Dying, A Little Bit
I have the blahs.
I’m not in the mood to do much more than what is required. I just feel blasé.
I’m not sad, or depressed, or sick. I’m just blah. Blah about the weather, about the news, about exercising; blah about food and cooking.
I haven’t found a movie or tv show I actually want to escape into. I'm reading lots of books but not excited about any of them, really. Even though each book explores topics I am normally passionate about, they all seem dull to me, just blah. Blasé.
So, what’s going on?
I have lately been remembering when my friend Marcie was dying. I recall her feeling similarly. She knew she was dying. But death was still in the future, on a horizon she could see, but there was still some distance, some time. During the period I am recalling, she was reasonably physically stable. So, after all the dismay at her diagnosis, the deliberations and contemplations regarding various treatments and their consequences, the friends who came by often, and the soulful searching . . . after all that, Marcie found herself in a kind of limbo.
Everything was . . . calm. She had opted for no more treatments, the frequent visitors had trailed off, there was no more time spent on reading or researching new treatments. No more new modes of symptom management or fear. She had come to a decision, made a choice and was now just waiting. She never called it called “living in limbo,” or “feeling blah.” Those are my words. She was very clear that she wasn’t sad or depressed. She was quite happy, actually. She just wanted stillness . . . quiet. She seemed almost ethereal during that time. She was making peace with everything; with herself. She was becoming Peace.
Today, if I told my primary care doctor that I felt blah and didn’t want to do much, she would probably try to diagnose me with something, depression most likely. But I’m not depressed. I don’t need medication or therapy, per se. I just need to allow myself to feel the way I feel. I feel really good in a quiet, neutral way. I feel peaceful.
I remember observing Marcie during this period of her life/death . . . occasionally witnessing a well-meaning friend or family member cajoling Marcie to “go for a walk,” or “do something that would get her spirits up!” When Marcie was disinterested and said that she just wanted to stay home, her loved ones would ask me if Marcie needed an antidepressant or something to “give her energy” or if a social worker should stop by to “talk about issues.”
The reality was that there were no issues. No concerns. Marcie just wanted to do nothing. She was into BEING (What I have been calling blah) for a while . . . not doing, just being.
It’s so very challenging to allow ourselves to do nothing, to turn off the engine of driving need to move into the future, to alter or control the next few minutes or the next few years. We seem collectively afraid of the death of that driving force. The death of the belief that there is anywhere else to go. Sometimes, its important to have the experience that there is nothing more . . . anymore.
Instead, we fill our lives with doings that distract us from ourselves. If someone sees us sitting doing nothing much, they worry. “What’s wrong” they ask. Nothing is wrong. But they aren’t buying it. Even more problematic is that often in this state, we judge ourselves to be wrong and are embarrassed to be seen idling in neutral or turning off the engine all-together.
Taking a break can be challenging. For example, most of us are now afraid to leave our phones at home when we go out. “What if I miss something?” Rationally we know that there’s nothing all that important one could possibly miss for an hour or two. Remember landlines? We missed nothing really. If someone needed us, they found us through creative means or they would call back. And if something urgent was missed, we felt the grief and the loss of that circumstance.
So, I’m embracing the experience of blah. I’m calming and quieting. My nervous system needs a break from stimulation. All those neurons and mitochondria need some downtime. Marcie modeled for me the absolute beauty of this time. The blahs have come and gone before, and are sometimes short lived. The circumstances of my life often call me into action in response to the momentum of something I set in motion long ago. But blah is a beautiful oasis for which I am increasingly appreciative and grateful.
A word of awareness . . . If you feel like something is amiss, if you feel tired and anxious or sometimes tense and angry, check in with your nervous system and notice if you are actually pushing against the need to stop everything and be “blah” for a spell. There’s no need to wait for your body to be at death’s door before you have permission to turn off the engine.
Take a day . . . or a few hours. Create a boundary around yourself and rest in your own thoughts, your own feelings, your own care. In a sense, practice dying, simple and quiet, without having to become ill or over-wrought for it to be OK to stop.
You will never regret it. No one ever does.
You won’t miss much . . . and surprisingly, no one will really miss you that much either.
You will find yourself, however, and in the end, what is more important than that?
“Almost everything will start again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including yourself.”
~ Anne Lamott