Whatcha-gonna-do with those blues?
Maybe your holidays required endurance. Or avoidance. Now 2016 beckons and you—or those you care about—feel steamrolled by loss: a loved one, a relationship, health, home, transportation, or job.
Worry keeps you awake. Or you’re feeling down without knowing why.
The blues blunt our sensibilities.
They tear at our soul—sometimes jagged, other times, numbing.
They crowd our thoughts and cloud our judgment.
Blues Therapy, of Old
Words attributed to King David say, “I will listen to a proverb; I will express my riddle on the harp.“* King James renders it this way: “I will open my dark saying upon the harp.”
That semi-colon bridges two thoughts. Or, as Merriam-Webster says, “co-ordinates the function between two independent clauses.”
David’s open to hearing wisdom. He must also defuse devastation.
1. Proverbs: take 2, they’re small
If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come (Chinese proverb).
He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Prov. 11:25).
Being forgetful, I write wise sayings on sticky notes, post these on mirror and desk, dashboard and fridge.
Can I somehow embody wisdom?
Wearing green subtly reminds me spring follows winter, and even lingering blues grow my soul.
Distracting myself eases my blues. I do something to refresh another person, or I walk our dog, or tend the plants and my mood lifts. The plants thank me by thriving, the dog wags himself silly.
The harp verse in Psalm 49 suggests that King David roused himself with proverbs—a go-to remedy. Except when it didn’t work.
2. Make something of it
David also used his hands to express what baffled him. Buffaloed him. From resonant harp strings, stretched across wood, his lament arose. Anger. Frustration. A drawn-out sigh.
Strings resound when plucked partly because they’re under tremendous tension. They’re already in sympathy with us(!), these strings made of gut.
Twenty years ago, enduring severe clinical depression after my father’s death, I let dozens of houseplants die. Too stricken to think, much less pray or play or sing, my guitar stayed in its case.
Busy hands are happy hands haunted me—one of my mother’s proverbs.
I said “Uncle.” Watered the plants, wrote in my journal. Counseling helped, as did anti-depressants.
I started writing poetry, to process my loss.
My breakthrough? Calligraphy class. Stroke by stroke, I focused on forming each letter of the alphabet. I partnered with movement: the simple, learned grace of it.
I lettered my dark sayings, or “riddle,” with ink and pen. I lettered upbeat proverbs. Still bewildered, now I had something to show for it.
To do this intricate work, I had to keep my eyes on the page.
3. Looking up
On days I let the blues rule, my gaze glues itself to my shoes, and everything slumps. Lifting my head and allowing the body to naturally realign itself jumpstarts relief. As does a walk outdoors.
Blues: there are so many shades when we look around us, or up at the sky. I make up new names for them:
Baby J Eyes, Glacial-lake Jade, April Rain.
Here’s a poem you might like, from my book, Where the Sky Opens.
Blue as Devotion
Some love this world like a secret,
a promise, a sacred tease:
500 shades of blue—sea glass or sky,
kingfisher, cobalt, moonlight. Cool hues
play the rogue, retreat from our squint
while come-hithering, numinous
as the quiet splice of shadows and twilight,
fickle as evening tide’s invocation,
every ebbing, a benediction.
How many ways can one soul taste
what perfumes the mind,
be it jasmine, waterfall, pain?
Scent, you are memory’s journey mate.
Time frays, like next week’s vapor trail,
the past unspools, and earth lovers
wait, gazing upward.
Please share what works for you when the blues move in . . .
May I ask a favor? If this post speaks to you, would you consider sharing it with others? Thanks!
*Psalm 49:4 (NAS)