A week ago Saturday I was at my other other job, driving out to a delivery, and as I generally do in that situation I had the radio on. There was an interview with a musician, and she talked about one of her songs about the quintessential American woman. Somewhere along the way she said, “You can’t keep her down, you can’t hold her back,” and my already-low heart sunk a bit.
I wondered, When did I become the opposite of that?
I have been feeling pretty kept down and held back of late. I am often too busy to feel much of anything, and when I get a moment, the feelings I have are usually sadness, frustration, anger, and other negativity.
Sure, there are explanations. Being financially unstable, working constantly to try and make up for it, being pulled in all directions, having too much to manage, and there’s also the fact that I’ve been off my antidepressants for over a month.
It sucks to have less serotonin when things are so legitimately tough. But I also know that I’m not feeling the way I’ve felt when I needed to get on meds. There are plenty of times when I’m comfortable, relaxed, happy… when I have a good day with the kids or when I’m at work (the regular job). Still, I was starting to worry. Every day I’d leave work and feel my stomach start to clench.
If you asked people if I’m the kind of person about whom you could say, “You can’t keep her down,” I’m guessing most would say yes. And yet, it wasn’t happening.
I decided I needed to do a little brain intervention on myself. I’ve done one before that worked out quite well. It’s basically a decision to refuse to let my brain go down certain paths, or at least to refuse to let it get stuck there.
And luckily last week I also had a quick 2-day press trip. I knew it could be fun, different, a break in the routine, but I mostly thought about the fallout in my schedule, the craziness that would surround it, and the stress of travel.
But then I stopped myself. Take it, I thought. Take this time and use it. How often lately have you wished you could just have a few hours with nothing on your to-do list? So take them.
And I did.
I had 4 hours between the wrap-up on Thursday and my drive to the airport. With the downtime, my gracious hosts encouraged me to rent a beach chair and an umbrella and enjoy the beach. They didn’t have to tell me twice.
It’s been years since I sat on a beach. I kind of forgot how to do it. At first I wasn’t sure I could pass 3 hours just sitting there with a book and the ocean.
But I remembered.
The key is that you don’t really concentrate on anything. You let your brain float wherever it floats. One moment you read your book, and if you look up and watch the waves for a while, it’s okay. You just watch. There’s the book, the sun, the people, the waves, the occasional doze.
It’s almost trance-like, there’s something about letting your brain go like that. It’s not exactly what you’d call happiness, but it’s not far off from it. It’s a kind of calm that knows nothing but the moment you’re currently in. I’m guessing it’s kind of like meditation. My mind wasn’t empty, it was taking in everything around me, but it wasn’t picking things apart, it wasn’t getting distracted by anything. This was the really amazing thing, not my gorgeous surroundings, but the fact that nothing was nagging at me from the back of my mind for once.
I felt better afterwards. Calm, clean, collected.
On Saturday I did a delivery shift and didn’t spend the whole thing feeling bad.
Sunday didn’t quite go so well. The work was frustrating and my shift went too long and by the time I picked up the kids I could tell that whatever peace I’d picked up was mostly gone.
I’m still hoping that I can tap into it. That was my main goal while I was there, getting so enveloped in that feeling that I could summon it when I needed it. Or at least build up a long-empty reserve.
I don’t really expect it to last, but it doesn’t mean I won’t work on it.
Next time I get an opportunity for a vacation, it could be years, but whenever it is, I know a beach will be on top of my list. Sure, I love sightseeing and museums and exploring. But I get something from a beach that I can’t get anywhere else and it’s more than worth it.