the road gets rough–that’s powerful medicine.
Thinking Of You Week starts tomorrow. Seven days, seven cards, seven people. So much love.
Let me know how it goes.
This blog was originally intended as a place for me to write about the music I’ve been listening to. Happily, the blog has naturally morphed and weaved and evolved beyond that and into many more things as well. Despite a dismal summer of live music-going, I’m still all about the music. October holds much promise, though, with next month frighteningly jam-packed with live shows I have tickets for. But until then, here are three bands’ most recent releases that I’ve been streaming non-stop.
1.) Brockhampton, iridescence
If you haven’t jumped on the Brockhampton train yet, I don’t know what to say except it left the station late last year and you have some serious catching up to do. Their new release is as fresh and unpredictable as this prolific, rule-breaking hip-hop band has always been. See them live if you can and if you dare. (And yeah, they’re pretty explicit, so if you’re sensitive to that, just move along.)
2.) The Internet, Hive Mind
This is their fourth studio release and the very first I’ve heard of this delicious, groove-heavy R&B band out of LA and of which I am currently head-over-heels obsessed with. Be careful, you just might fall in love, too.
3.) Hibou, Something Familiar
Seattle-based, one-man-band of Peter Michel, AKA Hibou, is a dreamy, ethereal, musical force to be reckoned with. Hibou performs live as a four-piece band and I’ve seen them (him) twice–first, opening up for Unknown Mortal Orchestra a couple years ago and most recently, this summer at Capitol Hill Block Party. See them (him) live if you can, but if you can’t, download or stream “Junipero Love”, then lay back and get lost in your own mind. Trust me, it’s time well spent.
Happy Autumn, finally. If you need soup, hit me up.