Shallow Lessons

handmade greeting cards, collage art

Taking a break from myself for the past week turned out to be an experiment in possibility.  Each morning I got up and posed the question “What do I need today?”  Most days involved some sort of exercise, often twice in the same day.  There was usually a call for delicious, healthy food that I cooked myself.  I read a lot, which startled me since reading has been difficult post-ECT.  Soy chai from Starbucks seemed to be the treat I craved most.  I took several trips to the City without being driven by mania or depression to see what that might be like (delightful, by the way).

What I didn’t do was journal or make art—things I’ve done almost every day since I moved back home six years ago.  I only interacted with strangers for the most part.  And I put a moratorium on thinking.

Years ago, when I lived in Minneapolis, my friend, Lily, and I would go on “shallow” dates.  Both of us tended to over-think and ponder deeply the meaning of Life, so we would pick a fluffy movie and go empty our brains together.  Trouble was, we always found The Lesson or A Point to even the most retarded movie.  We laughed that we could find the Gift in lint.

I tried something a little different this week.  I focused on sensation and intuition.  Both of these ways of knowing have become untrustworthy, co-opted by bipolar delusion and compulsion.  I learned not to trust myself, what I feel and what I desire, because the illness warps perception.  But this set up a constant, internal battlefield.  More than just holding tension, or observing my internal workings, I rejected them.  Or I labeled all feeling and desire as part of the illness.  Either/Or thinking is much easier than trying to tease out the healthy from the unhealthy.  It also requires a lot of thought and analysis.

So, this week I practiced not-thinking.  I tried to listen to my body for what it wanted.  I tried to turn in the direction of beauty and ease like a flower toward the sun (no thinking involved there).  And if I felt compulsion push at me, I listened and felt it instead of analyzing and reporting it in my journal.

It was like mud settling in a pond gone still.  Defensive and vulnerable when I started the week, I felt my body soften and my heart take a deep breath.  My aversion to people thinned and relaxed.  Issues shifted from vague discomfort to solid little pebbles with much less mass than I expected.  Pathways cleared.

My vacation contained good and bad days (or in my new vernacular, sunny and stormy mental weather), so I was able to practice not-thinking on my rapid cycling as well.  I found much comfort in the mantra “Don’t think, just feel.”

So, as I come back to the people and responsibilities in my life today, I feel refreshed and ready.  I have some changes to make and more work to do.  But I’ll try to keep it shallow.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Littlesundog
    Jan 23, 2013 @ 11:42:43

    I really like this post. I read it twice, very slowly, to understand and just let this way of not-thinking really sink in. I am glad this week of experiment was revealing and yielded some goodness and realization. Welcome back!

    Reply

  2. pegoleg
    Jan 24, 2013 @ 12:01:06

    “try to keep it shallow” doesn’t sound like good life advice, on the surface. But the way you explain it really makes a lot of sense.

    I often feel that I’m running flat-out all the time. I rarely “exist in the moment”, just “be” or whatever you want to call it. What’s that famous quote about the unexamined life?

    Reply

  3. Morbid Insanity
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 17:22:48

    “Don’t think, just feel.” I liked that! I’ll try it, someday…

    Reply

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