Finding My Joy Again

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If I’m being honest, I’ve felt moderately depressed for the past few months. Maybe at first, I had ignored it and stuffed it down. Because who was I to be depressed? On paper, my life is fantastic. I have wonderful relationships, I’m financially stable, I have a stable job, I have a shit ton of free time and a flexible schedule, and I’m healthy. In my mind, there was virtually no reason to feel depressed. So when I started to feel that way, I added on the guilt and the shame of BEING depressed. Which is quite odd, but very human of me to do. So it was a lot to take on.

Until last month, something kind of awful happened. And it pulled out my depression and shame from under the rug and multiplied it times a billion. And I found myself unable to feel alive. Life felt pointless. Chaotic. There was no meaning. A nihilistic existence. And let me tell you, that stuff is dangerous to believe in, at least for me. Because to live in a chaotic, random, pointless universe means to me that there is nothing out there to live for and you just live in a constant state of fear about what monster is about to come around the corner. All the things I took joy in doing, all the relationships I was happy to be in, made me feel numb. It was as if someone had robbed me of my ability to feel anything and left me completely empty.

I grasped at anything to try and feel again. I tried listening to new music, I read new books, I tried sewing and drawing—anything to get me riled up again. But every attempt proved to be empty and every time I tried, I grew more disappointed and hopeless.

At that point, I couldn’t find the joy within me to enjoy the world anymore. For the first time in a while, I no longer had a clear vision in my life. I felt like I had no direction, no purpose. This whole time, my goal was to get good grades in school, graduate nursing school, pass the NCLEX, get a job, and be competent at that job. And now that list has been fully checked off. Then what? What next?

A small turning point occurred. I randomly bought this book at target that looked pretty. In this one chapter, the author was writing about this amazing experience he had of simply watching the sunset in San Francisco by himself.

“This will emerge as one of the more memorable moments of my life so far, and I’m really not sure why. Maybe it’s because I had eagerly anticipated what my happy place would feel like, and it exceeded all expectations. Maybe it was simple, soulful moment, that required no internal editing or filtering, no explanation. Or maybe it was a moment of pure joy that, deep down, I needed to feel alive again after going through some of the hardest months of my adult life. I’m not sure. But what I do know is that the time I spent on the hilltop—roughly two hours—flew by and left me wanting more. More time alone. More of these magical moments. More time to reflect. More time to appreciate the natural good in the world. I went up there alone, empty-handed. I left alone, but walked away with a unique memory no one else will have; it was mine and mine alone to treasure. That’s so special to me. As I grow older, I wish for more of these snapshots of joy, to be able to string them together into a long line of happiness. To remember how life should feel. To remember to take time out by myself and appreciate both my own company and the world around me.”

— Connor Franta, Note to Self

Reading this reminded me of such a fond memory of a concert I went to a few years ago. It was of the band Deafheaven, a black metal band that, despite it’s heavy sound, carries such a beautiful and contemplative energy in their music. As they played their song Dream House, I danced in the fiery pit of passionate music lovers, and felt as if I were floating above, watching from the ceiling. Feeling the energies of pink, purple, and orange that this music created float about. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t fear death. Death didn’t even exist in this space. I felt a part of something unlimited and whole. Like an infinite, significant, blissful energy. And then I remembered, that was how life should feel. I may not have a clear vision of the direction I’m heading in, but I know deep within me that that is how life should feel.

Then, on my birthday, I received a wonderful card from my Mom.

“Celebrate the many ways you’ve grown wiser, deeper, stronger in spirit. Know that your life has special meaning and that the purpose of your birthday is to honor the unique person you have become.”

Yes, I could see it as a stereotypical Hallmark card. But it spoke words to me that I really needed to hear. I had forgotten how important it was to feel that there was meaning in my life. And that I am not worthless. My existence was not pointless.

I needed to hear that I had purpose. That my life has meaning. That life isn’t just endless suffering and chaos. That I can do something meaningful with this time I have here on earth. That I am not powerless. And slowly, I felt myself rise from the dark hole in the ground I’ve been living in.

“I found God in myself.

And I loved Her.

And I loved Her.

And I loved Her.

Fiercely.”

                     — Ntozake Shange

 

If there could be one highlight to all of this depression and loneliness and emptiness, it would be this point: Meaning is essential to enjoying life. Scratch that. Not even enjoying life. Meaning is essential to life itself. That may seem very simple, even a bit obvious, but it’s something that has been fundamentally missing in my life during the last few months. And the past months have been a tough, but necessary lesson to never forget that.

And even though I still don’t have a clear vision for my life at the moment, I have faith that my life will go the way it needs to go, under God, under the Universe, under Divine Love, or whatever you want to call it. And when I do stray, I’m going to find my way back to Love in whatever way that feels right to me.

Love,
Gretchen
Photo by joe ting on Unsplash
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