I came across a quote today that might be old to you, but I had yet to hear it.
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
– Lao Tzu, Father of Taoism
It rings true to me by and large (with the exception of seasonal depression, which affects me and doesn’t fit into the ‘living in the past’ perspective) and it amazed me at how simple and right on it was.
We are bombarded with expectations of ourselves, both from without and within, at such an early age, it can be extremely difficult to just “be at peace” in the now. Honestly, for Type-Aers like me, it could down right feel frivolous at times. As a kid, I was taught to focus on school and get great grades so that one day I could get a great job and live a great life as an adult. It makes sense, but there wasn’t really a lot of room for the “now” in my head even then. Everything was about building up a resume toward that end goal.
I fancy myself a painter, but I refused to take art classes in high school once I figured out that languages would count as an art credit. Always the overachiever, I made up my mind to forgo something I really wanted to do and take four years of Spanish, three years of French, and two years of German all as a high school student. I loved that I was the first person in the school’s history to take all three languages offered. That was a cool little internal bragging point, but honestly, although I walked away with the basics, I know I should have just really, thoroughly learned one or two tops and taken an art class to feed a passion, not ignore it. My thought (that I know see was flawed) was that art just wasn’t ‘serious enough’ when I could do something else with that time that would make me even more attractive to colleges. There could have been a balance, but I was all or nothing.
Later, in college, although I had plenty of fun with friends when I did go out, I put self-imposed rules on myself not to really let loose too much. I would skip week day get-togethers, telling friends it was a ‘school night’ and only allow myself to go out Friday or Saturday nights (rarely both in a single weekend). Good… I guess. But in four years, not one Tuesday or Thursday night outing or happy hour just to live and be present? That’s just weird. I swear I didn’t do college right. lol!
In elementary school, I was always thinking about middle school. In middle school, high school. In high school, college. In college, work. While working, marriage. While married, motherhood. Now in motherhood, it’s a mix of it all: work, marriage, kid… and the ‘what next’ of them all. I don’t suffer from anxiety, but my goodness! With all the running thoughts we as women have, it’s amazing that we all aren’t. It would be understandable.
Thinking about the past – what went wrong, who did what to hurt me, how an experience let me down – was something I grappled with very significantly twice in my 20s. I met both bouts of depression with too much sleep and too much sugar/carbs/food in general, finally pulling myself out of them with a huge dose of self-love, healthy lifestyle changes, and exercise. It wasn’t simple to stop thinking about the past. In fact, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The past is what makes you, after all. But once I started thinking about the singular DAY I was on, and, in many cases, just the hour, I was able to breathe, focus on the NOW, and… wait for it… ENJOY myself and appreciate the breath in my body and promise of the day ahead.
I am not saying that serious bouts of depression are as simple as just changing your perspective. For some, therapy and/or medication is a must as well. But for the majority of people who experienced depression the way I did (again, this is outside of seasonal), the shift in mindset and perspective can be the singular ‘cure’ you are looking for – IF you can push yourself out of the quicksand feeling of being stuck in a pattern of disappointment.
If you haven’t already done it today, give yourself 5 to 10 minutes RIGHT NOW with no TV, no phone, no music, …nothing and just BE with yourself, in your stillness and breathe… deeply… purposefully… s l o w l y.
Don’t let your mind wander too much or you will be thinking of nonsense or to-dos sure enough and that defeats the purpose. Breathe – focus on your breath. Close your eyes. Ignore the thoughts in your head that worry about if you fall asleep or not. So what if you do? Rest your mind. We give and give and give of ourselves every day to everyone else – our families, our friends, our employers, perfect strangers! Give yourself time to recharge. Give yourself the present of peace: NOW.