Doldrums

Don't be afraid of storms_edited-1Years ago I used to spend a lot of time on sailboats and I became familiar with the doldrums. This is when the wind drops, the sails just hang limply, and, unless you turn the outboard motor on, you’re not going anywhere. This usually happens during the summer so, not only are you not going anywhere, it’s also very hot.

Dictionary.com also defines doldrums as: a dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits. The illness and death of an old friend brought depressing thoughts of aging and dying, missed opportunities and the swift passage of time. On top of that, the hot, humid Florida summer has sapped my energy and left me unmotivated. My early morning walk with Liberty leaves me exhausted and, after a shower, I usually don’t want to go out again. I push myself to go grocery shopping, run errands, and do household chores but, most of my time is spent reading, listening to The Blaze radio, and watching movies. I’m so tired by 3 p.m. that I have to take a nap! Occasionally, I meet a friend for lunch or dinner and a movie. I haven’t even been doing many pet visits for Haven Hospice over the past few weeks. Visiting Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is difficult for me under the best of circumstances and, when I’m already in low spirits, it drags me further down.

There isn’t much you can do if you’re experiencing the doldrums. It’s probably best to accept that you are stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for the wind to fill your sails again. Obviously, if you think you’re seriously depressed you should seek professional help but, if it’s just the doldrums then all you can do is ride it out the best way you can. Probably the most important things you can do for yourself are to focus on doing what you enjoy, be grateful for your blessings, and avoid negativity as much as possible. Pamper yourself. Seek inspiration. I feed my spirit by listening to cds by Rabbi Lapin and his new podcast on The Blaze, sermons online by Rev. Ken Lawrence of the First Baptist Church of Hampton Falls, NH (my friend, Nadine, turned me on to him-she spends July and August there. Lucky dog!)  As exhausting as it is in the hot weather, I continue to get out and walk every morning (thank God for Liberty!) because I know that spending time outdoors and getting some exercise is good for me – especially when it’s over!

All things must pass, including the doldrums, and eventually my spirit will be sailing again. If I close my eyes I can almost feel the cool breeze …

I often wonder if my imagination is one of God’s choicest gifts bestowed upon me to deliberately break me free from the frequent doldrums of my humanity. ~Craig D. Lounsbrough     

Hang in there, Mom! I think I feel a breeze.

Hang in there, Mom! I think I feel a breeze.

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

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Black Dog

A Prayer for YouLately I’ve been struggling with what Winston Churchill* used to refer to as the “black dog” (I’m sure no offense was intended to black dogs because he had dogs that he loved dearly) – a dark mood that just stays with me and affects all my thoughts and experiences. It is the opposite of rose-colored glasses. This is nothing new for me; I’ve been visited by the black dog more times than I can count, starting way back in my teen years. Sometimes he hangs around less than a day and sometimes he stays for weeks, but the challenge for me has always been how to deal with him. If you have read other posts on this blog then you know I am a proponent of positive thinking and of changing your thoughts to change the way you experience your life, etc., but today I’m writing about the reality of how hard that can be at times. It’s much easier to think positively when you’re in a good mood! Like I always say, simple but not easy.

First, I want to stress that I’m not talking about debilitating depression that prevents you from getting any pleasure out of life or depletes your energy to the point that you can’t even get out of bed in the morning or causes you to isolate yourself. I’m not talking about crying jags, long-term insomnia, decreased appetite, binge eating, or any self destructive behavior. If you are experiencing any of that, please get professional help. For me, the black dog brings feelings of mental fuzziness, sadness, and diminished creativity, energy, and motivation. I’m going to be totally honest with you – there are times when, no matter how hard I try, I can’t change the way I’m thinking. So how do I deal with the black dog? I keep moving. I take Stella for a walk and remind myself to be appreciative of my surroundings – I take deep breaths and look at the sky, trees, and birds. If I’m walking along the Intracoastal Waterway I pause to look for dolphins and manatees or to admire an egret standing in the shallow water as still as a statue. I do things that I enjoy like reading, watching movies, and getting together with friends. I stay on the lookout for inspiration. I remember to treat myself and others with kindness. I thank God for all the blessings in my life, even if it feels disingenuous, because I know that eventually it will feel genuine again if I just continue my prayers.

I think one of my strengths as a life coach is that I don’t talk to people as if I have it “all together”. I have empathy and understanding for the struggle to overcome weaknesses and effect positive change in our lives because I have been there, done that, and I’m still on the journey. I, too, have struggled with low self-esteem, shyness, and insecurity so I get a great deal of pleasure from helping someone to overcome those negative feelings. I have fallen victim to comparing myself unfavorably to others so I know firsthand how counterproductive that type of thinking can be. I have been dishonest with and about myself. I have been my own worst enemy and strongest critic. I fully admit that I am a flawed human being who is still and always will be a work in progress. And … I still get visited by the dreaded black dog!

One thing I have discovered about the black dog is that he does have a purpose. I have learned not to fight against him  because he carries a message within his darkness. I don’t always recognize the message but, I have noticed that when the black dog finally leaves me I have a renewed sense of creativity. While he is with me I’m enveloped in darkness but words can’t describe the wonderful lightness I feel when he leaves, which convinces me that part of his purpose is simply to give me a renewed appreciation of my life. After all, how would we be able to truly appreciate beauty if there was no ugliness to compare it to? I think the black dog exists to provide contrast and help me to see things differently. So, when the black dog pays you a visit I suggest that you just acknowledge his presence, be patient with yourself, keep moving, and wait for his message. Then, celebrate his departure! Woof.

*Winston Churchill suffered from periods of depression, which he described as “Black Dog”. “Black Dog” was well used by Victorian nannies (including Churchill’s nanny) to describe their charge’s dark moods.

Sometimes you just get in one of those moods

Sometimes you just get in one of those moods

See more of my artwork and books at www.lyndalinke.com