The summer heat is stifling, so much so that it dictates the day’s plans, forcing us to bow to it, surrendering to the water or a day in the A.C.
It is on days like this when I stumble across a pair of sweatpants hiding in my shorts drawer that I am in complete disbelief. I can’t fathom ever wanting to pull those things onto my body. I can’t imagine the cold. But the fraying drawstring is proof that I have done this often, and my 40 years experience leads me to believe that I will be cold enough to do it again.
Likewise, I am shocked in the winter when donned in wool socks, a stocking cap and leg warmers I find a rogue swimsuit in the back of my bureau. How could I ever expose so much skin when I can’t imagine disrobing anywhere outside of a steamy bathroom? But the lingering scent of tanning lotion and chlorine is proof that I have often felt differently.
These experiences of seasonal disbelief remind me of my seemingly sticky moods.
When I’m riding high and the blood is flowing and I’m feeling great, I really can’t remember what it feels like to be down. I don’t believe it’s possible to feel any different than the amazing and connected way I feel right then. Why would I contemplate feeling other than fantastic anyway? I push the thoughts of depression and despair out of my mind and savor the freedom of joy.
Until I feel the opposite.
And then I can’t remember what it’s like to feel good. Darkness is all I see. I unconsciously conjure up yucky memories and replay past conflicts, big and small. I make mental lists of why I suck, why my life sucks, how people may be screwing me over and how I’m fucking up my kids. I back away from the light and cower in the corner.
This was my MO for many years, whiplashing unaware between emotional states, feet off the ground when flying and sprawled facedown on the ground when not, but I am oh-so-gratefully noticing that my modus operandi is changing.
Instead of being caught completely off guard, I am beginning to see the dark clouds approach and to observe my mind begin to interact with them. I witness my thoughts transform as my mind shuffles through past experiences picking out the negative ones, as well as picking out the ugly in others. I watch this happen with a little more distance and curiosity and a little less fear, and I do it without completely getting swept up in the river of negativity. I remind myself that like the seasons, this too shall pass, even if it seems impossible to believe in the present moment.
In the meantime, one foot ashore, I remind myself what I know to be true:
- this could be symptomatic of low blood sugar or lack of sleep (eat and rest)
- these thoughts should NOT be taken seriously / acted upon (observe, note, wait)
- my imagination can run wild (stick to the facts)
- my breathe can be my guide back to a more manageable place (BREATHE DEEPLY)
- gratitude can be a gear shifter (remember the good, say it out loud, write it down)
- sensorial stimuli shifts too (take a shower, listen to music, enjoy a favorite scent)
Perhaps more important than any of the above is to remind myself that like the midwest seasons, moods ebb and flow. This is not only normal and natural, but BEAUTIFUL, so I benefit to relax, wait patiently, and ride the waves. The scariness only happens when I allow the gremlins that are my negative thoughts to take over in my mind and turn a passing storm into a monsoon. There’s no room for them if I stick to the points above and repeat the mantra:
I’m okay. It’s okay. The kids are alright.
Because I am. It is. They are.