When Things Get Bleak

Things are rather heavy these days. There’s a pall draping our collective psyche. I can see and feel it everywhere: on social media, in the weary faces of both loved ones and strangers, in the low vibration that moans just beneath the surface of everything. We’re despondent still over a looming Trump presidency and all – known and unknown – that it brings. We’re grieving so many things, including the demise of the country we thought we knew. We’re awash in ambiguity and it hurts. And our heroes are leaving us in astonishing numbers. Sober reminiscence has become routine.  All of these are juxtaposed with the daily human challenges we all face– sick and aging parents, dysfunctional workplaces, financial struggles, family heartaches and more. As my sister once said, “Life’s a bitch and then you keep on living.”

But the point is not to pile on here.

Last week, I wrote a post about Christmas, despair and the reality of Trump. It was cathartic to write but ultimately not helpful to share. While the misery articulated in the post may have resonated with many, the message didn’t offer any meaningful takeaway. I removed it from my blog. I also decided that I wasn’t going to share any subsequent posts unless they had something of value….inspiration, hope, amusement…to offer. I want to be part of the solution, however murky, and not part of the very clear problem.

In that spirit, I’ve put together a list of a few things to do or at least think about when everything feels bleak. I’m not an expert on psychology or religion or anything. I don’t presume to have answers, only observations. I’m just a fellow traveler who has navigated her share of darkness and survived, with heart and humor miraculously intact (most of the time anyway). So, when things get bleak…

  1. Don’t panic. Panic is simply rapid-fire overthinking. It’s reactionary and unwieldy. Unchecked, it will flood your ass. Be Houdini-like in extricating from your own tangled thoughts. Stay in the moment, even when it’s painful, but don’t freak out.
  2. I really loathe the term “this too shall pass.” It’s always felt like pat blather that well-meaning people foist on others who are struggling. However, I do know that the laws of impermanence are frequently on our side. Some circumstances may not necessarily “pass,” but their form and intensity can change over time. What’s unbearable one day becomes manageable months down the line.
  3. Take care of your body. The basics are gold. Get enough sleep. Eat clean food. Go outside. Move. Take long soaks in the tub. Light candles. Sip tea. Rejuvenation is not luxury. It’s a survival tool.
  4. Get out of our body. OK, this is seemingly in contradiction with the proceeding point, but not really. It’s about taking a moment to think about your own spaciousness. It’s a beautiful exploration of who you are in a bigger sense, beyond form and space and time. Meditate on your innate capacity to transcend. And then do it for a just few moments every day. There’s comfort there.
  5. Find your tribe, even if it’s the dude in the next cubicle. Connection is everything, especially when our hearts are burdened and we’ve lost our equilibrium. Not matter what you’re feeling or going through, know that someone else is too.  This also applies to joy, creativity and fun, not just hardship.
  6. Remember that the human ability to endure is profound. Think Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
  7. Find a totem or a power object or some item that symbolizes the characteristics that you want to have and carry it with you. When I’m going through a rough period or dealing with a difficult situation, I keep a picture of Richard Sherman in my pocket. Richard is a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks and represents strength, intelligence and playfulness, all traits that I want and need to survive. Having his photo on my person reminds me of this. It’s a small, quirky gesture. But whatever works. And anyway, if I’m having a shitty day or, especially, dealing with assholes, I can’t think of anything more empowering than a bad ass defenseman having my back.
  8. Sometimes the big picture can drown you, so don’t look at it. Just stick with today.
  9. Look for tiny fissures of light. Believe me, they’re there. Grab whatever happiness you can, even in the tiniest of moments and things. For me, these are reading the sports section, talking to dogs and eating those cheery, easy-to-peel Satsuma oranges.
  10. Be generous. Back to football (again), Tyler Lockett is a wide receiver for the Seahawks. During the game against the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas Eve, he suffered a gruesome compound fracture to his leg. Yesterday, he posted a video of himself on Snapchat. Post-surgery, he was hobbling around the hospital on crutches, visiting other patients and spreading encouragement. He said he wanted to use his misfortune as an opportunity to help other people. I saw the video at a particularly low moment and it moved me. Perspective.
  11. Trust your inner mojo. It may go temporarily dormant from time to time, but it never dies. Visualize it as a turbocharged sumo wrestler, waking up, rising up and coming straight-on for you.
  12. Square with your fear of death. I know I said this in another recent post, but the theme continues to be relevant. We either survive all this, or we don’t. It behooves us to be ready for any possibility. If you can deal with this nagging fear, then you can deal with anything.

These are hard days. Things are weird and are about to get weirder. But we’re in this together, right? These are just a few of my ideas. If you’ve got some of your own, please share them with us in the comments.



“Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.”

– Carrie Fisher