The phone hasn’t rung with new business in days… or has it been weeks? The visits to your website are down. The few customers who come through the door seem to have nothing to offer you but complaints. Home life isn’t much better. Where is the quality life you’re supposed to be living? You’re yelling at the kids. The dog’s run away. You’re in a rut.
It is human to have periods of depression. And by “depression” I simply mean a feeling that our life is not under our control. Some call it a sinking feeling. A power greater than us seems to pull us down and we fight it. It is the panic of a swimmer being held down by the current. We all have depression but how we are dealing with depression makes a difference in whether we emerge from it stronger or weaker.
I think of three lessons I’ve learned for the times when things aren’t what you’d hoped and they don’t seem to be getting any better.
What is the source of Man’s discontent? We have wondered about and told stories about this since the beginning of time. It’s commonly called our “Fall From Grace.” Daniel Quinn, In his novel Ishmael, illuminates Man’s fall from grace by pointing to a specific period of his evolution: the transition from hunter/gatherer to herder/cultivator. But what does this have to do with you and me?
Quinn says that it was at this time in Man’s evolution that he began to “take the wheel” from God. Man, in the adolescence of his million-year development began to take control of his destiny rather than allowing himself to remain at the mercy of nature. Quinn explains that we cut our ties to a Greater Power and began living in the illusion that we have in our own hands the key to our success. We no longer need to cleanse ourselves spiritually before going out into the wilderness to hunt and gather what we hoped and prayed would be provided for us from Above.
Now, we choose to grow our own crops from seed we have chosen, cultivated and stored. We choose instead to pen animals and slaughter them at our will rather than leave our appetites to be satisfied at the whims of a higher power. Are we placing too much responsibility for what comes into our lives upon ourselves? What we gain may feel like a greater “certainty” that we can provide for ourselves especially when times are good, but what we lose is a connection and a dependency and inter-dependency and we feel this more than ever when times are bad.
We lose the deep understanding that we are connected to something greater than ourselves. When we choose to stockpile rather than hunt, our cupboards are full and our lives are empty.
By pursuing A Day On we are choosing to get out of the line of certainty. We are turning our backs on the carrot that society dangles in front of us: the certainty of a weekly paycheck, and in return we are claiming our birthright: a passion that if pursued diligently will provide for us in the same way that the urge to follow it was placed in our hearts. We choose to return to hunting and gathering.
But hunters too will face uncertainty. They will face times of famine. They will return home to those who wait and depend on us with heavy hearts and nothing to cook. The fact is, whether you hunt and gather or plan, plan, plan you WILL face uncertainty and times of trial. Regardless of how you live your life, the understanding that what we truly need will be provided.
Purify yourself in the way that ancient hunters once did. Fast. Go on a vision quest. But most importantly remain graceful under this pressure.
Another Book that is especially inspiring when you feel like your stuck is, guess what, The Bible. I suppose you could insert your own particular sacred text here, or probably whatever book you find inspirational. But for me The Bible is full of stories of people who asked the higher power to direct them and then found themselves doubting, troubled and stuck. What kind of an example is that?
One story I really love from the Bible is the story of the bumbling apostles scared to death in a rickety boat on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a hellacious storm. There they are clinging to that tiny boat in the midst of a storm of, literally, Biblical proportion. And who comes walking across the water but Jesus. “Get out of the boat,” he tells them.
Maybe you’re already out of the boat. Maybe you feel like you’ve made the leap.
To me, the point of the story is that the things that we cling to, the things that we’re thinking in our desperation of returning to, our list of all the old managers that we’re holding tightly and considering calling… just to see if they have anything for us… well, those things are the rickety boat.
Again, look, if the great power that moves the world wanted you to sink you’d be fish food right now. But you’re not. You’re reading this. So, double down and stay away from that lifeboat. Think of all the times you’ve turned back. There is no “back” anymore. This is YOUR life. Move forward. Don’t hesitate.
When I’m sitting there chewing my fingernail thinking about the emails that aren’t popping up in my box, the phone calls that aren’t coming, the bills that are surely in the mail rushing toward me in USPS planes, trains and automobiles, I’m hesitating!
Get the fuck up and live this life you’ve chosen like there is no other… because there isn’t. Shit, go visit someone else whose life sucks way more than yours. Just go and listen to them.
The Third book that comes to mind is: Iron John by Robert Bly. There is a passage where our hero is pulled down into a pit. Maybe it is his depression. Maybe it is alarmingly slow business. He tries to climb out. It’s what we naturally try to do, right. But the thing about depression is that you can’t decide when to come up out of it. You come up when you come up. So, now you, our hero, is down in a hole. You can lament. Or you can do what the hero of Iron John does. He learns to play an instrument. What the hell is that doing in the story?!
Depression, the doldrums, are life’s waiting room. You can fight it all you want, but when the great power that moves the world knows it’s time for you to take a break, you’re gonna take a break even if it kills you. You ain’t going anywhere! Now you can choose to waste time or you can invest in all you’ve got – yourself.
At some point, you’re going to come up. When you surface make sure that you come up a better you, a you with new skills, maybe a new friend – someone you’ve affected, a new talent or technique, something more to give the world.
When you’re in the doldrums, double down.
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