Swivel, Stop, Focus: Finding Small Doorways Through Hard Moments

I took this photo on the banks of the Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon.

I took this photo on the banks of the Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon.

Fall is hard for some of us. Daylight is in less supply, the nights are longer, the temperature drops, and my heart breaks a little more each day. I feel overwhelmed by my work, creative pursuits, and normal, daily things like finding a clean shirt or feeding the cats. Skype chats nearly stop altogether, because fixing my hair is hard.

Granted, this might not be quite so difficult if I remembered to sit in front of my full-spectrum SAD lamp every morning. Would hitting that ON button kill me? No, but depression makes self-care feel like a monolithic obstacle.

When everything starts to serve as one of a million tiny cuts or a proof of my inexorable uselessness, I have been working at teasing out little spots of light, small doorways through the hard moments. That picture of berries up there is part of that. My brain turned dark, and I had to subvert the narrative.

When my brain goes dark, when my thoughts turn against me like that, I can sometimes catch them before they find their rhythm if I swivel, stop, and focus on something outside myself. It's a little like jogging a record player needle out of its groove. The other afternoon, I swivelled, stopped, and focused on these berries and their place in the world around them. I couldn't believe how brilliant they were shot through with sunlight. I couldn't believe I was a body on this earth standing next to them, listening to the shush-shush-shush of prairie grasses running their blades along each other in the wind.

My swivel/stop/focus practice doesn't change the reality of my seasonal depression, and it doesn't automatically turn any bad day or moment into a win, but it sometimes lets me take a breath. It throws a small wrench into the gears of my depression's machinery and allows me a moment to let the belief in possibility back in.

Sometimes, all I need is to catch my mind's pattern at the right spot, and the following moment lets in just enough belief for me to take the next step forward.