Over the last few weeks, since my previous blog post, I’ve felt a lot of sadness. The tears have been flowing with a frequency I haven’t experienced in quite a while. I always find this worrying. Is there something seriously wrong with me? Am I depressed? Do I need medication? Will I always feel like this? And where does all that water come from anyway?
But once the panic dies down and I stop the catastrophising, I realise that it’s probably just another layer of the proverbial onion being peeled off and that the tears, most likely, are a good thing.
Emotional pain, going on previous experience, is a harbinger of change. The phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ comes to mind but that doesn’t quite cover it. Yes, there’s a lot to be gained from change but ‘gain’ suggests a short-term goal or a specific target whereas I’m talking about a much more fundamental shift.
It seems I’m being challenged to reassess my relationship to my work and to money, perhaps even to my identity – because my work is so bound up in my sense of self and has been since I was very young. I’m being asked to replace worry with trust, constant striving with letting go and the interminable drive to achieve with a sense of fulfilment, irrespective of results. I’m being prodded to follow my heart instead of my head or the next pay cheque.
It’s not going to be a simple task, which is why this particular layer of the onion isn’t peeling easily and why the process is accompanied by a fair amount of tears. This time, it might end up coming off in shreds rather than in one clean sweep.
Of course, these tears have probably been wanting to leak out for quite a while but it’s only when I give myself some space to feel – some space for sadness – that they’re able to surface. I found this space at the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath last week during a sunny spell that, as I look out at the rain and feel the cool air through the open window of my studio, seems a very long time ago.
As is probably evident from my writing on this blog, I very rarely stop. If I’m not working then I’m pursuing some form of self-improvement activity, letting off steam playing team sports or tidying up after myself. There’s little time for pondering life, relaxing or lying down (other than sleep).
But just like my Mum, whose deep tan suggests she lives on the Costa del Sol rather than in Wales, I’ve never been able to resist a bit of sunshine so I spent one glorious afternoon and an even more glorious evening at the pond – and felt moved to blog about it for the Huffington Post: Swimming With the Ducks – Finding Peace at Kenwood Ladies’ Pond. It was that time of stillness and quiet, that opportunity to lie motionless, soak up the sun and feel close to Nature, that opened the floodgates to the tears.
My choice of reading material no doubt also contributed to my mood and prompted the tears to flow. I was reading Sally Brampton‘s extraordinarily honest memoir of her depression, Shoot the Damn Dog, and couldn’t help but be moved by her account of her breakdown, her relationship with her daughter and her mother and her battle with addictive behaviours. It triggered a lot of feelings about my own family relationships, my history and my struggle with self-harm, particularly around food. It put me in touch with my own sadness.
And that sadness has stayed with me, despite my best efforts to join in with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun watching the flotilla down the Thames from a friend’s house boat or singing along with Tom Jones, Paul McCartney and Jessie J at the Diamond Jubilee concert – watching on a big screen in Hyde Park with lots of other flag-wavers. The concert, along with a gig I went to on Friday night, reminded me that music and dancing really do revive me and shift my mood and that I’d like more music – particularly the live version – in my life.
But the sadness has been ever present and I’ve sometimes felt I’ve been some sort of passive observer of my life, having a kind of out of body experience, looking down at myself and asking, ‘Are you really having fun?’ or ‘How come you’re not having as much fun as everyone else?’ Yes, I agree, I think too much.
The good thing is, though, that I know today it’s OK to be sad and the sadness will pass. I don’t have to push myself to have fun or change the way I feel. I don’t have to eat on it, drink on it, over-work on it, or obsess about men to get rid of it.
The sadness can stay. And when it’s ready to go, it’ll go.