Sometimes, I feel like a fraud. I spend much of my time thinking about how young men can change their lives and move forward from Thoreau’s ‘lives of quiet desperation;’ so much time speaking publicly about my recovery from depression and seeing the light, that it might be assumed that my life has subsequently become a bowl of roses. Let me assure you that it ain’t that easy.
One of the biggest changes I have made is getting a better understanding of who I am and what makes me tick. And sometimes that ticking feels like a time bomb! The fortunate thing for me is that, I now know that it’s not going to explode. Or even if it happens to explode, I can recover from the impact. This is knowledge worth having.
Do I still wake up in the morning wondering what it’s all about? Of course I do. Not all the time, but I still get stuck in dark places and think about pulling the bed covers up and closing shop for the day – or in this case, never opening shop in the first place. What I do is get out of bed. It is amazing how that one simple action can change your half-empty bottle to one which is half-full. Those early hours in the half light can play tricks on your mind and activity gets you out of that head space. Get moving.
Do I still try to achieve far too much? Of course I do. Is it healthy? Of course not! What am I going to do about it? I try to break out of these bad habits that have crept into my life. It’s not that they are ‘bad,’ it’s just that they are unnecessary. I am the only one who ‘owns’ these habits? No one gives a damn that I wake up in the morning and have forgotten that amazing thought or idea I had last night. I can beat myself up as much as I like but of the 7 billion people in the world, I’m the only one who knows I forgot. What a waste of emotional energy.
What I’m trying to say with these couple of reflections is that there are no quick fixes in this world as to how how we can control our minds. ‘Bliss’ might be found if we go and live in a cave in Japan or an ashram in India, but that’s not the reality for most of us. Our reality is that life will continue to throw up these challenges and our biggest challenge is to continue to handle them as best we can. It can be hard work.
One thing I have learnt from my own particular vantage point is not to be afraid of the dark. It sounds pithy to say it but after the darkness comes the dawn. I read many years ago that once you recognise the essence of who you are, you can almost wallow in the muddied waters. It’s just who you are. It’s not fun wallowing but it’s much better than drowning. Some may never experience these dark places, but understand that many of your friends will be right there right now.
By continuing to master my own battles, I think it puts me in a position to speak to others. I would love to be the ‘master of life,’ standing on the altar preaching the rock-solid rules of being in total control all the time. It doesn’t work that way. Not even in my 70th year. But it’s important to stay close to the question. It’s like Greg Chappell making his five test ducks in a row. He could have changed his technique and gone for broke. But he knew what had made him great and stuck with what he knew. That’s a lesson for all of us.
Roses need trimming throughout their lives. The analogy rings true for all of us.