Monday, October 19, 2009

Happiness Limbo

Gather, mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam

Sometimes a change in seasons -- particularly the transition from a season of light, like summer, to seasons of coolness and gray, like fall and winter--can bring with it a feeling stagnation for me: a sort of happiness limbo. It's like happiness is there in moments, but it can be shaded by the shadow of dark nights and falling leaves. Now I love fall (did I just write that?!). It is so beautiful here in Seattle when the leaves turn. And in those few days when we have blue sky and a crispness in the air, I feel the happiness in my body lift me up. So happiness is there, but I also feel a bit in limbo with it, like I could easily take a down turn, fall off a cliff into apathy and ambiguity. Do you ever feel this during this summer-to-fall seasonal change? Or perhaps this happens to you during a different seasonal transition. Or some other time that doesn't correspond with the seasons.

Julia Cameron has a sweet little book aptly called Transitions, and I want to share a hearty quote from it here:

"In some seasons, we are able to act decisively in directions that please us and feel happiness as a result. At other times, life is less linear and more variable. Happiness is more elusive as we experience events and timing beyond our control. Among life's vivid seasons, there are also times of a more muffled love, periods of muted mood and ambivalent, even ambiguous feelings. These are the limbo times, the gray days that fall in between. These are the transitional times when I am not what I was nor am yet what I am becoming. In limbo times, I must live with alert attention to my feelings of vulnerability. I must guard against hasty choices and rushed decisions. In limbo times I must learn to simply be. Soon enough life will move onward."

I love this excerpt from Cameron because it reminds me that happiness limbo is normal! We all feel it! Some call it the "blahs" others may call it stuckness. Whatever it is for you, it is completely normal to have periods of being in a liminal space -- that space of being "not what I was nor am yet what I am becoming."

And I think these times of happiness limbo give us a great opportunity to slow down, tune inward, and just be, as Cameron suggests. We don't need to bruise ourselves trying to activate our happiness. We need to relax into what we're experiencing. At least that's what I try to do. Because, soon enough, life will feel lighter again, more motivating, more clear and crisp. It will!

And my friend Kristen just now reminded me of that other kind of limbo: you know, the game? When we play limbo we are in that awkward position between falling and standing. And that's how I often feel during transitional times. Will I bend backwards and fall to the floor or will my chin barely miss the bar and I spring up to standing?

So how to take care of yourself during happiness limbo? Let yourself be. Be gentle with yourself, knowing that you are normal, okay, even pretty amazing. Find ways to feel better, but in a kind and compassionate way, like moving your body: physically move, but don't force ourselves into pain. So walking is good, so is dancing or singing or writing. Stretching can be nice, too. Get out the limbo bar if you want, but be sure to play some groovy music. And I like to throw in laughter. Laughter is a great mover; it shakes your whole body and releases endorphins.

Here's a little inspiration for you:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Letting Go and Transforming Loss

I created this piece with intuitive counselor/coach Karen Floyd at my side this past week (we often have working art days together). It didn't occur to me until just now how significant this piece is in light of the recent conversation we had on Karen's Power Talk Live radio show this morning. The topic was aptly "letting go." (Clearly that crow knew something I did not when I was creating this piece!)

If you'd like to listen to our conversation, you can do so here:

I was Karen's guest co-host and I spoke about grief and transforming loss in connection with letting go. I shared my experience with the losses in my life, most significantly the death of my father in 2008. We had such a fruitful conversation and I was honored to be asked to share my story, so thank you, Karen!

As I told Karen during the show, grief can be such an isolating feeling for those of us going through it. In my experience, it feels tremendously relieving to be asked how I am doing related to my loss. I feel seen, heard, and acknowledged. Often times people "give room" to the grieving person, not wanting to say or do the "wrong thing" and yet this distance and absence is sometimes painful for the person who is dealing with loss. As my friend Benjie said when advocating for those in his grief group, "Don't be afraid to talk to us." I fully agree. We won't break into pieces; we have already done that.

Karen's show is every Friday at 11:30am PST. You can call in to ask questions, offer insights, or receive guidance. It's a powerful forum for getting unstuck and understanding yourself in deep and meaningful ways.