Last week, I wrote about my love of allthingsdonut.
Today, I want to revisit the idea of life’s little indulgences.
The first time I went to therapy, many, many, many moons ago, one of the first exercises the counselor had me do was to make a list of as many things that I could think of that I enjoy or take pleasure in. The things need not be expensive, nor complicated. The point was, any time I was feeling down, I could look at my list and select an item (or four) and partake, with the goal of improving my mood.
“Well, this is stoopid,” I thought. “It’s going to take more than a bubble bath or a couple of Oreos to treat my depression.”
I wasn’t wrong. But, the thing is, I wasn’t right, either. I spent the next twenty years living with my depression. I’m still alive, so I must have done some things right. But if I had listened to that therapist, I probably would have been happier during many of those years. It’s pretty difficult to feel bad while you’re enjoying something.
I’ve always been kind of a no-nonsense person. I tend to eschew frivolity. I’m not a coddler, and I don’t expect to be coddled. In my mind, that’s what my former therapist’s List of Life’s Pleasures amounted to: unearned indulgences. In spite of the fact that life is hard, it didn’t dawn on me until recently that I deserve pleasure simply for surviving it, simply for being alive.
Depression is a selfish condition. It sucks you in, distorting your world-view, making it unnaturally narrow and introverted. I once read that depression is anger, turned inward. I thought that idea was stoopid, too: anger, turned inward. I wasn’t angry. I’m not angry. I was sad. I am sad.
I am sad. I am sad that I am not able to express how angry I am(!).
Let me say that again. I am sad that I am not able to express how angry I am. I am not able to express how angry I am because it’s not socially acceptable. As a person raised as the female persuasion, it is not ok to be angry. Anywhere. Ever. As a female-persuaded person who grew up in a house where a raised voice was a rarity, I never experienced healthy ways to express anger. This is my experience. You may have had different experiences, but with the similar results.
In my situation, there’s nobody to blame. There’s nobody at whom to direct my anger. There’s nobody at fault. There’s nobody responsible. That just leaves me, holding my ball of anger.
“Life is a gift, not an obligation.”
A colleague has this quote posted on our computer system at one of the places I work regularly. She’s older than I am, and has been through at least as much shit, or more, than I have been. The quote sums it up. We don’t have to live. But life is a gift, in spite of the hard times. We don’t have to live it. But even in death, pain doesn’t end. It’s just passes on to others.
Be brave, even when it’s the hardest thing you have to do. Take a bubble bath. Eat some Oreos. Do something else on your list of Every Brilliant Thing. Whatever it is that you have to do to loosen your grip on your anger ball, do it. Get to tomorrow. Not for other people, because you don’t owe them anything. But for you. Because your story’s not over. Because this hard, imperfect life is a gift.
As always, I invite your thoughtful comments and questions.