An Opportunity to Practice Presence

rusty gate
image: Kim Forman

Out of nowhere, I felt it settle over me. I was startled to discover that it felt a bit like a well-loved quilt that had been stored away after become threadbare from overuse.

My curiosity gently nudged the edges of it, like a tongue reaches for a loose tooth. Familiarity washed over me as I wandered through the arts district, looking at stunning art through the windows of closed galleries. This melancholia was my close companion once, never more than an arms length away. It fueled for more journal entries and paintings than I could possibly count.

I’m not sure exactly how or why it disappeared. I have a few theories, but I’ll leave them for another time. Suffice it to say that it has been almost completely absent for close to a decade.

The moment it hit, I wanted nothing more than my journal and a quiet cafe in which write – an old ritual, born out of desperation, that has transformed itself to accommodate the exuberance that took up residence when depression walked out of my life in the middle of the night.

gazing into the window of a gallery closed for the night

I realized I had nothing with me to write on, not even a decent scrap of paper. (This is an extremely rare occurrence. I generally have at least two or three notebooks with me at all times, for just this reason.) There was no store nearby, either. I wanted to explore, in writing, this once all-too-familiar, now strange sensation, but decided to be content with gazing at its gentle, lazy twirling in my mind.

Would it move back in, crowding next to the overflowing joy? I was intrigued to discover that, after a fleeting, almost perfunctory moment of concern, I was not disturbed by this possibility. Instead, it occurred to me that, rather than let it seep it’s way into my bones, I would, if it stuck around, see if it knew how to tango. I knew that we could dance our way into making fabulous art.*

My intuition told me, though, that by the time I made it home, winding my way through a stop at the hardware store and made it to my nightstand, where my journal stays (when it’s not in my bag), that it would be gone.

You know what? I was right. I had invited it in and made it feel welcome, an act that smoothed its former needy clinginess and allowed it to continue on its way. It’s a delicate balance to neither wallow in, nor run from our difficult emotions, but when you find the balance point, the feeling is absolutely sublime.

Have you had a similar experience? Are you struggling and reaching for grace? Do you go back and forth between sitting with your emotion and shoving it away? I would love to hear your story. Please share it in the comments so we can learn from one another!

I do not even remotely believe that one must suffer to create, but it does have the power to kick the door wide open, if you let it.

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