Lying Down in The Darkness

Listening to Louis CK. Humor is such a divine blessing.

Laughter is truly the best medicine. There are certain things in life that are irreplaceable necessities for the soul.

Things that are renewing.

Today is the kind of day I need renewal. It’s the kind of day I want to take my pillow in the bathroom, throw it on the floor, close the door and hide.

It’s one of those days where you wake up in the wrong city without the support system you need to bemoan the shortcomings of your life.

So you just put your foot forward because there is no best foot on days like this. There’s just the motions of walking, eating, and laying down.

And no one want so hear your problems. Even if they have empathy for you it feels at times as if you’re just throwing shade on their day. As if you’re just an annoyance.

And I know I must sound bitter; complaining like a loser isn’t cool. Self pity isn’t cool. But fuck it, you can’t be cool when you’re having a day like this. You’ve just gotta be a friend to yourself because that’s the only solace you will find.

There should be a survival guide for days like this. A plan.

I don’t know what that plan would look like but I guess it would be summed up in three words ‘take it easy’.

In some futuristic altruistic society I suppose we would have better guidelines for days like this.

I guess you could call it a mental health day – but the problem with mental health days is that we never take them preemptively. By the time we need it it’s already to late – so instead of taking a day to rest or restore our vitality, we’re just taking a day to recover our sense of sanity.

There’s no low fuel sensor in life; you can’t always know when you’re about to run out of gas, hit a wall and crash and burn. It’s the slow destruction and the wreckage that tells us we have gone too far for too long. And for what? Why do we burn up, burn out, and burn down? It’s all for nothing.

In Buddhism there is this concept of polishing the mirror. Meaning that we have to maintain our connection to consciousness. If we don’t polish the mirror we will not see ourselves. To polish the mirror is to meditate. Take walks. Sleep. Pray. Love. But it’s not just everyday living. It’s living gracefully. Without grace we are fools. And baby I’ve been a fool.

But I’m writing this to share that. What an utter and total waste of a man I feel like today. Because I love knowing that other people went through similar shit. That’s why I’m writing this. To validate someone else’s experience.

Whenever I read or hear similar tales of mental and emotional struggle from people I look up to, it’s incredibly soothing. This is something I’ve recently discovered about myself and about life.

I became acutely aware of this in a fit of emotion the other day. In the midst of it I was suddenly struck with a strong desire to pick up a book and read. But I didn’t want to read just anything – I wanted to read a passage in which someone detailed their feelings in an equally trying situation.

Perhaps I was looking for a reminder of the transient and fleeting nature of seemingly overwhelming emotions. Perhaps I was seeking a deeper context for self-acceptance through increased compassion and empathy for myself in that moment.

I think it’s probably most likely that this desire to know that my idols or the people who have made it further in life than I have, that they have been through similar situations, that they have felt similar feelings – I think this desire is driven by my need for validation. I just need to know that others have made it through the heartaches of life.

I once heard someone say something to the effect of: When you share your story it validates everyone else’s experience. And in addition to this, I think it’s kind of what lends integrity to art.

Songs, writing, paintings. Whatever the fuck your favorite art is – some of the very best of it was likely born out of the kind of dark days that only the bleeding heart of am artist can experience. And this is what art really is – using your humanity to create change in others.

For me that change is often a sort of birthing of empathy.

And that’s really what it requires to survive days like this. Empathy. Serious empathy for yourself. Without this you are likely to end up in a far darker and heavier hearted place than you should be. I often wonder if this is the kind of place wonderful men like David Foster Wallace and Heath Ledger found themselves in.

They didn’t have to go there but they did and in the end there was no where else to go. Their heavy hearts sank them.

But that’s not the way to go. No matter how much pain you are in. It shouldn’t tie you in knots too tight to untie. But I suppose it could if you let it. Depression and darkness can be a slippery slope – one that can feel like a cliff. You fall off and fuck, what have you done, what happened to the good life you could have had – the life that you sullied. The grip on which was never adequate.

My, how very well have I known that feeling. You could say that I’ve been intimately acquainted with it. I’ve gone days and weeks barely leaving home and just sleeping all day. I’ve had my heart broken and worse I’ve broken my own heart. I’ve abused substances in the quest to alleviate it – the dull and sullen agony of despair. It’s been the propellant for my most self-destructive behavior, and beyond my own self-destruction there’s been collateral damage that’s effected persons dear to me. Many of whom I’ve managed to compel to abhor me because of this darker side of me.

No one is their best self under
the broken mirror of despair. It’s the wise adage of: Hurt people hurt people.

In my own humanity I’ve made mistakes. And I’ve tried to be more human than my mistakes. To evolve and outgrow them.

But what I’ve come to learn at this juncture of my life at 29 years old, is that you will have days like this. I truly understand for the first time the meaning behind the clichéd phrase of: Momma said there’d be days like this.

I can’t say that has any literal, biographical meaning to me but I’m writing this to inform you that there will be hard times in life as certain as the seasons. You will have days that make sleep appealing to an unhealthy degree. You will feel the nauseous anxiety of tears inside your chest that cannot be released. You will hurt too much to cry. You will walk around and feel like an alien amongst what to you are suddenly normal people. You will look in the mirror and feel older than your years and more meager than your worth. These type of days – like the one I am having today – these days are going to make you question things that you normally wouldn’t and probably shouldn’t question.

As certain as the seasons. Your life is going to fucking blow from time to time. Dead certain. Everybody hurts and there is no escaping it, and if you try to escape it you will experience the inevitable pain of fucking yourself over – of emotionally abandoning yourself.

Life is a storm my friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment and be smashed on the rocks the next.

The words of Alexander Dumas are a poignant reminder of the transient nature of happiness.

Yet we pretend as if this is somehow a fallacy – as if happiness is the only proper setting and the default mode from which we should live and experience life.

Sure, some are happier than others and our baseline happiness is often the result of nothing more than the outcome of genetic roulette. Some people are darker than others. Some people are more linear in their moods and some people simply are above and beyond the little things that possess to the inherent power to royally debase the happiness of us mortals.

I’m not particularly special when it comes to happiness – while I have a childlike wonder for life and an almost grandfatherly like appreciation for the seemingly mundane, I am also prone to depression in the way that only a writer with a poet’s heart can be. Or at least in a slightly narcissistic my emotional world is the center of the universe sense.

But what I’m coming to find out about myself is that it isn’t the emotional storms themselves that have the biggest impact on my wellbeing but rather the manner in which I choose to reconcile my feelings. For most of us this is just a slow car crash – we do nothing to stop it because it’s already in motion and our internal world is not going to be a pretty place for awhile.

You could call this resignation. A blind compulsory acceptance of the degradation of one’s own feelings. That’s certainly the natural course for many.

Another choice is to try and escape your own pain. Drink. Drugs. Sex. Wherever your poison is. I won’t write more in this because if you have one then you know how it ends. Never good. The hollowing out of the soul.

Or you can, as someone recounted to me once: Light a fire in the hearth, get a blanket and snuggle with a good book, riding the waves of sadness with a healthy embrace of it’s presence.

I admittedly haven’t taken like a duck to water to this. I haven’t handled depression well. And I’ve only lately become better at this but I still am less human than my depression and I’m still learning. But I’ve done well today.

I’ve done well because I’ve learned to. I’ve learned what works. Trying to escape the pain of depression and trying to fight despair has not worked. It’s exacerbated things in an extremely magnifying manner. Spiral. Out. Of. Control. Anger. Sadness. Pain. Ugly shit.

I never knew any different. But I’m learning. I’m figuring out how to polish the mirror when things get dark. Essentially, this entry was spurred by the desire to share the ways that I properly and healthily handle days like this.

I want people who read this to know that you can find solace within a dark place and that it’s possible illuminate even the gloomier days. It just requires figuring out what works for you.

For some people this could be going for a run, for others it’s perhaps cooking or taking a bath. Personally, if I’m really depressed I couldn’t really imagine leaving the house – much less going for a run. You can forget about cooking too. There does exist a certain kind of day where I don’t want to stray very far from my pillow.

On this kind of day my best bet is to listen to melancholy music, write, and receive my thoughts with compassionate self-love. Comfy clothes and comfy thoughts.

Listening to melancholy music may sound like a counterproductive pursuit; however, it hardly is. There’s something reassuring about feelings put into words put to music. It sounds a bit clichéd to listen to REM’s Everybody Hurts, but trust me, it will wrap you up like a blanket on the kind of bleak day when hope is nil.

I cannot underscore enough how vital music is for me when I am feeling emotionally, mentally, or spiritually devoid. There are certain songs, such as Greg Laswell’s Comes and Goes or John Mayer’s In Repair, which really capture a blue kind of feeling for me (sick of both songs by now) and open the doors for increased empathy.

There are other songs too that don’t express how I feel but that relieve the feelings for me and grant me some peace and serenity. Bridge Over Troubled Water is a classic example. Trevor Hall’s The Lime Tree, is a good modern example as is John Mayer’s Waitin’ on The Day (studio acoustic) and his song The Age of Worry. I’ve listened to a lot of John Mayer this past year.

And then writing. It’s definitely my saving grace and more and more I am turning to writing in dark times. I’ll just start writing on my phone. Sometimes poetry, sometimes whatever the fuck I feel like. It just does it for me.

That’s only two ideas, but music and writing are central to me traversing days like this and I don’t know what I would do without them. I can imagine there are additional things I would be willing to try as well, like drinking tea and just burning a candle.

Another thing I’m getting into is really good fiction. To get an idea of what I am talking about, check out this one minute video.

I’d like to have a bigger toolkit beyond writing and music for polishing the mirror when things are dark but sometimes all you can do is just lie down in darkness.

But facing down days like this isn’t just about diminishing anguish and relieving the anxiety of sadness – it’s about progressing, healing, growing; and although it might seem that a dark place isn’t the best point of origin for growth, that’s often precisely what’s required.

You never know, you just might face the truth you need to hear in that time.

And either way, the bottom line is that there are going to be days like this. Your best bet is to approach it like the wave that it is and ride it out like a boss. YouTube some Louis CK standup. Write a poem about how you feel. Listen to Peter Gabriel’s The Book of Love. Know that in this life you are going to have days too awful to smile through. But you’ll also get through shit just as you have in the past. You owe it to yourself to make life easy on your soul. Heartache is a part of life. Loneliness is a part of life. Sadness is a part of life. Own it. Take care of it. Take care of yourself. Don’t resign to do nothing for yourself.

Now go lie down in darkness and forgive yourself for feeling like shit. It’s okay. Get some sleep. A better day awaits. This is all just part of what it means to be a fucking human being.

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