One of the things that marked my two years of hell was an overwhelming sorrow that I almost always felt. I mean, the sorrow wasn’t new — I knew it was there. But when my brain finally gave up the ghost, the floor that had separated me from that sorrow seemingly disappeared and I was dragged into the sorrow-filled depths below. I have no clue if its accurate, but I feel as though I’d been stuffing all of my sadness into this big ol’ hole in my head, and then disassociating myself away from it as not to let it effect me. Likely, this is due to the fact that my family doesn’t deal well with emotions. Crying is just not something you’re really allowed to do, and so I did everything in my power to never cry and never show any emotion that could be used against me.
But when the floor disappears and you’re drowning in it 24/7, there is no real way to escape it. It becomes an all-consuming totality that is your waking existence.
As such, we tried to address this in therapy. We didn’t talk about the Ocean of sorrow very often, but whenever I’d brush up against it, I’d tell her that my sadness was too large to handle or figure out what to do with. And whenever I got too close to it, it became too overwhelming and Too Much for me to even maintain any semblance of control or ability to even do anything with the feelings that were consuming me.
During one of our last sessions together, I went into a place that existed astrally, but had seemingly been inaccessible to me since 2016. I navigated through these dark hallways and came to a large sphere where my ocean of sadness was seemingly held (don’t ask me, that’s just how it goes with this stuff.) I told me therapist that it hurt to look at it, hurt to touch it. That there was no way I could do anything with such a large sphere. It was too big and too precarious to move, and any attempts to make it smaller were not producing anything.
But because in EMDR-styled therapy we’re bypassing a lot of your conscious brain and letting the subconscious bits do the work, my mind showed me that we could poke a bunch of small holes into the sphere. And that slowly the water would drain, making it more manageable for me to handle. I remember the therapist asking me why I didn’t do these smaller things that would help with the sadness, and I told her that I didn’t fee like it was actually doing anything. She reminded me that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that each journey is made of a bunch of small individual steps. That if I wanted to make progress, sometimes that progress has to be made one tiny little inch at a time. But reminded me that it’s still progress.
I spent years not handling the sadness, partially because I didn’t know how and partially because I didn’t want to, and by the time it came to a point where I needed to do something about it, lest it end me, I found myself expecting to be able to do one or two “somethings” that would make huge dents in this sorrow, and therefore bring me relief.
If there is something that I think many of us do that ultimately hinders our progress in life, it’s that so many of us seem to walk around with the idea that we just need to perform one or two Big Actions to make a Thing happen for us. We lose track of the fact that all of our decisions matter. Every single one of them. And if we want to make the most progress, we shouldn’t only place an importance or emphasis on one or two choices, but on each and every choice we make.
Not to make my segue too harsh, but I saw a couple of posts a few weeks back that were spawned from a series of tweets that Ed Butler had put out into the world. For those who don’t want to click on the link, here is a copy of the tweets in question:
Someone says they want a relationship with the Gods. Tell them to wander out into the desert and nearly die, or to take an entheogen that will have them puking and hallucinating for hours, and they will do it. Tell them to put a little food in front of an icon and they will not. This is because the former, as hard as they are, are easier insofar as they support the person’s vanity, whereas the simple acknowledgment of the reality of the God embodied in the offering of food to an image is like a mortification. One could say that this is because the sinfulness of idolatry has been peculiarly thoroughly indoctrinated into people, but I think that the strangely stubborn aversion in those otherwise nominally inclined points instead to a resistance based in narcissism. Or perhaps a person feels too self-conscious making offerings to an icon; after all, one can hardly feel self-conscious while dying of thirst in the desert or imagining insects swarming over one’s body. But how interesting it is that they fear the one more than the others.
When I read these tweets, I had so many thoughts as to why someone might choose to do something big and grandiose but not something simple and basic or mundane. And while I do think that Butler is correct in that there is a percentage of us who only want to do things that don’t make us uncomfortable or speak to our vanity (or are, for all intents and purposes, performative), as sat talked about in their post, I think another factor of it comes down to the notion I was talking about above (which is similar to the take that this post over here took.)
Which is that so many of us seem to think that one or two Big Things is better than regular/daily smaller inane “useless” things.
I can give you countless examples where I’ve seen this play out in so many different ways across various communities. Where people discount things that appear to be too simple, too small, too mundane. We’re waiting for the One Important Thing that we have to do that will kick off the middle-of-the-movie montage that will rocket us towards our future Selves that we were always supposed to be.
And in that context, I feel its less about appealing to vanity, and more that we’re waiting for one or two major decisions to balance out all of the smaller decisions that we neglected to own or make–for a multitude of reasons (giving up power is another post.) Just like my younger self choosing to tuck those emotions away instead of handling them, I gave up the chance to work through that sadness while it was still small and manageable, up until I had no choice but to face it in its overwhelming totality. And even then, I thought that the idea of letting out a little bit of sadness here or a little bit there was never going to amount to anything of note. I wasn’t trying to turn it into a big production for my ego, I was simply underestimating how much power can be found in these smaller bouts of release.
Now, I want to add a caveat for all of my spoonie readers out there — please keep in mind that this isn’t a post about running yourself into the ground. This isn’t about doing all of the things all the time, nor is it about bludgeoning people in the head with ideas about how gods won’t ever possibly like people don’t do “enough work” in their religious lives or anything like that.
If anything, I am urging everyone reading to remember that every decision has weight. That we can all accomplish more in our lives if we do the tiny things that seem insignificant now, but will ultimately bear fruit later on. That there is no shame in making a practice or life of small, simple things, because those things may lead to amazing places if you let them.
I have found that handling my sorrow a little bit at a time, scratching out some notes here or there, drawing a picture or two, writing a blog post… that these little things slowly allow me to let my sadness out, and allow me to heal a little bit at a time. I don’t feel healed or 100% better yet, but I can tell that it’s getting easier because I keep working at it little by little.
Even if it seems too simple, remember that there is power in simple things. Just because its small doesn’t mean its insignificant.
What role does simple acts play in your practice or life? How often do you consider the weight of these simple acts?