After a time-suck work week I got around to reading my blogger buddies and I was saddened to read many are down in the doldrums or dealing with problems of work, money, covid, or just having a nonstop barrage of stress. I’ve a felt similar. Writing is my means of finding meaning and exploring myself – hey, the blog is about ‘reflections” is it not? – I thought I would try to write out my thoughts on this. Spo

At times it is hard to keep going. One gets discouraged by the woes of the world, and more how little good it seems one can do about anything. Every day has its digs, large and little, and unexpected events are the norm, not the exception. Doing ‘The Right Thing’ always gets a smart slap for doing so.* It touches on our desire for fairness: if we are good, we shouldn’t suffer for it. We see The Yahoos and The Gogans getting away with things, having themselves a ball, and wonder what’s the point. I managed to get to near sixty years old despite near-impossible odds yet rather than feeling a miraculous victory I wonder was it really worth it – at least at times when I too am down in the doldrums.

The month has been a roller coaster of emotions getting finances and health coverage figured out, and while it looks OK now, I’ve lost track how many times I have felt this way, only to have the rug pulled out from under me. Just as things settled at work, I got presented with a fresh hell from left field to contend with. As The Onion News likes to say: “This sh-t never ends”.

In C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” a senior devil writes his junior to never mind spectacular wickedness, just wear people down over time:

“But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it — all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.”

It is all rather discouraging. I know of many people in my life (bloggers included) going through hardships, and like all sane and emphatetic people I want to ‘do something’, fix things, assuage their sorrow. I confront this day long at work too: patients in pain (physical and mental) in what looks like impossible situations and somehow come up with something to help them.

I’ve had more slumps and Armageddons than I have teeth; I recognize one when it happens to me. I’ve learned not to listen to my inner-Mrs. Danvers [the b-tch] telling me ‘You’ve nothing to live for, really’. Instead I turn to my tools for troubled time:

Persevere. This sounds trite but it true. Situations and mood states pass in time, somehow. Stoicism reminds me Life is a series of obstacles: that don’t get in the way, they are the way. I will muddle through somehow.

Don’t lose sight of the positive. The brain has an ugly habit of reinforcing negative thinking but it also does the opposite. By focusing on the positive this helps the brain see more of it, and not lose perspective. A good exercise to enhance positivity is every morning before reading the email, I will email someone I know a thank you for you being in my life. This helps both sender and the recipient. Do this every morning x 3 weeks. It does the brain good.

Extract meaning and learning from the situation. Pain and sorrow by itself is meaningless. Somehow can find a lesson from it and grow in some way. It’s no surprise in “The phantom tollbooth” Milo escapes The Doldrums not by fighting, but by thinking.

Keep in touch. Call, text, zoom, whatever. We are in this together. The deeds done by common folk keep us going and light our spirits. They comfort us; the stiffen our spines.

Despite it all, Do the right thing.

In “The Plague” by Camus the main character says:

‘It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency’

When he is asked what decency may be, he replies:

“In general I can’t say, but in my case I know it is doing my job.’

Whether with friends, patients, or myself, it isn’t about ‘fixing things’ but being there. This doesn’t feel like much. Regardless, it is something and often a powerful something to deal with The Doldrums and the daily doings.

*Sometimes I know I am doing The Right Thing as it sucks.