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Friday, May 15, 2020

We Are All on a Rollercoaster

This  has nothing to do with my subject, but she always calms me down.

How are you feeling? Where are you, emotionally? Contented? Restless? Anxious? Got cabin fever, or are you grateful for unstructured time -- or both in turns? Angry at fate and fearful of what’s coming? Counting your blessings? Downright depressed? Maybe confused about what you’re feeling?

A friend said she woke up a couple days ago and felt calm, and that worried her: Had she lost her mind? Had her brain ceased to function? Where was her usual, reasonable, familiar pandemic anxiety?

And it came to me, reading her messages, that we are all on a rollercoaster, every single one of us, but we are all at different points in the looping path on any given day or even at any given moment, so while no emotion any of us feels is inappropriate, we can sometimes be impatient with each other’s expressions. But the feelings themselves are perfectly (can I use this word?) normal. Given the times. All of them.

Gratitude feels good. Anger doesn’t. Sometimes we can shift gears to get from a bad feeling to a good one, and other times we just have to ride out a sickening stretch until we get to a smoother, easier section. Despair at night, joy in the morning – or the other way around, depending on your temperament. Fear, even terror. A blue funk. The sunshiny flash of unexpected happiness, the glow of contentment, or the sweet respite of calm – unless the calm brings worries of its own, as it did for my friend. 

“I’m just tired of it.”

“I want it to be over.” 

Me, too. I’d love to return to that old expectant (false but happy) sense of security I had in early winter 2019 when looking ahead to summer 2020, lining up Thursday Evening Author guests for bookstore soirées in the Artist’s gallery! Those days of planning now seem like some kind of long-ago lost innocence.

My philosophy of life in a nutshell, which is about all of anyone’s philosophy that most people want to hear, is simple: Everything is a double-edged sword. Or, as Joni Mitchell so memorably expressed in her song “Both Sides Now,” there is an upside and downside to everything. In her lyrics, the singer looks back to her past positive impressions, compares them with present cynicism, and concludes that she doesn’t “really know” clouds, love, or life “at all.” But listen to the song. What she can’t help believing in are her “illusions,” that is, the joy and magic that she isn’t feeling in the present moment. 

Can we believe in something when we’re not feeling it, or do our feelings overpower us and create our beliefs? More specifically, can we continue to believe in hope when we're feeling hopeless?


I started writing these thoughts and had to set them aside for a couple of days. Was I depressed or just irritable and blue? 

Depression is a family curse, so I am familiar with it, but in my experience true depression is like interior weather (not situational or caused by something in the outside world), and there’s a horrible physical component to it. I describe it as being encased in a suit of dread. Imagine it as a rigid suit of armor that you’re locked inside. So, no, I wasn’t there, thank heaven! But neither was I enveloped by contentment or anything positive. I went for a walk and dragged myself along, hardly enjoying my surroundings or a pleasantly cool desert morning.

Quite frankly, while I have a lot of happy moments or even hours, positive moods can seem pretty fragile these days. Easily dispelled. Personal contentment can evaporate in an instant with a single blast of bad news, of which there is no shortage. Which brings me back to my rollercoaster theme and its limitations. 

When you go to an amusement park and ride a rollercoaster – when one rides, I should say, because I have never been on a rollercoaster in my life – my understanding is that (1) you know approximately how long the ride will be, (2) that you'll be safe, and (3) that the car will eventually stop and you’ll be able to get out right where you started. Well, right now, these days, on the coronavirus rollercoaster, we have none of these assurances. All we have is uncertainty.

Is it any wonder our emotions are all over the map? It's easy to say we should "live in the moment" and admit our powerlessness, not so easy to maintain that attitude throughout each passing day. 

I try to make most of my posts here upbeat, to brighten readers' days, and I'm certainly not trying to bring anyone down today with reminders of what you already know, that these are damn difficult times. I just thought it might help, if you're feeling blue, to know that you're not alone in that, either. It's okay to feel bad. We all have our private storm clouds.

But if you're not feeling great this morning, I hope you will feel better this afternoon or tomorrow. As for me, I think I've got my "second wind" and can pick up my feet and go on until the next storm hits -- wherever the hell it is we're going!

Into the unknown!


Unknown said...

Thank you for the encouraging thoughts in these weird times.

P. J. Grath said...

You're very welcome, friend. These are hard times, but don't lose heart. Some of us have to take a day with our heads under the covers now and then, but it passes. My day today is 180 degrees from my day yesterday. Phew!