Having it out with Melancholy

Melancholy. Not a friend, exactly. Quite familiar though. I’m trending towards befriending it.

What surprises me is what triggers melancholy. And how long I have to hang in the holding pattern to understand.

Last weekend I watched the movie Whale Rider again…and, since I had seen it before, I looked forward to the ending and redemption. All of the scenes where the heroine is ignored, belittled and and shamed by her grandfather reeled before me with perfect detachment.

Until yesterday.

One line, like a mantra, played in my mind: “I have no use for her.”

My father was a fifties man. He went off to work each day and worked hard so that mom could stay home and care for us. He had a lifetime supply of projects and provided all the nice extras for family time…trips to the ocean, summer weekends at a beach cabin and later, sailing vacations and he clearly loved me. But he didn’t understand me. In particular, he didn’t understand my melancholy. He had no use for it.

My simple solution was solitude.

Over the years, that solitude has strengthened me, given me solace and given me practice in staying. So even though I won’t say that I enjoy my melancholy, I am capable of giving it time and patience because I believe in it. Melancholy is my messenger. Without it, I go on my merry way and tend toward ignoring my inner needs. With it, I stop and listen…begin the necessary course corrections to find my true north again.

I am blessed to be self employed. Most days I can put work on hold or postpone it to later in the day to nurture what needs my attention. I can stretch my early morning walk and enter into dialogue with melancholy. I can linger in my sanctuary with a cup of tea, string word beads together in my journal, take a nap. There is always some gift waiting for me…some small aha! or release from the heaviness that allows movement forward again…perhaps a creative spark that draws me into another dialogue. Or maybe the gift is simply recognition of the ways in which I can value myself and the warm and fuzzy smile that spreads throughout my whole body.

So today, I’m calling out to melancholy. “Hey…I’m listening…”

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12 Responses to Having it out with Melancholy

  1. Denise says:

    Ouch. Baggage we all have it. When my melancholy comes out, I do what I was taught as a child. Bury your feelings until they fester. Or my favorite, mask it with humor. 🙂

  2. Oh yes, I know that festering too. Thankfully, I get clearer sooner these days. Thanks for sharing, Denise!

  3. For me there’s a thin line between letting it linger long enough to get its message through, and not long enough to establish residency. Almost as if too much time gives it a foothold. I’ve always been thankful to have a loving partner who listens patiently to things he may not understand. And to words repeated over and over and over again. Insight has come to me from surprising places.

    I went to Larry Cheek’s WIWA writing workshop last Sat, which inspired me to get serious again. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten so much out of a class. A wonderful writer who managed to get me moving again.

    Thinking of you.

  4. Thanks, Carol, for your beautifully articulated comment. I especially like the part about not letting it “establish residency”. I take great comfort in your words.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your workshop.

  5. Charlene says:

    This is so beautifully written, I find myself reading it over and over…perhaps because I have been living in the melancholy for weeks now. It seems to be intensifying even though I keep saying I am listening. I know if I hang with it long enough, it has important messages for me. My simple solution is also solitude and I will have some this weekend. The melancholy is waiting with its wisdom…it is so good to have a sister who understands…love you!

  6. Thank you Charlene. Sometimes I think I should just keep it to myself. You remind me that I am not alone. And neither are you! So, on with the waiting and the delicious opening of gifts when they arrive.

    Thinking of you.

  7. Jessica says:

    not being blessed with the gift of words, I can’t express myself quite like everyone else has. But I too understand and sometimes BEG it to not take up residency! There are days when you CAN embrace it, and others where to do so would be an intrusion. On those days I try to shove it aside and tell it, ‘ see ya on Saturday’! Then if it is still pestering me, I can have the time to dialogue with the melancholy and let it have it’s say.
    Thank you dear Jeanne, for sharing your heart…

    I ❤ you

  8. Carol says:

    Oddly I never actually use the word “melancholy”, but will from now on. Its lyrical sound makes those periods of sadness or depression seem less clinical, less harsh, and more transient. I wish I had known you 5 years ago when I hit the melancholy bottom, the worst experience of my life. Sharing that pain might have eased it faster.

    You have such a gift stringing words together.

    • Thanks Carol! I like to pay attention to how I name things. It makes a difference. And I agree with your description of depression sounding so clinical. So forever. The word melancholy has “holy” in it too. Worth honoring.

  9. Dear Jessica, I think you have the gift of words just fine! I like your “see ya on Saturday” idea. I forget sometimes that it’s OK to postpone the dialogue. Thanks for sharing too.

  10. Carol says:

    I just love this kind of exchange.

  11. Me too! Very energizing.

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