Over the weekend we were doing a little Christmas shopping. We were in an overcrowded parking lot at a four way stop turning left. As we were turning, a beat up old blazer quickly rolled up to the stop sign directly across from us and was proceeding to turn right. Cc gave a quick honk as if to say, “please see me, if you don’t stop, we will collide.” Immediately the woman in the car turned right in behind us, inches from our bummer. She was laying on the horn heavily. She followed us through the parking lot until we pulled into a space. Then she proceeded to roll down her window, scrunch up her face like the grinch, and flip us the bird before she sped off.
At first, I was mad. Cc wasn’t being ugly when she honked. It was a safety honk. Her outrage was not justifiable. I wanted to follow her and do the same. An eye for an eye. Then, I got out of the car and was walking into the store when I felt it. The wave of compassion ran through my veins, and I knew that her behavior had nothing to do with me. She was angry or sad or both. Her business wasn’t mine, but what I could do was send her some energetic love and peace, and so I did.
SUFFERING IS PART OF OUR HUMAN CONDITION
I spend a lot of time around here talking about how living in gratitude can give you a rewarding life. What I don’t talk much about is the other side of the coin. The negative thoughts and feelings, anger, depression, anxiety or any other negative emotion that life sometimes brings.
Suffering is part of our human condition. It’s inevitable, especially this time of year. For those who suffer, the holidays are an emotional jail. A place you remain stuck. I am prone to cyclical bouts of depression, and I can tell you, that in those moments the last thing I want to do is practice gratitude and cheer up because it’s very difficult to feel. The holidays exacerbate the loneliness, despair and isolation people feel. The Christmas season has the highest rates of depression. It’s no wonder with messages everywhere touting that we should be joyful and our time should be spent with friends and family. What if you can’t feel joy and what if you don’t have friends and family to be with? Getting out of that place seems impossible and honestly, it’s annoying when you can’t feel happy, but want to.
Do you know someone who feels this way?
As a friend or loved one, asking someone to cheer up seems logical, but it isn’t sage advice. It sets them up for failure. You are expecting them only to feel positive emotions, but in order to feel those high, joyful emotions, the low ones have to be acknowledged as well. It’s ok to feel bad. Ask them to accept it, and be there for them if they need you.
Is that someone you?
My advice to you is don’t run from the space you are in, embrace it. Not exactly the traditional school of thought, but one that will help you feel better sooner. When you accept the negative space you are in, and acknowledge that feeling joy and gratitude are not in the cards for you right now, you can begin the process of letting it go rather than keeping it in. Fighting it by telling yourself to suck it up, or be positive will only create more pain. Overthinking will ensue and all that does is create another bad thought that you shouldn’t feel bad.
It is only human to feel bad. You are wired to feel both good and bad and you can’t choose to feel one over the other no matter what our culture says you should do. Trying to get out of a bad space only drives you deeper into the darkness because of the self-criticism it creates. More importantly, accepting the place you are in is practicing gratitude for exactly what is. For being ok with where you are and not judging yourself for not being able to get out of that spot.
A solution to melancholy
If you are in a bad place, stop trying to get positive. You will never find your joy. Instead, try meditation. It doesn’t erase your thoughts, but it allows you to stay unattached from them and in turn they start to lose their power and control over you. Meditation allows you to be in the present moment and find a sense of calm in the midst of the negative tornado swirling around in your head.
A regular practice of meditation will teach you how to stay unattached when life’s cycles of ups, and especially downs, catch up with you.
I don't know what was happening in the life of the woman who got so angry at us. It’s not my business to know. What I do know is that if I would have said to her, “cheer up, buttercup,” she would have most likely given me the bird again or worse. May she find peace in her heart and mind.
If you think a friend or family member may be contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.