In my last post I mentioned that out of nowhere while travelling I could feel a discernible feeling that my depression had lifted. It returned for a couple of days before and after I came home, then I felt it lift again.
There is a lucidity I feel that makes me know when I am in a non-depressed state. My mind feels clear and light, not foggy and weighed-down. There is no sensation of discomfort around my chest area, a sensation I typically associate with sadness. Being an experimental person I actually tried to induce my depression by thinking of things that used to make me depressed, but I could hardly remember those things, even if it was just a few days ago that I remember feeling so.
I am confused, and I don’t really understand what has happened or what happened. I also know due to my personal experience that my current state is not permanent, that there is a high likelihood that I will slip back into a depressed state. But I regularly document those states, and I would like to write about the one I am currently in before I slip out of it.
I have been happy before. Usually they are associated with extreme external circumstances. Being in SF for the first time made me happy. Living in SF made me happy for a very long time – the longest stable period of my life I can recall. Being in love obviously made me happy, but I am skeptical of those states now.
But it is hard for me to be happy now. Back then I was a person trapped in our narrative-driven world. I could be happy as long as “good” things happened to me or if the life I was living fitted the narrative I had about life and my self. Then I discovered everything in life is a story we make up. We could believe in God, in evolution, in meaning, in virtually anything we want as long as it made sense of life and made us feel at peace with living it. For some people it means pursuing happiness. For others it meant living life with a self-derived meaning. A lot of times I have found that “meaning” for many meant living a utilitarian life. Work, purpose, service, material achievements, being a parent, being a good human being, etc.
I am not in a position to really comment whether that is the right way to live or not. But I knew I didn’t want that for myself. I didn’t want to live because of a purpose. Because everything changes, we change. More often than not our imagined purposes change. I don’t have a stable sense of self, so finding out that I have outgrown whatever meaning and purpose I have decided for myself was particularly traumatic. I lived entirely based on a belief that I had a purpose. What happens when that belief gets taken away, sometimes against our will?
The common thing that people say to suicidal people is: think about the people who love you. But from my perspective, it is really depressing to hang on to life because of other people. When life is always about other people or doing something important so there’s value, it is difficult to foster an inherent will to live. Is there nothing inherently worthwhile in our selves?
I don’t feel particularly depressed now. I am not happy either. But I am lucid, or what I label as lucidity. The depressing thoughts that used to plague me seems to have gone into hiding somewhere. I eat, I read, I write, I talk to my partner, I sleep. There are no stories haunting me. There is no obsessive compulsive anxiety. It is really unexpected, because I am supposed to be PMS-ing right now. I am not eating particularly well. I am not sure how long this will last.
I have a few theories. That somehow being away was a much-needed break from my typical policing self. I stopped controlling myself so much. Away from the cities, I witnessed how other people live. It was a particularly powerful lesson to know that what we obsess about in certain environments are not being obsessed over in others, but once in a while I needed a reminder. Every human being tries to find a way to cope with life, once in a while I’ll have the luck to witness one’s beautiful way of living. These days I don’t admire the trailblazers or the people who appear in press interviews. I admire people who go on quietly living their lives with as much aliveness as possible, in the ways they know how.
In psychology they say having the courage to meet our shadows is the first step to integrating our whole selves. In a similar vein, to admit one’s fears or weaknesses is a step in reducing their power over us. I feel like what contributed to this particular period of lucidity is the knowing that I am no longer pretending to be who I’m not. I am okay to be uninteresting, unsuccessful, irrelevant. I don’t try to force myself to be a good person anymore. The older I grow, the more I don’t know what good means.
I just know we live in cycles, and plenty of vicious ones. Sometimes good intentions become unintended ripples. Sometimes we are unaware that our shadows are making us expressing ourselves in unhealthy ways. Sometimes we don’t know that caring for a friend is causing them hurt instead. I am learning to tread lightly on this world, and not make everything about me, to not leave my heavy footprints everywhere I go. I am learning to know myself without the stories.
I have this suspicion what we need as human beings is not happiness. It is having the space to live, to not be compressed into a generalisation or statistic. To not feel like we’re always trying to live out a story we cannot fulfil, and/or very commonly, trying to live out a story someone else has decided for us. But again I don’t think I am in a position to comment for other people but myself.
When I first started reading zen, it felt to me very abstract or very reductive. I have now learned (and am still learning) that it is because we live in a very intellectual world. And I don’t mean intellectual in a good way. We try to intellectualise everything, we try to explain every phenomenon in words or formulas, we try to explain people’s behaviour with economic theory or evolutionary science.
I actually love that. I love finding explanations and learning about all the possible science and theories why we are the way we are. But that is not the complete experience of life. There is something what zen calls “direct experience” that I couldn’t comprehend and only now that I feel I am beginning to. Sometimes trying to put an explanation to everything creates an unbridgeable distance. Some things just have to be directly experienced, and some experiences are just very individual. I find deep beauty in seeing the elderly doing public group exercises. I cannot articulate why, and I don’t wish to. Articulating it will only reduce my experience.
I feel like I am giving more space to all the different parts of me that I have previously denied or repressed. Sometimes I am just uncaring and mean. But I’ve learned that I’ll rather be outright uncaring than to try to have the emotional capacity for something I am not equipped to deal with. Meeting limitations truthfully (not critically or negatively) opens up space.
This is very much a stream of consciousness post. There is no particular agenda, except to document my current state truthfully, as much as I can be truthful. Perhaps for this while I feel like I am not splintered into ten thousand pieces because every little piece feels disjointed.
It is new, rare, and I want to see how this develops.