Erin's Everyday Thoughts

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Blues

This week I’d like to sing the blues. Deep and luxurious, like Billie Holiday. I’d sing of feeling lost in the expanse of life around me. I’d sing of standing still while the rest of the world rushes on. I’d sing of these pockets of sadness that descend at will, again and again and again. It’s difficult to concentrate on anything menial when I am feeling so potently. And I know this paragraph is self indulgent. But I’ll leave it here anyway.

Gosh, I hate when I get in moods like I’m in this week. It seems that no matter what I try, there’s no way to cheer up. That’s not to say that there aren’t happy moments to every day—indeed there are—but the overall feeling is: GLUM.

I am happy to say that these moods don’t shake me as deeply as they used to. When I was younger and less wise (although I don’t think wise would be a great word to describe me now, I do think less wise aptly describes my past), when one of these moods struck, I was always afraid that the shift represented the “new me” and that the blues were here to stay. How on earth will I adjust to such a dreary life? I would wonder. Now I know that this is a phase. I feel sad today. I’ll probably feel sad (at least off and on) tomorrow. But at some point in the not-too-distant future, I’ll feel perfectly okay, and then one fine day I’ll feel happy. And I probably won’t even realize the shift until after it’s passed. (Because when I’m happy, I’m not as acutely aware of my mood.)

Although I understand the cycle of these moods, and in some cases even understand what can set me into them, I still don’t fully understand what makes them stick around so long, even after the initial catalyst (if there is one) is resolved, after a problem has been solved. I wonder if it is the result of some chemical chain reaction that takes longer to clear out of my system than a situation might. I also wonder if this is my body/mind’s way of staying in balance. If I didn’t go through sadness from time to time, perhaps I wouldn’t be able to recognize happiness when I experience it. Maybe more than anything else, this is just who I am and how I respond to things. That doesn’t make me any less curious to figure out the why, though.

I think one of the tricks to these moods has to do with the catalyst. When something (big or small) sets me into deep thought on a subject or emotion, I have trouble escaping that thoughtful mindset. That’s not to say that a thoughtful mindset is bad—indeed, I strive for thoughtfulness. But there is an important line between being thoughtful and being consumed with thought. When I’m thoughtful, I can turn it off and go about my day as needed (working, reading, being). When I’m consumed with thought, that thought process seeps into everything I do and makes it nearly impossible for me to concentrate on anything but the thought for any amount of time. I’m thrown into a static place—like a deer in the headlights. I can’t even listen to the radio in my car—my mind is too full of its own intensity to stand for any outside stimulus.

When I’m working something out, this state of being consumed with thought makes sense. My mind is working overtime, and I don’t expect it to shut off at will. But it’s coming down from the consumed state that gets me. Once I’ve thought through what I’d like to think through, my mind keeps on whirring. It’s the days of settling that I have difficulty with. I want to turn my brain off and relax, but I can’t.

You would think that periods of overactive thought would be perfect times to write. But I find that with the consumed by thought state also comes sadness, and with that lethargy. Thought that was useful turns to useless, a spinning wheel going nowhere.

So here I’ll sit, waiting for it to pass.


  • Erin, there are so many kinds of melancholy. You could be sad because your beautiful vacation is over and you're back at work, and it's so hot outside. Or maybe your mind is trying to take you to a deep place and you should write. I do most of my writing in a state of melancholy; or rather, that's where it starts, and the writing takes me to a transcendent moment. I hope you're at least taking notes on your story ideas!

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 12:42 AM  

  • Once in a while it happens,
    like falling snow at night
    collapses colors to their source,
    sadness envelops me.

    Thoughts travel their circular path...
    well trodden and muddy,
    descending, inevitably,
    into ignominy and shame.

    There has NEVER been anyone who sang the blues like Lady Day.


    By Blogger V, at 11:48 AM  

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