“Bi‑Polar” has entered our popular vocabulary. In everyday usage, it points to a condition in which the “Ups-and-Downs” have become too frequent or overwhelming or unpleasant.
It’s normal, right? to be addicted to emotions and feelings: a bad experience “gives me” a bad attitude . . . until a pleasant feeling sends me off in the opposite direction. The roller coaster seems the universal paradigm for the secret life of most of us humans.
Makes life interesting . . . up to a certain point, until . . . .
One summer, between my junior and senior years in high school, my grandfather hired me for several weeks of farm chores in Northeast Texas. By mid‑morning, I was tired from baling hay, throwing it up in the truck, stacking it in the barn, but my grandfather kept right on going until suppertime. Over dinner, I asked him how a sixty‑year‑old could so easily outlast a seventeen year‑old. He was not much of a talker, but he did answer this question: “You just have to find your rhythm.”
The remark made a lasting impression on me.
The Tale Wagged
A friend tells me she’s “having a manic episode” when she’s only spent too much time at Starbucks. Another asks me if he should get a prescription for Paxil: he’s just broken up with a girlfriend and is “depressed.” Neither seem to view their experience as normal, neither is patient that it’s a passing phenomenon; they’re concerned they may be a little off kilter, in need of assistance, but at the same time, they’re not embarrassed: they feel they’re in the mainstream of modern life. Getting an anti-depressant almost seems an In-thing to do.
For others, the ups-n-downs are sometimes acceptable: they just “go with the flow.” But if they get stuck in one of the dips or peaks, it’s no longer a flow at all. They feel they’ve lost their rhythm, and start looking for help. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to get such help.
Some of our most cherished memories, however, may revolve around a grandparent, aunt or uncle who gave us a glimpse of stability, peace of mind, a sense that they were not riding the roller coaster, but were living their lives with an unnamed, measured rhythm.
May we transfer this legacy to the young who study us when their flow hits a snag.
Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?
If the roller-coaster is less fun than it used to be, begin looking for the “rhythm” that is your very own unique “stride,” as you go about your living this week.
If that’s too vague, maybe you could leave earlier for work. Or make your own lunch. Sit in the car for two minutes before tackling the mall. Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop comparing others to yourself.
Maybe the mantra “This too will pass,” might help you stay mindful (my grandmother murmured it often), but somehow, expect to step back, so as to see the roller-coaster as it is. Get off the next time it stops at a landing platform, and begin to move more steadily in your own stride.