Vacationing in the scenic Doldrums

Taking a cue from Havi (who I am inclined to nominate for the honorific Havi The Apt,  because what she writes is always just that: apt!), today I’m exploring some stuckness using these two questions that she used recently: What is true? What is also true?


What is true?

Unfocused brain! Wants: candy, gossip, assorted other low-grade rewards.

What is also true?

I don’t feel comfortable this week. And I want distractions to, um, distract me from thinking about the uncomfortableness.

And yes, of course, this is a pattern. The busy and productive time (last weeks’ craziness!) followed by the slow-as-a-snail brain-hibernation time. Which ought to be a good thing, right?


What is true?

The rest doesn’t feel restful. Example: I let my mind wander this morning and read through this fascinating Kalapuya history stuff I found this morning, but I didn’t feel excited to dive into “real” work, afterward.

And then I got frustrated that my “break” didn’t get me the result I wanted: productivity. Boo.

What is also true?

I think that real rest requires a different sort of attention. It wants:

Sunshine and fresh air instead of screen time

Creativity instead of information-consuming

Dreamy free-flow brain time

Breaks for actual napping, if at all possible

Attention to the body instead of ignoring the body

You know. The good stuff. All that bring-Rally-into-your-daily-life stuff.


Where is the resistance?

So if real rest is the thing that would have helped me today, let’s try that!

What’s stopping me from getting real rest?

Oh wow, okay, there is a lot of stuff in the way when I stop to think about this. Let me name just a few of the monsters that pop out of the woodwork when I ask that question:

  1. The Taskmaster: You don’t deserve to rest because you haven’t worked hard enough
  2. Comparisonpants: Other people manage their workload just fine without all this extra rest, clearly you are being a gigantic whiny needy baby
  3. Just Ignore That Zombie Horde: The to-do list is so gigantic that clearly abstaining from all work is the only rational choice
  4. Protestant Work Ethic Monster: Rest is not compatible with this job, or any job, because life is pain work
  5. One Bad Apple Spoils the Whole Barrel: You can’t even enjoy the time at home when you are actually really supposed to be resting, so let’s just dwell on that crappy thought so it can tarnish the entire day instead of just the time you’re at home

Five monsters is quite enough. There are plenty more, though they’re all kind of bent on the same idea: enjoyment and ease are no good.

What is true about that?

There are all kinds of patterns hiding in this particular little whirlpool of unhappiness. Sadness is hiding out here, under these vocal and unfriendly monsters. They’re trying to protect me from the sadness, mainly.

What is also true?

There’s a very particular sadness here. Sadness about a particular pattern of bad choices that seems to be dominant lately. And I don’t know what this particular pattern wants from me, or what I’m supposed to learn about it, or how to fix it when it’s causing me grief.

It’s just uncomfortable.

And even knowing that the Discomfort is temporary, does not define me, is merely a phase, can be treated as an experimental thing, etcetera: doesn’t fix it. The Discomfort most emphatically does not want to be coaxed or negotiated or conversed with.

It just wants to drag me down into the doldrums.

What’s so bad about the doldrums?

The doldrums. Ugh. Doesn’t it just sound awful?

Hang on though, read this! So..isn’t this a kind of rest?

It’s supposed to be the space where you don’t have to do. You can just be with the stuckness, the Discomfort. The non-movement.

It’s also not at a time or place of your choosing. It’s not rest that you fall gladly into; it’s rest that sneaks up and pushes you into a mud puddle.

Which sucks.

What is also true?

Is being in the doldrums not my choice in the same way that Havi’s emergency vacation sometimes happens? Is this a preemptive strike, an emergency shut-down to prevent catastrophic loss of sanity?

Could the rest (the real rest, the doldrums, the dwelling) be the place that allows me to listen in and figure out what I really want or need? A period of analytic rumination?

My working hypothesis (shh, don’t tell the Discomfort I’m hypothesizing about her)

Rest, if done in a half-assed way, probably won’t lead to productivity.

And this morning (today, this week, this month, this year) I am craving more rest than I am ready to acknowledge or give myself.

Why? Because rest helps you figure out what’s next. And sometimes — this is really, really important — the next thing is: more rest.

This idea may inspire the Protestant Work Ethic Monster to let loose with the most foul-tongued litany of insults, but ignore real rest at your peril.

The doldrums, even if they are suckful and muddying and full of the Discomfort, are happening because I’m supposed to be figuring something out. At my own pace, sure, but running away from the doldrums and trying to ignore their existence does not get you out of the doldrums.

So I need to start by sitting with the Discomfort. I need to find out more about this Discomfort. I need to find out what she knows about the doldrums. Why we’re here and what we can learn.

Except we’ll do it very quietly and carefully. From the quietest, most restful bed I can find.

About jesse k.

Writer. Mama. Spy in the house of self-awareness. Occasional crafter, letterpress geek, and academic snob.
This entry was posted in Interview With A Mirror, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Vacationing in the scenic Doldrums

  1. jess says:

    jesse, this kind of makes me want to cry today because it everything you’re saying/struggling with is 100% true for me as well. it feels like a pat on the back to think a) you need to rest before moving on to the next thing and b) the next thing might be more rest. OMG. you’re allowed to do that?

    • jesse k. says:

      I know — it is crazy talk! Rest and…more rest? It’s scary. And the hardest part is that even knowing you need an emergency break, that’s sometimes not enough to get the rest you need.

      Not even sure I have a reassuring way to finish up this reply but — yes. I’m so sorry it makes you want to cry. Me too. Sending hugs.

  2. Claire P says:

    The Just-Ignore-that-Zombie-Horde monster! Bahahaha…. I so, SOOOO relate. My JITZH has been climbing up on my shoulders every time I sit down for weeks and shoving many ‘oooh shiny’ distracting things in front of my eyes. Kind of helpful in the very, VERY short term… Also Comparisonpants is a very familiar figure.

    Thanks for giving them some names. Easier to talk to them if you can call them by name I’ve discovered. And sometimes asking them their name is the hardest bit.

    Will be meditating on how to incorporate rest into my doldrums on days I can’t figure out a way to conjure up a trade wind.


    • jesse k. says:

      Resting in the doldrums is especially hard because sometimes I get sooooooooo sick of resting. Though I think focusing on real rest activities is more productive for me than focusing on the candy/gossip/tv kind of distractions.

      And it’s true, JITZH is definitely helpful in the short term. Zombie horde? What zombie horde? Look at this shiny thing I found on the internet! Wayyyy more fun than gathering up your zombie-fighting stuff and going out to face them. Plus they are so loud and it’s so nice and quiet inside this fort 🙂 (Errrr, not sure how I got from the doldrums ship into the zombie apocalypse fort, but I think you know what I mean!)

      Good luck to you 🙂

  3. Yael says:

    so great! so familiar…

    “Why? Because rest helps you figure out what’s next. And sometimes — this is really, really important — the next thing is: more rest.

    This idea may inspire the Protestant Work Ethic Monster to let loose with the most foul-tongued litany of insults, but ignore real rest at your peril.”

    this is priceless.

    A big hug from Ithaca, so nice to see you again.

  4. Pingback: Interview with Sabotaged Me | my seed house

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