I’ve learned so much from this bout of depression but mainly I’ve learned that I know nothing. Today I’m notsure if I even have depression. Maybe the anti-depressants are doing their job, maybe this mid-life crisis is over or maybe I just imagined I felt so bad. I just don’t know.
Last week I spent three mornings in bed “meditating”, sleeping and getting in touch with my feelings. Feeling sad but also feeling angry with the whole world and especially with myself.
Then on Friday I felt much better.
I felt so much better I started to regret all the truths I’ve written and shared about what I’ve been going through and how hard this year of the 52 Exercises has been. Then I started to feel confident and even felt superior so I hated myself for that.
Then I started to think that all my self-hatred is ridiculous and I’m actually not that bad. But I still wanted to carry on reading and writing so I can learn to be perfect.
So maybe I am not totally cured.
On Sunday it was Mother’s Day and I got roses and chocolates from Kiara. Max made me a crafty card which says:
“I love you because you buy me food.”
And tucked inside there were four vouchers with messages like:
“This voucher entitles you to make me wash the car.”
Meanwhile Luke, aged 14, forgets it’s Mother’s Day and is too engrossed with his computer game to even look up when I greet him but I know he loves me anyway.
After breakfast in bed I go for a walk on the beach alone. Walking is one of my favourite activities but today I try to walk mindfully.
I try to be mindful of the feelings in my feet when they make contact with the earth, of the feeling of pressure on my knees and of the air around my arms. I feel the wind blowing my hair in my face, smell the salt in the air and look at the patterns in the sand.
I hear the roar of the waves and the chatter in my head stills. Not for long, but if I can be mindful for one breath I know I can work up to being mindful for ten breaths, for ten minutes, for an hour, for a day and maybe forever. Or a lot more than I am now at least.
I haven’t attained nirvana yet but being mindful of how agitated, nervous and worrisome I am is a start. Noticing when I get distracted is the beginning of my experiments with being mindful. My children learnt to crawl and walk and run so fast. Maybe I can learn to be mindful quickly too and unlearn all the bad habits I have picked up over the last four decades. But I won’t worry about that right now. I’ll just enjoy this feeling of putting one foot in front of the other and the wind blowing my hair.
I’m learning about mindfulness because it will help me live in and enjoy the moment rather than ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. So far I’ve learnt that most of the time I’m not at all mindful, going about my day on auto-pilot doing everything from household chores to exercise to reading while thinking about other things.
My mind is often so agitated it skips from one thing to another and I let myself follow it’s erratic instructions. I can sit down to send an email then remember I need to hang the laundry then as soon as I sit back down at my computer I think about taking Max to waterpolo and I add it to the calendar and so it goes on.
This mindlessness is not a cycle that will be broken easily but I think it can be done. There are patterns I have, a learned habit of running away from stress that I developed when I was five, and negative thought patterns that may predate that of blaming myself, striving to create peace and struggling to understand why people act the way they do.
There are a panoply of emotions I’ve suppressed over the course of a lifetime which may have caused me to be prone to depression.
But I mustn’t think about now. I must think about walking.
No one taught me how to walk, I just picked it up. And no one taught me how to think, behave or deal with stress, I taught myself. I found ways to stand up and walk without falling over and I developed ways to cope with life’s worries and disappointments too but they weren’t very healthy. They allowed me to survive but not thrive.
So I’m trying to relearn everything from how to walk to how to think, and I’m hoping to weed out bad habits so new habits like mindfulness can take root and I can bloom.
But I shouldn’t think about the past or the future right now. Let me just think about the sound of the sand underfoot and the feel of the wind and the noise of the waves.
Sometimes I feel as if I know nothing but that’s okay. Walking can be my school of life.
Do you like walking? Have you heard of mindfulness or tried it?
Positives and Progress: My posture is improving thanks to my mindfulness and I’m paying more attention to walking upright and moving my body with pride. I think the Feldenkrais helped with that awareness too.
Take Action: Go for a walk and think about how you move, what you see, what you hear and what you smell. Each time you notice you got distracted from being in the moment and just walking turn your attention back to how you’re moving, what you can see, hear and smell. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat ad infinitum.
Beach Walk Exercise Review
Time Exercising: As long as possible.
Average Heart Rate: Who cares.
Fun Factor: 10/10.
Fear Factor: 0/10.
Post-exercise Glow: 7/10.
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