“If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”–Mary Engelbreit
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”–Aldous Huxley
“I don’t know if it’s the holidays, the cloudy weather, the lack of sunlight, or what, but I am really struggling. Then, when I say it aloud, I feel like I am crazy–like no one else struggles this time of year.”
Yes, I was “eavesdropping,” as John, my husband, has frequently accused me of doing, but I was waiting in a long line at a popular store the Saturday before Christmas to buy a gift. All around me were people having conversations. What was I supposed to do? Besides, the lady who was speaking kept looking back at me beseechingly as if she wanted me to participate in the conversation.
While the unknown sad woman, as I now came to think of her, had listened to her companion offer the advice to focus on the “real reason for the season,” sad woman was quick to retort.
“Yes, I know, I know. I hear every week at church. It seems like either pastors feel they have to say that, or they are just clueless to the real mental anguish people go through,” she added with frustration in her voice.
As the line slowly moved forward to the check out point, sad woman went on to describe to her companion how her life had been turned upside down over the course of the year. She had lost one parent and a good paying job thanks to a corporate decision to cut costs. Now this woman, for whom I was now feeling profoundly empathetic, was working two part time jobs, her remaining, but ill, parent had moved into her house, and her adult child had also moved back home, albeit temporarily, due to an impending divorce.
“I know I am supposed to ‘count my blessing and name them one by one’ as the old hymn states, but I am so busy trying to count dollars to make ends meet . . . ,” her voice trailed off as she stepped forward to pay for her meager purchase, a gift for her mom–it was her mom’s favorite fragrance.
“She always smiles when I rub this scent on her arm. It’s the one time she knows me,” I heard her explain to the young, but uncaring clerk.
Driving home the thirty or so minutes to my home, my mind kept rolling over this sad woman’s story. She was around my age, maybe a bit older, but not by more than ten years. How many other stories did I know similar to hers? Too many, I realized.
Likewise, I can think of several other people with whom I interact who seemingly, “have it all,” as far as financial success goes, who I have overheard or been engaged in conversations with that openly confess they are mentally struggling. Every time I hear this, I am so deeply empathetic, that I can feel/sense their cloud of sadness too. In fact, I sincerely wish there was a way I could brush away the darkness for them as if I were brushing crumbs off of a table after dinner.
Unfortunately, whether it’s short term holiday blues, seasonal affective disorder, or a more serious mental illness, such as depression and/ or anxiety, there is no quick-fix. However, having experienced depression, and bouts of the blues, I can tell you this. There is a gem inside of you, it’s just covered up with some dirt and dust, and with a bit of patience and persistence, it is my sincere belief that you can get through the dark times.
I do not own much of what some might consider “good” jewelry, but the few pieces that I do own, I wear nearly daily, mostly because of the importance of the people in my life who have given them to me. Due to the fact that I wear them frequently, they get dirty, dull, and diminished looking. Therefore, I try to weekly to soak my jewelry in a combination of ammonia and classic blue Dawn detergent (not anything with pearls or sterling silver).
Once these pieces have soaked an hour or so, I use an old soft toothbrush to gently brush away the grime. Three events during this process never fail to surprise me. The first is the amount of dirt particles that have settled in the bottom of the solution that came off the jewelry. The second event is how shiny and lustrous the pieces look after being brushed and rinsed in warm water. Finally, as I set each piece on a paper towel to dry, I am stunned by how silky smooth/soft each one feels.
When I first put on each piece, I am still taken aback by the way they look in the light, reflecting it just so. As I rinse away the solution I made for the cleaning, I never fail to be surprised by the fact that I never realized how dirty each piece was until I cleaned it. Further, I am so thankful I once more took time to clean them, rid them of their dirt with a little TLC, and, as I gently put each piece back on, I am reminded that no matter the irritants that can sometimes darken my soul, like the dirt in the jewelry, in the end, I can ultimately shine through with a little bit of help and self-cleaning. And, that, Dear sad woman, or anyone else experiencing depression, is true for you!
You may be a bit dulled up, in fact, you may be flat out covered in darkness. I get it. I have experienced depression too–not yours, but my own version of the dark cloud–the kind that makes it hard to get out of bed; the kind that sends you behind closed doors, so that you can cry profusely without prying eyes; the kind that makes you feel like you don’t matter, no one cares, and there is nothing you can do. I’ve been mucked up with all that, and more, on a few occasions.
Well, I am here to say, hold on, Dear Friend, hold on. Clasp, claw, clutch the edge and hang on for dear life. There is a way through it. You’ve collected some metaphorical dirt, maybe even more than your fair share, but inside of you is a gem that can be found by simply placing your hand on your heart. No one, and I mean no one, has a heartbeat rhythm similar to yours. It is your unique marker formed by The Creator. It is continuously beating, whether you think about it or not, and it serves as a reminder that you, like your heart, can beat this. It may take time, it may take therapy or medicine, it may take hours of exercise or talking with a trusted friend, it may take time spent outside, a change in scenery, or any other number of ways to get through it, but keep cleaning away the dirt; keep excavating–the real you is still there waiting to shine through once more.