It’s been a busy day, in a busy stretch. With two cancellations for this evening, I have a rare moment of solitude in the house. I can hear cars passing on the rain-wet street, and a mounting wind is quickly taking down the colorful autumn leaves and revealing grey-black tree skeletons, their crooked hands reaching for a darkening sky and the mysteries of All Hallows’ Eve.
As I sit for a bit, I am aware of a blush of sadness that crosses my heart.
What is it?
I try to trace the whisper of feeling back to its origin, and finding no obvious clue, I slowly scan a mental checklist and wait for another twinge:
- Mourning the end of an extraordinary summer?
- A streak of sugar from the hard butterscotch candy I just crunched down?
- Weary from too-long days?
- Full moon?
- Concern for a loved one who is struggling right now?
- Embarrassment about a missed deadline or missing document?
- Untended grief?
It could be any of those things, I suppose.
It didn’t last long, but I noticed. I understood it to feel like sadness.
Then, rather than bury it or let it grow in crazy directions, like a sidewalk charcoal snake burning to its full height some hot Fourth of July, I investigate:
- Where do I feel it?
- How strong is it?
- Where’d it come from?
I’ve experienced depression before, so I make a mental note to pay attention.
If I get sad and stay that way for more than a few days (my default nature is outrageously optimistic and upbeat), I pay even more attention, in case I need to be assessed for depression.
Humans feel stuff, like sadness, anger, disgust, jealousy, happiness, satisfaction, hunger, desire, and you-name-it.
Noticing helps us cope, as long as we balance that noticing with the proper degree of curiosity and nonchalance. That is, I don’t get freaked out by my fleeting thoughts or emotions.
Sometimes it’s just the candy.
Lisa Kendall writes about well-being and self-care for all members of the care partner team, and pays attention to thoughts, emotions, and feelings as a psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist in Ithaca, NY.
Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaKCounseling