It’s the end of the first week. I wouldn’t say at this point that I’m officially “happy;” I still don’t know what it means, but I know I’m not there yet. Day 7 was proof. I was full of anxiety all day and really just wanted to stay in bed. As a natural born introvert, it’s sometimes tough to distinguish between needing some time to let my introvert-battery recharge after a lot of social time or if I’m just plain down and hiding from the world. I think Day 7 may have been a bit of both. It has been a pretty people-y week, but some of the thoughts mixing around in there were full of worry and other gems of negativity, an indicator that depression has joined the party.
But I noticed something different—a new voice in my already over-populated head. And this new guy was a little shy but spoke with some volume and said something like, “Hey, Randy, have you ever considered that these panicky, downer thoughts you’re having aren’t true? You have some control in this – you can pay attention and let it ruin your day or you can use that tool you’re learning in meditation and choose to focus your mind elsewhere.” And that’s how my arch-nemesis, meditation, kind of saved the day.
I say “kind of” because those negative voices are still way louder than this new, much more helpful guy, but I found hope in it, like the idea that a revolution starts with one person saying “no.” The other 4 tasks were helpful, too, and I realized that what I’ve been calling “tasks” are actually “tools” to fight depression with, ways to challenge the lies it tells you. These tools for me are still new and not sharp enough to really deal it a painful, crushing blow, but I knocked it in the corner hard enough to give me a little breathing room.
3 things I’m grateful for:
1) Simple, social pleasures like playing cards with friends.
2) Cross-ventilation on hot days.
3) My ability to make a really good roux.
I thought maybe this was the day for Randy Scott Hyde’s inaugural Run Around the Park. But it was too damn hot and not happenin’. There are about two weeks of really hot weather in San Francisco, and of course I chose to tackle exercise right as the hot weather begins. And I hate hot. Hate it with the force of all things hate-filled. I was having a hard time thinking of something else to do where I could avoid outside, so I thought if the sun was all hell-bent on being noticed today, I would salute it. So I did 15 slow sun-salutations (complete with full push-ups) in my cool, softly-lit bedroom, and it was perfect.
After the sun-salutations, I layed on my yoga mat and meditated for 20 minutes. Please note that the dark horse in all of this work got an extra 5 minutes. I think I’m starting to get this one.
Reflect on something good that happened
Introverts aren’t typically good or excited about small talk. A large part of my professional job requires me to be good at it, so I’ve cultivated an ability to do it, but I still find it challenging and stressful. And with this current bout of depression, it’s been even harder.
I had a couple of friends over for shrimp gumbo and cards. These are relatively new friends, and I suspect they’re both introverts as well. But we did the small talk thing for a while and I was so worried that I was failing miserably at it since I wasn’t feeling so “on the ball” that day. So that mediation-induced voice popped up and said, “Everything’s fine, Randy. Focus your brain on something else.” I struggled with it a bit through dinner, but then we started playing cards, and that’s when I nailed it, and what could have been a panicked evening for me, actually turned out really nice and cozy.
Random act of kindness
As you know, this is one that I tend to beat myself up over. I worry that whatever act I choose to do isn’t enough or it’s too small or too planned-out or too whatever-it-isn’t-that-it-should-be. Today I figured out why that is.
I went to the market for dinner fixin’s, and I was on the prowl for an opportunity to be kind. Even though I was feeling down, I had kindness courage a-plenty. I was talking to strangers, smiling at people, engaging the ladies at the meat counter. Who is this guy?! And this was all in search of trying to find something that would count as fulfilling this task for today. Nothing felt satisfying, though. Even though I noticed an older woman looking for something, asked her if she needed help, then helped her find her kidney beans, it wasn’t enough. I got to the checkout line, and the cashier told me they were doing a fundraiser to get fresh, healthy foods into public schools. I contributed a dollar, even though I didn’t really have it. It was too small a gesture, and I was a horrible person.
I got in the car and sat there for a second thinking about how awful I was, and that crazy, new voice popped up again. We chatted for a second, and it occurred to me that this particular task has been tapping into something I’ve struggled with since childhood—not ever being good enough. This struggle is a double-edged sword, though, because needing to always do more and better probably saved my life and got me out of bad situations or bad behaviors and helped me to accomplish some pretty decent things. But it’s turned into a monster and it’s running the show now. I carry it to work with me and it keeps me worried that I’m always about to get fired; I carry it into my relationships and fear that I’m always upsetting people and they’re going to leave; I carry it into the happiness tasks and am convinced my acts of kindness are failures. But the truth is that helping that lady find her kidney beans was more than enough—it was good. I stepped outside of my own needs to notice someone else’s, I built up the courage to engage her, and now she has a bowl full of beans she might not have otherwise had. And MawMaw Hyde, the person whose opinion mattered/matters most to me, a person who doled out random acts of kindness as effortlessly as breathing, would be proud. And so it’s enough.