It was a reasonably good week — mentally, speaking. Until 9 am this morning. I didn’t even tune in to catch the speech, but the idiocy of it reached me anyway. And almost immediately the despair I’ve been keeping at bay descended on me again.
I busied myself with things that need to be done, and pretty soon half the day was done. The despair? Intact. Just moving along with me, like a dark cloud looming large and heavy, directly above me.
Tell me, are any of you feeling this too?
Turned to one of my favourite David Whyte writings. On despair. And he says, shockingly accurately;
Despair takes us in when we have nowhere else to go; when we feel the heart cannot break anymore, when our world or our loved ones disappear, when we feel we cannot be loved or do not deserve to be loved, when our God disappoints, or when our body is carrying profound pain in a way that does not seem to go away.
Despair is a haven with its own temporary form of beauty and of self compassion, it is the invitation we accept when we want to remove ourselves from hurt. Despair, is a last protection.
It does feel like the last attempts at protection. From fear and not knowing what lunacy will be unleashed on us next.
Like I said yesterday about anger, the despair seems necessary. The next logical stage in whatever it is that we’re collectively grieving. It feels essential to acknowledge it, but I have struggled to do this in real life. Today, especially I feel like I am zipped up close and have to keep my despair to myself.
For fear of being judged. For overreacting. For being pessimistic. For being “biased”. My mind knows this is balderdash, and yet I have carried this like a rock on my chest all day long.
Despair is a necessary and seasonal state of repair, a temporary healing absence, an internal physiological and psychological winter when our previous forms of participation in the world take a rest; it is a loss of horizon, it is the place we go when we do not want to be found in the same way anymore. We give up hope when certain particular wishes are no longer able to come true and despair is the time in which we both endure and heal, even when we have not yet found the new form of hope.
In order to move ahead from here, I know I have to fully know this despair. It feels deep, old and almost too big to understand. And so I cannot rush through it. Maybe I will despair everyday for the rest of this crazy time we are in. Maybe it will ebb and flow. Maybe it will linger around beneath the surface. Whatever it is, I have to allow for it. And right now, by keeping it all to myself, I know I am not. I can feel it in how much I want to, even as I am writing this, apologise for how sad and angsty my posts have been lately.
Somehow, I cannot perform at this. Not now. I assume that those who don’t want to read this will have already checked out of the blog. But my stats tell me otherwise. Day after day, my own judgement about how I am feeling is proven wrong.
This also makes me acutely aware that much of the judgement I am witnessing, is possibly a projection of my own internal critic.
The antidote to despair is not to be found in the brave attempt to cheer ourselves up with happy abstracts, but in paying a profound and courageous attention to the body and the breath, independent of our imprisoning thoughts and stories, even strangely, in paying attention to despair itself, and the way we hold it, and which we realise, was never ours to own and to hold in the first place. To see and experience despair fully in our body is to begin to see it as a necessary, seasonal visitation, and the first step in letting it have its own life, neither holding it nor moving it on before its time.
I feel like new definitions of compassion, service and kindness — which I see are being called up on every single minute of every single day — cannot be found without feeling despair first. It’s almost like the heaviness of this situation needs to break us, before we return to normal. So we can be different. So we can be better.