Sometimes I happy-shame people.
The scenario usually goes something like this: it is a beautiful starry night. Candles light up a dinner table like a runway. Glasses clink together and conversations unfold over the soft sounds of cutlery. Beverages of adult origin are filled and refilled. Conversations grow in volume and seemingly in depth. Until someone inevitably says with the sincerity and seriousness of a priest, “But, are you happy, really happy?”
Like many of you #Royals I cannot drink without paying hefty fines to a few of my chronic illnesses. This means I am in a slightly different state at this point in the evening. Still very present, though perhaps a touch less dreamy. When this query comes to me, I pause. I drink in all the expectant faces for a moment. It is with a gentle smile I go on to happy-shame. I ask the questions.
How boring would that life be, to be happy ALL the time? How dull and superficial an existence would happy become? I want to feel it all. The vast array of human emotion. I want to feel desire. I want to feel immersed in inspiration. I want to be excited, nervous, bored. I want to be full of sleep, lingering in those hypnogogic layers. I want to be paralyzed by fear and break its hold on me. I want to be broken open by my heart and feel the intimate strength that comes with healing. Sure, I want to be happy, but more than that, I want to be human; whole, complex, full of mystery and unfathomable. Then I turn to the person on my left and ask, “So are you really, really happy?” A new, lovely and courageous conversation emerges. It usually begins with: “Actually,..”
Depression has a bad rap in our culture. Do you think the great philosophers, let’s say of Aristotle’s time (340 BC ish) went around with huge smiles plastered on their faces? What is the meaning of life…teehee? It strikes me as rather unlikely. Hey, I’m not saying saying Aristotle didn’t have a sense of humor, but his quotes certainly aren’t a laugh a minute. Dealing with serious stuff broadens the mind. There’s scientific evidence that shows depression can be linked to migraine activity in the brain. Electrical impulses and such. But were this not the case, how could depression not be a side effect of migraine? Just by its mechanism of action.
Migraine: I’m going to attack you and inflict indescribable pain, nausea, neurological impairment plus random tomfoolery on you at my leisure. Maybe I’ll give you 20 minute warning of the pain phase with UFO-esque flashing lights. Get somewhere safe when your vision starts to go. The game starts…..NOW!! (No end date, No days off, No pause button, No olly olly oxen free)
Tell me that wouldn’t make a navy seal jumpy and cranky after a year or two.
Those who have spent time with migraine know it is a value prize pack. Migraine is infamous for its posse. Depression. Anxiety. Sleep disorders. Stroke. Heart disease. Just to name a few names. These are not the entourage members who will grab your Grande Non-Fat Carmel Frappuccino, dry-cleaning and packages from the post. They are more akin to a bratty version of the seven dwarves. I can see it in my mind’s eye. Depression holding onto your leg, trying to keep you from getting to the front door. Anxiety hiding your keys and tearing up the house while Sleep Disorder splays herself, mostly asleep over the purse you’ve been trying to locate for the last half hour. She drools ever so slightly on the counter. A text comes up on your cell phone: Hey Girl, but are you really happy?!
Why should we feel married to one emotion in an effort to appease societal norms? Is it not much braver to be present to our vast nature, to be able to embrace all that we are, with grace and gentleness? It is the resistance to feeling loss, sadness, pain, grief, confusion that gets us stuck. The best common sense analogy I ever heard changed the way I perceived life forever. It went something like this: You are no more your thoughts than the sky is the clouds that pass across it. You are brilliant as the sun, untouched by the weather below and always shining.
Snap! My twenty something self hadn’t thought of that. When it was a grey day where I was, the sun was absent in my world. Maybe this sounds simplistic, but realizing my thoughts weren’t my Authentic Self, that they were more like brain blurts on a Jumbotron screen, allowed me the separation to connect with the quieter part of myself and locate my true nature. It also helped me cultivate gentleness with the feelings that were not easy to house.
If we allow ourselves our feelings, treat them not as our Authentic Self but weather we experience: their hold over us slips. It’s still a powerful sensation. To state otherwise would be pure fiction. A fat lie even. But just like we know the clouds are not the sky, we can rest in the knowledge, depression is not an innate part of our Authentic Self.
I often scan my body like a weather channel. Ooh..I’m noticing a lot of irritation coming up the west coast of my body today. I’ll have to do some extra mindfulness meditation. Note to self: The sun is shining bright behind it all. Let’s tune back in, in a half hour.
Depression can become all consuming. It can eat us when it is indulged. This is not said flippantly or without compassion. Depression is dangerous. However, if used as a way to experience ourselves more fully, to open to the present moment and embrace every owned and disowned aspect of self- it can be a path to integration and acceptance. We can become comfortable with the uncomfortable, not only in ourselves but in others. That gentleness, that ease, well my friends, this is the ticket to being content in any situation.
I will take that over happiness any day.
On those days when gentleness and patience isn't coming easy, you come by and see your fellow Royals. We keep extra gentleness and compassion around for just these occasions.
Remember, as I always say,
You are nobly born
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