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On a Clear Day was one of the many songs my mother and I used to sing. We knew every single word and it was right in our range.
“On a clear day rise and look around you
And you’ll see who just who you are
On a clear day, how it will astound you
That the glow of your feelings outshines every star”
If I recall correctly, I believe we thought the Carpenters were uplifting. But I may need to do a fact check on that.
My best friend and I sang too but our song choices were more of the Sylvia Plath-inspired ballad. We sang about bridges over troubled waters and anything else that fed our dark, Harold and Maude-inspired vision of the world.
Back in the 70’s, we didn’t really know what depression was. Before the internet, Oprah and Dr. Phil, it was rare to find mainstream references to depression.
But I knew about sadness from the books in my house. My parents read Harold Robbins, Judith Rossner and Jacqueline Susann, so I did too. I knew from books that heroines lose hope and then ultimately find hope again, as a rule. But the sadness and grief the heroines experienced along the way to finding true love in the last chapter was as foreign to me as the affairs they were having and the houses on Cape Cod they seemed to keep inheriting.
I feel like I grew up depressed before depression was a thing.
Back then I just thought I was moody and kind of dark.
Being moody and dark was okay back then because I was lots of other things too. I was a good student and an energetic kid. I was creative and passionate and, in my own mind, a gymnast, dancer and actress. In the summer I was good at tennis and swimming. In the winter I was good at baking and reorganizing my cluttered room.
Sure I was moody, but moody wasn’t all I was.
And because I was young, I don’t think I worried about anyone knowing I was moody. I was young and far more concerned about things like boys and clothes.
And then I grew up.
I grew up and my moodiness grew up with me. And, I suppose it’s only logical that as I grew to be more dramatic, traumatic and extreme, so did my moods.
A hardwired brain combined with a strong genetic component made the depression I was born into a really hard habit to break.
So I learned tricks.
I learned how to talk myself down and, when necessary, how to bring myself up. I learned to soothe myself, quiet my mind and focus my brain when my brain felt like jumping around.
I learned how to go out even when I didn’t want to and how to enjoy staying home with myself.
Basically, I became an expert in managing myself.
But no amount of expertise is good unless it continues to evolve along with its subject matter. So I find myself beginning again more often than not.
More often than not, I have to stop and relearn how to breathe.
More often than I would prefer, I have to learn new ways to do the self-talk that works…especially when the old self-talk stops working.
And more often than I would like to admit, I have to remind myself that my depression is just a part of who I am.
Not to change the subject, but did you see the movie 50 First Dates?
If you didn’t, you can skip the next paragraph.
But if you did see it, well…let’s just say that more often than not I need to leave myself notes to remind myself what my story is and why my story can have a happy ending if I allow it to.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay until leaving myself notes stop working well and I need to learn a new trick.
Or learn to write better notes.
If Quiet comes to you easily, this isn’t the blog for you.
If the idea of actual Quiet doesn’t scare you on even some micro and impossibly invisible level, then you’re in the wrong place.
But if Quiet is a struggle for you, in even the tiniest way, keep reading.
First, we should probably define what Quiet means, which, of course, we can’t.
Because Quiet is different for every person. And Quiet, for even one person, is different at different times.
Which is the problem with Quiet.
Quiet is like Success, Happiness, Joy, Relaxation, Accomplishment and any other words that sweep too broadly to be defined without further information.
Try it. Gather more than one person in a room and ask them their definitions of Success, Happiness, Joy, Relaxation, Accomplishment or anything else you can think of. Sure, there might be some overlap in themes, but mostly there won’t be overlap. Because people are different. And even if there’s overlap, it generally becomes narrower once defined.
For instance, you and I gather in a room, virtual or otherwise. And we answer this question:
“What do you want most of all?”
And, just for the sake of this essay being shorter than Anna Karenina, let’s say we both say happiness.
Let’s just say we both say happiness, even though I would never say that.
But let’s just say.
Okay. We both want happiness most of all.
But what does happiness mean? For me, it would probably be good health and/or the closest thing possible to the absence of stress. But I wouldn’t call that happiness since I have issues with the word happiness.
But I digress. For you, happiness might be something more exciting like true love and world peace. Who knows?
Or maybe your happiness would be roller derby and flea markets. Who knows?
Because even if you knew what your happiness would be, you’d have to think about what your happiness would be for now. And for later. And for after later.
It’s not that you would need to know exactly what your happiness would be, but it would be helpful – and insightful – to understand that your current happiness might not do if for you as much later. It would be helpful to allow yourself to allow your definition of happiness to change.
Because wants, needs, resources, unavoidable conditions and general ideas about life will change your perspective on happiness over time.
Which brings us to Quiet. And I’ll assume you can see where I’m headed. Because you’re smart.
Your definition of Quiet is very personal to you. And it’s a ‘for now‘ definition that is susceptible to change over time.
And so, the problem with Quiet is that it’s a useless word without further information.
So it pissed me off today when I heard Oprah say something about getting quiet so that you could find your true self.
I know Oprah shouldn’t piss me off. I like Oprah. I do.
I respect her journey. And her discoveries. And her contributions. I do.
But I worry that so many people are listening to Oprah and thinking that getting quiet works for everyone. Or that it’s easy. Or that it’s automatically better than being unquiet.
And I know Oprah doesn’t mean for any of those interpretations to be interpreted, but Oprah has experienced a lot more than the average person has experienced. Oprah knows what all different sorts of quiet sound like and feel like. When Oprah talks about Quiet, she is talking from a place of knowing all about Quiet.
But most people don’t know about Quiet. Because their life isn’t Quiet.
Or because the lives of those around them aren’t Quiet.
Or because, for them, Quiet has been a hurtful experience and eventually Quiet becomes a thing they avoid.
I’m sure that Oprah would agree with that, but she doesn’t need to think about it. Because she has many, many, many resources that enable her to achieve the exact kind of Quiet she needs to achieve in order to be with her inner true self.
I don’t mean to end on a noisy or disturbing note. I just mean to say that when you hear the word Quiet, don’t think it has to be the kind of Quiet you see in the magazines in line at Whole Foods or in the Oprah magazine article that tells you to take walk in the woods.
Quiet is your Quiet. It’s how you define Quiet to be for you and for you for now.
And, just for the record, I prefer my Quiet to be not so quiet.