Not Dark but Dim

I don’t know what your particular set of coping mechanisms is. I mean the ones you pull out for the not-quite-major-but-almost letdowns. How you stay out of the dark times and cope with the dim. The ones that file down rough edges or blur out the hard seams. I’d like to know though, so please share with me.

Depending on the magnitude, I have a small set of bailouts. On the small side, I can lose myself in a new book or magazine. A walk is a good mix-in. I’d rather it wasn’t but the bakery is nearly always the next stop. After that, there isn’t much beyond the really big guns – the movie theater. In 1995, I took solace in an empty theater showing To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. It was my first year in San Francisco and I had a new and shaky social group (which, in the end, neither To Wong Foo nor a reshowing of The Wizard of Oz at the majestic Orpheum theater could save). I saw all of the 1999 Oscar-nominated pictures in Portuguese (some twice) as the time ticked down for me to move from Brazil to Mozambique. A Beautiful Mind in 2001 rescued me after a soul-crushing year. It also served as a tip-off that the reason I kept ending up in movie theaters was that my own mind was not as well-off as I thought.

This is the second time this month I’ve searched the theater listings. It’s no coincidence that the last movie rescue was on the 15th, the day I’d have been at the clinic hoping that this was the time. Do you know how frustrating, how abjectly disappointing, it is to stand in the shower each morning feeling all the same things I felt when I hoped I was pregnant and realizing that they never meant a thing? It’s not surprising that my period is due to be along in a couple of days. The influx of hormones isn’t making it easier. So I started at the beginning. A new magazine. A long walk. We’re taking a trip to Arizona, perhaps they’ll show a movie on the flight.

I’m not much of a drinker, though on days like this I wish I’d developed a taste for it. So tell me, how do you speed through the dim times?






25 Responses

  1. This is such an awkward thing to explain, but I’m going to try and do my best…

    I think about how the dim (and dark) make the glow (and bright) have perspective. The bad (or just blah) make you appreciate the contrast that are the really great moments. As much as I used to wish for a life of greatness, I realized that I am so much more thankful for all the wonderful, because of all the terrible. If it all was just wonderful, I feel like life wouldn’t be anything worth doing.

    I look at [read about] your family and I hope to have something similar for myself someday. Your struggles and triumphs make me feel like it’s an obtainable goal. We are not perfect, but there is perfection in the chaos.

    May this cloud pass you by quickly, and may the sun be extra bright for you after…

  2. Distraction seems to be it for me. I just have to find something I can totally immerse myself in. I bought these stupid vintage felt stocking kits last year on ebay, determined that I’d have them all done before Christmas this year. In typical Molly fashion, I didn’t even open any of them until Sunday. Last night, I was totally content to be wholly consumed by a project–cutting, stitching, cutting & stitching–but then bed time rolled around. Unfortunately, you can’t sew yourself to sleep. Days like this, I think it’s best to just give ourselves what we need.

    • I wanted to buy a dollhouse kit to make for RR this year but I am almost certain it would go unopened til next year. I totally get what you mean about not sewing (or, in this case, gluing) yourself to sleep.

  3. I’m truly sorry you’re going through a dim time. Distractions can help: books, movies, beautiful places and wonderful company. Ms. Isabella is right in that it also helps to focus on what is going right in your life. You have a wonderful wife, a lovely child, shelter, clothes, food.

    Sometimes focusing on the pain can help relieve it. Writing it down, explaining to yourself exactly what is wrong. (I’m a visual person, so I write. My brother is more auditory, so he sings.) Sometimes if I just wallow in the feeling, I can let it go more quickly.

    I don’t remember if you’re religious, but I find my faith extremely comforting in dark times. (ELCA Lutherans are welcoming to all. My pastor baptized the daughter of a lovely lesbian couple this past Sunday.)

    I hope the hormones pass quickly, and things start to look up soon!

    • Things will look up. I’ll have consumed my weight in southern arizona tortillas by this time next week. Also, thanks for sharing about your brother – I’ve never thought about singing but that’s exactly what I used to do when I was younger. It might have been my number one coping mechanism. Thanks for reminding me!

  4. I tend to do puzzles, and have for years. Breakups, surgery, negative pregnancy tests, and especially this particular period – it’s my go-to. A puzzle, some music, a hot drink and the time to sit quietly and just be. I think I work a lot of things out in my mind that way, and have a totally attainable goal to accomplish.

    It’s okay, too, to just feel dimness for awhile if you need to. Thinking of you. 🙂

    • The crossword is the sole reason we have a newspaper subscription. RR often says, “Are you doin’ the puzzle, mama?” Now that I think about it, both Monday and Tuesday’s puzzles are languishing. Back to work.

  5. Personally, I find dim more challenging than dark. You can sink your teeth into dark and just let yourself go completely (or get a ton of support to be propped back up), but dim is less tangible and longer lasting, which completely, and utterly, blows.

    My coping mechanisms typically are wine (just ONE glass of a really nice red to savour), and running, but not together. Running is the closest thing to meditation I can get to. Just me, the road/trail/path, music, and the thoughts that are desperately begging to be worked out. Plus you have added benefit of endorphins after all is said and done.

    One other thing that has worked of late is gratitude. When I was going through a particularly rough bout of insomnia, laying awake and thinking about the things I was grateful for actually was the only thing that helped me go back to sleep. I shared this recently with a friend’s mom who had just had surgery for cancer in her jaw, and was experiencing a lot of discomfort, and she concurred, adding that she likes to remember the small things that give her pleasure – wind rustling through leaves in the fall; cows when they gather for “meetings”; butter tarts. Same kind of thing – plus I’m sure there’s probably the same chemical effect in the brain.

    • “Cows when they gather for meetings” This might be the best thing I’ve read all week. It even beats out #MoFiatsMoProblems, which was yesterday’s highlight used to refer to a man who had one too many fiats, a mint green model in particular. I’m keeping the meeting cows for future delight.

      • Mo Fiats, Mo Problems is really a truly a state to aspire to and providing me a great amount of joy right this moment. One day I will tell you about the cows we witnessed this summer who not only gathered for a meeting but ended up in one giant cow pile.

      • We clearly have lots to talk about!

  6. My favorite things to do when I’m feeling dim:
    Dig in the dirt, bake (and give it all away so that I don’t eat it all and get fat, making me feel even worse), knit, sit in the sun, a nice long soak in a hot tub, a hot cup of tea, visit with a dear friend and let it rip, write it out and then delete, clean the house (that at least helps me feel better about sitting around moping, because moping in a dirty house will drag you down faster than you can spit), a long walk or good workout, hugs & snuggles with my two favorite people in the world.
    Also wine.
    Every time I sink into a deep low, something fabulous almost always comes out of it, so I try to remind myself of that and hang on. There have been times when I’ve just crawled back into bed and stayed there for a day or more. You do what you need to. xo

  7. Finally catching up on my blog reading after a month away – I am so sorry to hear that your baby #2 plans didn’t happen!! I am not an only child, but all of the only children I know grew up into smart, delightful humans who were SO grateful they never had to share a bedroom.

    As for moving through a dim time, I tend to hit sugar briefly, then move on to rewatching Buffy and knitting. There aren’t too many heartaches that Buffy and knitting can’t cure.

  8. I have particular books for particular purposes, and my deep blues book is Amy Bloom’s “A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You.” I’m not sure what it is about that book, exactly. It’s a collection of short stories about complicated — but deep — kinds of love, not all romantic. Somehow, it helps.

  9. Aw, dim times are no fun. I go for distraction but it’s not always as effective as I want it to be. No suggestions, really, just sympathy.

  10. I remove everything from a storage container (book case, wardrobe, kitchen cupboard etc) clean it, organise it and put it back all pretty. I choose the biggest jobs that will take me hours. I feel like a new person once i’m done. 🙂

    Also, feet up and cake afterwards.

  11. Personally, I go for distraction, preferably things that engage my intellectual more than emotional side, generally. Nonfiction instead of novels, for instance. (Not that fiction cannot be intellectually stimulating, mind you, just that sometimes I don’t feel I can spare the emotional capital to invest in more characters.) Or I’ll revisit familiar favorites. (Books, TV shows, movies.)

    Also, this may be weird, but sometimes I’ll do something like play solitaire on the computer for hefty chunks of time. (Or at least as hefty as I can mange these days.) It’s mentally demanding enough to distract me, while still allowing the back of my mind to percolate along with some of the things I need to work through. Sometimes I listen to music while I do it (Aimee Mann is a favorite of mine for this type of situation, although your mileage may vary), sometimes I don’t.

    Oh, and writing, though I’m sure that’s not a new idea for you. Sometimes talking/writing through the issues helps me resolve them, and sometimes time and distance are the only real cures for me. Sometimes it’s a combination.

    A change of scenery can help for me. Just getting out of my daily environment physically can help me get out of the daily headspace, too.

    In any case, be kind to yourself, and I hope this passes soon. * long-distance hugs *

    P.S. Just in case it makes you feel special, I finally figured out how to comment from my phone specifically so I could comment on this.

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