I don’t know about you, but my spirits have been feeling kind of low lately. Now that my career-imposed blinkers are off, life feels much more raw and open-ended. Identity exists more as a fluid sense of being, waxing and waning every moment with ups and downs that arise from who knows what or where. One thing is certain: I have no one to blame–no lazy students or blowhard colleagues, no more useless committee meetings–for my doldrums. I have to own the blahs and dig myself out.
Yet something seems to have shifted for the better and the low energy cloud is lifting. In the hopes it may help you, here is what happened.
It began in the morning, when I read an article by Brendan Kiley in The Seattle Times about the first exhibition taking place at ARTS, a new space on the second floor of the King Street train station downtown. Called “Yǝhaw,” this art show features work from indigenous artists working in the Pacific Northwest. That itself is cause for cheer, but it was the story behind the name that caused my personal turnaround…
As curator Asia Tail explains, “’Yǝhaw’ is a Lushootseed word pronounced ‘yee-howt’, but with the ‘t’ stopped, as if you were about to say it but ended when your tongue touched your teeth. It roughly means ‘do the work’ and comes from a story about some far-off past when the Creator brought lots of people together with no common language. At the time, the sky was too low and people kept bumping their heads against it. So they came up with one word they all understood: ‘yǝhaw’–‘do the work’. The people made poles for themselves. Then, in unison, they said, ‘yǝhaw!’ and lifted the sky.”
The message is: “There’s no hero in that story, no one single person. Everybody knew they needed to change the world together, and made something happen.”
Maybe that is what got under my skin. Because later in the day, I suddenly realized the way out of my blah mood: let my friends know it exists and let them help! Emboldened by the New York Times article by Mike Isaac, about how “personal newsletters” are returning to vogue, I wrote a message to friends all over the world, and told them I’ve been missing them. I detailed some new items for sale from my little business, Honey Girl Books and Gifts, and some stuff I’ve been doing in town here, but it was mainly a personal message to remind them that they are important to me and I miss them. Vulnerable, open-ended, and a little bit lonesome.
And what do you know? it worked. Admitting the loneliness helped make it go away, because it made me remember that I do have friends and they are a diverse, talented, funny, and loving bunch of people (who mostly live really far away, alas).
In the meantime, spring began, the full moon shined down on us last night, and the adorable “Write YOUR Story” group of nine young writers, ages 7-11, met and began illustrating our collective book, The Spell of Unfair Fortune. That may also have something to do with my newfound cheer. Try spending an hour with a group of energetic kids all volunteering to create beautiful pictures–it’s happiness guaranteed!
What I’ve learned, and want to remember, is that you cannot expect people to read your mind. If you’re feeling low, maybe you should just say so. (And not only grumble to your spouse and beloved dog who, no matter how nice they are, can only do so much to lift your mood.) Sometimes you have to tell your friends what you need, so that we can all do the work together. Yǝhaw!