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The doldrums are ever ready to snatch our momentum away…

Uhg. I’ve been so down the last 2 days,and I am fighting like hell to get out of it. I figured one way to make this worth going through is by coming up with a list of anti-dejection methods you might find useful.

I don’t know about you, but my doldrums come in distinct flavors. This time, it’s the my-work-is-meaningless one, all juicy and fetid and festering. It is a whopper for me, very seductive in lulling me to my inner rocky bottom. I am, for all my aw goshery, really rather ambitious. I’d like to matter to a few people, be a resource for others in my field. This is slowly, SLOWLY happening to be sure, but there are times when my demons decide that it’s never going to happen: I’m destined to reside in obscurity forever, all my work is for naught, the only way I can get people to look at my work is to give it to them for free… The inner chorus continues and I spiral down to my most inert state, curled up in the fetal position.

I have to fight the pull of my personal vortex, but how?  How can a person combat her most compelling strain of despair?

Take a long walk. 

It sounds so super cheesy, but it’s the one thing I could drag myself out of the house to do. I put the latest album by Passion Pit on repeat and hauled my sorry ass around the park. Then I walked across town to my studio, just to soak up some extra exercise. I felt a bit better, so I did it again today.  In fact, I do it most days and it helps, it really does.

Look back with compassion.

I am lucky to have a lot of my old work online here and there. When I start to feel hopeless, I go and look at what I have done and try not to tear myself to shreds. After a while, the circulation returns to my compassion nodule and I begin to see my efforts for what they are: honest attempts at improving some little iota of the world. I think everyone can do this in one way or another, just try and be gentle with yourself. Look in the faces of your children, feel your weathered hands, remember some accomplishment that usually brings you a measure of happiness and repeat the following to yourself: “I did this, I can’t be all bad.”

All you are trying to do is to make the tiniest of cracks in the onslaught of sadness, so keep it simple. Breathe.

Open up and let it out.

This is hard for me: I am kind of a loner in a lot of respects. I don’t like to be a bother, whatever that means. But if I let this feeling just sit here and stew undisturbed, it will only grow stronger. I finally opened my mouth and told my partner what was going on. She listened until I had spat most of it out, then made some gentle suggestions when I could actually hear them. The magical thing about telling someone what you are actually going through is that your emotional state becomes more human-sized in the telling: it is no longer some untraversed, endless continent to cross. It’s a mood, a feeling, and it will pass.

Don’t live in dread of your feelings.

I run on the moody side–this is something I have known for a long time. I have learned to respect every part of my emotional spectrum, even the unpleasant parts. As I have learned to respect them, I have learned to take responsibility for them, to not take them out on other people for the hell of it. I do not like feeling so down, but it does throw the rest of my life into a lovely high relief, highlighting how great life actually is. I am not thrilled that I am so sad, but I refuse to ignore it or pretend it never happens. No way. I doff my cap and give the mood its due, then I inch my way away from it as best I can. Feelings are important though unreliable sources of data–they are the filtered feedback that only we as individuals can produce. I try to pan for what truths they reveal then let the rest go. 

Get up and fight like hell.

Now that I feel a little better, I am scrambling to take action. I woke up early and finished packing up work to send to my heroes, a chore I had let slip for weeks. I wrote this essay. After this, I am going to take a break and have a nice hour or so with my sweetie. I am doing things that may not be the top of my to-do list, but they are things that I really enjoy doing. To hell with efficiency, I am fighting for some pure, unadulterated quality here. I’ll get back on schedule when I am feeling a bit stronger, which should be soon. I just have to pop-start my motivation by doing the things I really want to do. A little indulgence can be a good thing.

So that’s what I have done for myself today, and I can feel the mood breaking slowly like a fog in early morning. The one big lesson I have learned over the last few years is that I do have control over my own perspective. I can change how I look at my situation, and sometimes that alone makes it better. I do these few simple things to shake my frame of reference up so that I may be able to reposition it if only slightly. Most of the time, that is all I need to start my way back to the land of the living.

Filed under: Writing


I am Libby Clarke, an artist, designer and educator living in Brooklyn, New York. I operate under the name Monstress, which actually started out as my zine label in 1997. Since then, it has grown to encompass all my efforts.


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