We all have uncomfortable lulls in our lives where we feel things are at a standstill, or when we have nothing interesting or productive to engage us, or when we simply feel stuck.
Even the word lull itself makes me feel a certain dread.
My lulls often occur after I’ve completed a project or endeavor in which I was actively engaged, particularly when it was enjoyable and gratifying.
Most recently, I have experienced a lull after the publication of The Gifts of Acceptance. It was thrilling and deeply rewarding that the book received several major book awards and became an Amazon best seller in multiple categories, and even more so when readers shared with me how much the book had helped them.
An unsettling lull then set in as I took a breather from book marketing. This one has lasted longer than most.
I have a lot of time on my hands for the first time in the seven years that it took to write and publish the book. And I’m not good with too much time on my hands. I begin to “think” and question too much.
I wondered whether I should I write another book, maybe a journal or guidebook to help people practice acceptance or one that examines the important relationship and links between control and acceptance. I also wondered whether I should pursue speaking opportunities to further carry the positive messages about acceptance, or whether maybe I should go back to painting, which has taken a back seat to my writing endeavors in recent years?
But, truth be told, I have no real desire to do these things—at least not now. I began feeling lethargic and have less energy, especially on the tennis court playing the game I love. (My feet didn’t feel like moving on the court and my game suffered.)
I also began feeling low, even somewhat depressed, although I wasn’t really in touch with it or what may be behind it.
Having both a “Lull” and a “Low” made me think and question even more.
It then hit me what was really going on. I was in denial. Denial that I would soon be turning 76 and what all that meant. This was one birthday I was definitely not looking forward to celebrating. My “stinking” thinking kept reminding me that 80 was just around the corner—and that didn’t feel good to me at all!
I half jokingly told my wife, Sigute, that I think I had bypassed a mid-life crisis and may now be having a “later life” one.
She kindly offered some very sage advice. She suggested I:
“Lean” into my feelings. By that she meant, try to feel and stay with the unsettling feelings—in my case dread, loss, a sense of emptiness, and disheartenment–rather than trying to block or deflect them, and not to feel that something must be “wrong” in having them.
Although it has been said that feelings are not facts, they nonetheless are real and need to be processed in some manner. Leaning into or embracing them is one good way of doing that.
Practice Gratitude. It’s easy to lose sight of all the blessings and good things we have in our lives when we are not feeling well. There’s a large imbalance that needs to be corrected and awareness and gratitude brings us proper perspective of our “true reality.” Her simple reminder was enough for me to start recounting my many blessings in the succeeding days, including having a wonderful family and friends, financial security, and good health. This process works best for me when I verbalize or write them down. (for more on this, read my post “The Unique Benefit of Practicing Gratitude”)
Another thing that helped was remembering something I had written about in The Gifts of Acceptance as a key to practicing acceptance, and that is,
Embrace life’s impermanence. Our reliance on life and things being fixed or permanent impacts our ability to handle the unexpected when it comes, which it inevitably does–and that includes lulls and lows.
The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes the suffering caused by resistance to impermanence very simply:
“It’s not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”
It thus behooves us to remember that life has both ups and downs and not to expect or rely otherwise, which only makes matters worse.
As I did these things, my unsettling feelings began to loosen their “hold” on me and I started feeling much better. And although I am still experiencing a little lull (which has lessened in writing this very post!), I no longer feel low.
I now accept that 76 is just a number, and it doesn’t define who I am or limit me. I know, too, that my accepting “what is” will allow me to discover “what might be!”
And what better confirmation of that is just three days ago my tennis partner and I upset the #1 doubles team in California in our age division!
In the mean time,
Let It Go—and Accept “What Is.”
…and Let’s Help Make Acceptance Go Viral!
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