Wednesday, September 29, 2010


For six months I’ve had my own home, and yet, once again, I feel as lost, as “homeless” as I did when I was in Moloka’i and had no idea where life would take me when I returned. I haven’t been there, at my home, in almost a month now, and though I know I need to, I dread going. Being on the road and at my daughter’s for the past three weeks, I didn’t have to think about it. But driving back from Washington, the closer I got, the more the discomfort grew; and my mood sank deeper and deeper. It’s the place I got severely depressed, and they are co-joined forever in my mind now: my house = depression.

I know that I have to be careful. I’m starting to understand the connection between negative thoughts and depression. From what I’m reading, it’s not an event that causes depression so much as the thoughts that come out of it. And more than the thoughts, it’s the ruminating on those thoughts. I also understand that the thoughts are automatic, and not something that I “do.” Like breathing, like the heart pumping, they just happen. (My teacher often says, if you think you are in control of your thoughts, try stopping them…). Where there might be some choice is whether or not I hop aboard and ride them. When I do (which is, let's face it, most of the time) it’s more often than not a non-stop jaunt straight to hell. A ludicrous conversation between me and me. I’m lost… I know, Debby, you’re lost. You’re so lost, what are you going to do? It’s going to take forever to sell the house, plus the bathroom’s not even done and you can’t get any of your contractors to call you back. Plus when it sells, what the hell are you going to do? You can’t really afford to buy in the Bay Area, but you know now for sure that’s where you want to be. What are you going to do? I don't know. Maybe I should rent, but what about my dog and cat… oh, I miss our family home… and on and on.

That’s where the mindfulness comes in. Though it’s not about resisting the thoughts (or the feelings that accompany the thoughts), which is impossible anyway. There’s the saying, what you resist, persists. (You know the experiment… don’t think about elephants… I mean it, do not think about elephants… ) I’ve had it explained like this: the thinking mind is like a rollercoaster that rolls on and on, over peaks, through loops and into dips—infinitum. It never stops, but if you’re lucky, you’ll one day get that you don’t have to take a seat and stay on the ride. That’s where the practice (and I mean practice) of mindfulness is useful. You don’t try to stop or change the thinking. But when you notice that you’ve hopped on, you gently bring the focus back to the body, back to the breath. Over and over and over. And over again. (Also infinitum???) The idea being that this brings us back to the present moment, which we miss when we are in the mind, in the past, in the future, and which is all we ever really have.

I am aware that not all of us are ruminators. I don’t think my mom ruminated a second in her life. My dad, on the other hand, a depressive alcoholic who eventually killed himself, could sit for hours, and I means hours, smoking cigarette after cigarette, simply staring off into space. (I wonder now what it was that ran through his mind.) Was I born a ruminator, did I learn it from my environment, or did it begin when I had my first depression and those pathways were forged in my brain between sadness and negative thinking? I don’t remember ruminating as a kid. I don’t ruminate constantly. (Just when something’s on my mind!) When I was telling Ex (himself mostly a non-ruminator) about what I was learning about negative thinking and depression, he said, albeit kindly, duh… I’ve been telling you for years that you just needed to stop ruminating.

Oh, if it were only that simple.

How is it the saying go goes? Simple but not easy?

On the way home, I left I-5 in southern Oregon and headed over to the coast just at the California border. I drove through gorgeous rolling farmlands, into big, majestic redwoods, and then in one turn, I was there. Portions of the Pacific were wild that afternoon. Frothy and untamed. Fingers of fog floating thickly in an out of the waves and mountains and trees. One minute, clear blue sky, the next visibility practically nil, then back to clear again. Once again, just like life, I guess. Never knowing what will be around the next bend. It was so beautiful. Long ago I learned to appreciate the stormy seas maybe even more than the calm. Few things in Moloka’i moved me as much as the gigantic surf pounding itself onto the shore at Kepuhi Beach. I can still feel its raw power and vitality. When the surf was up, I couldn’t wait to be there, and there is a strong longing to be back there… to feel that kind of aliveness pulsing through me again.

Ironically, I sometimes think I could live the wandering life forever. Just me, the road, the camera, and of course the laptop to upload pictures and write. (I've never known myself to ruminate while traveling. I don't think I ruminated once in the three months on Moloka'i. And I never, ever ruminate when watching scenery and taking pictures.) Interesting since home seems to be a major theme in my life since I began packing my belongs almost two years ago now in preparation of moving out of the home I'd (we'd) lived in for twenty years. What is home? And for that matter, what is lost? I was told during that time that if you're grounded in the earth, you're home anywhere. And it that's true, if you're home anywhere, then you can't be lost, right?

Hmm... something for the mind to ruminate on.

Here are some pictures I snapped between Cresent City and Eureka. She is beautiful in all her faces, isn't she? Ah... another lesson perhaps.

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