Monday, July 21, 2008

Enlightenment With A Pickaxe

I've been reading this Radical Acceptance book and one thing that really strikes me is that you can accept bad feelings. Whoa nelly, hold the horses, drop your chaps and call me a rodeo clown. I had no idea.

My main way of dealing with negative feelings is to talk myself out of them. I feel bad, I tell myself, "You're fine." I feel bad some more, I tell myself, "You're honestly fine." I feel worse, I tell myself, "Knock it off, you're fine." I do it over and over again and then I feel sort of numb, which is better than "bad" and I've presumed this must be the elusive "fine" everyone's always preaching about.

This Tara Brach lady who wrote Radical Acceptance suggests just recognizing you feel lousy if you feel lousy. Recognize it, accept it, sit with it. So I guess this morning I'll just sit with my lousy feeling rather than tell myself I don't feel lousy. My concern is that I know damn well I can talk myself into a pit of misery. I learned it from my mother.

My way of rebelling has been a stubborn optimism and a refusal to quit. Fuck depression, fuck anxiety, fuck every bad feeling, they're not going to get the best of me. I've gotten through life just based on pure resilience and determination to not be like my mother. But the trouble is, I still get the sneaking suspicion that something's not right.

You can only tamp it all down for so long and for so many times before you just flip the switch and say, "Fuck it, I'm not happy! God dammit! I've been doing everything right! Fuck a duck! Damn sam! Screw it all! I'm pissed!" And then you want to kick something.

I prefer puppies, but there aren't any handy.

Stupid puppies.

So maybe I'll try something different. The Brach lady suggests just naming how you are feeling. Just a list of feelings and emotions, a list of things you don't have to contradict or judge. Just spill it. I'll try, but I suspect this is going to be hard for me, because I usually like to edit things and make them just a little bit better.


Oh. That last word suprised me. My therapist once told me that depression is anger unexpressed. Dammit, am I pissed? Because if I'm pissed, that's going to piss me off. Dammit. Fuck a duck.

Well shoot. I feel better. Lighter. Oh my god, like a weight has been taken off my shoulders. Is this insane? Can it be this easy? Is it possible that the simple act of NOT telling myself I'm not feeling bad has made me feel better?

Sometimes I look back over the last nineteen years of my fumblings with buddhist practice and I remind myself more of a crazed girl swinging a pickaxe than the peaceful buddha sitting under the bodhi tree.

Turns out I'm not fine.

Turns out I'm mad.

And I'm not exactly sure why. The funny thing is, that doesn't seem to matter so much. It just feels better to know I'm mad, and to feel the smooth wood handle of the pickaxe as it swings.


  1. this was a hard lesson for me as well -- it's ok to be upset for no reason or reason unknown -- WOW! what a revalation that was.


  2. I have to say I kind of dig the listing of emotions as you experience them.

    Awareness is power.

  3. I'm frightened. (OM)

  4. *makes note to stear clear of BM with a pickaxe*

  5. It's a metaphorical pickaxe. It can't harm you none.

    *Swings it*

  6. I know I am loathe to make serious comments...

    but this was helpful.

    thank you.

  7. *Grabbing a piece of shit paper and pencil*

    MIL & FIL are at home and girlfriend's cancer is progressing ... I need to make a list. Hoping to feel better later.

    *sipping on that flavored water*

    Loving all of your tips these days.

  8. It seems to me that accepting how you feel at any one time also means accepting that it doesn't change anything you've felt in the past or will feel in future. I think it's easy to tell yourself that you are ungrateful if you're having a bad day but still have food, clothing and shelter, thereby self-canceling out the validity of your feelings, further complicating the emotional landscape. Or maybe I'm just tired and need to go back to bed.

  9. No, I think you got it.

    Funny that I am always immediately annoyed when anyone else tells me I shouldn't feel however I'm feeling ... but when I do it, it's being "positive."


    Sometimes you just need to recognize it and sit with it. I'm always in a big damn hurry to change it.

  10. "and to feel the smooth wood handle of the pickaxe as it swings."

  11. You're so right: awareness is power. I remember feeling so relieved when my counselor gave me a name for all my issues - anxiety. Glad you found your anger and are taking the time to swing some axes instead of pretending it's not there. Just try not to hit anyone.

  12. That is quite a list of emotions. Do you have lunch plans with anybody today? You sound like you'd be a lot of fun!!

  13. I seriously doubt whatever I was feeling at 9 a.m. would be the same list as at 2:30 p.m.

    Let's try:


    And those are just because I finished editing a 140-page document.


  14. You're welcome to come by my office tomorrow. I'll be relieved.

  15. First thing I'm going for is the caramel apple.

  16. I realised a month or so ago that I've been harbouring resentment and I didn't know why. I think I've got a handle on it now. I think...

    I love how the words "Fuck a duck" sound, but I've most recently fallen in love with the way "Fuck me running" sounds.

  17. I totally stole it from my mother. She likes to rhyme the swear words: Fuck a Duck. Damn Sam.

    It was an homage, of sorts.

  18. Embrace the mad, Mandy. Just please don't kick the puppies. I like puppies.

  19. To know good you have to experience bad, right?

  20. Brett keeps telling me to get my ass over here and I have, but mostly just my lurking ass. This is a post I have to post about. sigh. I hate when it's your turn and it has been for a while and you know it and you don't wanna but you know you have to...thanks a fucking lot brett.;)

  21. Brett is an instigator. Or is that a "PR representative?"


  22. Its an Audi, it deserves it.

  23. HEY! Now I know what that irritating buzzing was in my ear.

    PR Schme-R. M.E.D.I.A. Mandy. Media. I'm sure they exist in your shop, you just ignore them unless you want tickets to something.

    poke poke

  24. I swear to GAWD I don't know what the media department is! If I knew where I could get free tickets, I'd BE there, okay?

    Although once, last year, some people came with video cameras and asked me to sit in a convertible camero and read lines about my agency.

    Were those the media folks? I never did see that video.

  25. Isn't just a hoot to have all of these mixed, unsatisfying emotions swirling around in us and not having any sort of direction with them.

    I will throw a little mother superior at you: Anger is our internal mechanism telling us that we don't know who we are. She would then say "go find yourself." Yeah, as if it is that easy you old bag.

    You can look at it in a non emotional way to. You perceive something, your brain registers it - your amygdala tries to find where to send the perception and it gets cut off by your hypothalamus which intensifies anger. When I get feelings that are not so nice I start talking to my amygdala and hypothalamus and tell them to sort the chemicals out and find the place in the brain that will process these feelings more productively and with a positive outcome.

    I usually spend so much time doing that I tend to forget why I was unhappy in the first place.

    I know, bullshit response but hey, I have a lot of bullshit to fling... he he.

    You are lovely.