One day last week, upon leaving my therapist’s office, I shared the elevator with a man who looked to be a decade or so older than me. He wore orthopedic braces on both legs and walked haltingly with a cane. As he got in the elevator we smiled at one another and said hello. When I asked how he was doing he replied, “Mostly good”. I found this answer refreshing. “Fine thanks” is polite but doesn’t communicate much at all. “Mostly good” contains a story. It indicates the presence of challenges while also making clear that the speaker is choosing to focus on the positive. It is honest without being overly intimate. Our brief interaction inspired me to think about how I approach my own challenges. The months since I left my job have been rough, physically and psychologically, and for a while I found myself stuck in a negative feedback loop.
I have a lot to be grateful for: a loving and supportive husband, three awesome kids, cats and a dog to snuggle, family and friends that I adore, a home that I love in a beautiful part of Northern California, hiking trails at my fingertips, a chorus to sing with, great books to read, and a creative outlet in my writing. I’m aware that it’s an abundance of riches. But knowing something and feeling it are two different things. And something in me had buried my gratitude and contentment under a thick layer of anxiety, sadness and malaise. I let my continued health challenges, the struggles of various family members, and my perceived lack of purpose (yup, I got right back on that train) overshadow my many blessings. I was overwhelmed and dispirited.
Of course there were good days, energizing days, even great days. But too much of the time it felt like I was drowning under the weight of my existential angst, reaching for the surface, but unable to catch any air. (The Prozac didn’t work, by the way. So I’m off meds for now.)
Thankfully I seem to have snapped out of it. Harlan helped by pointing out that my negativity had broken out of its containment and was having an impact on my familial interactions. The man in the elevator helped by setting an example of an alternate approach. And I helped myself by realizing that I was sick and tired of being in a negative state. My feedback loop wasn’t helpful, so I decided to let it go.
I have woken up once again to the fact that even while struggling I can choose to focus on the mostly good. And I am trying to adopt this as a daily practice.