Look for the bridge.
Photo by Joshua Lawrence on Unsplash
Maybe it’s raining. Maybe something is bothering you. Or maybe there’s no tangible reason. Either way, you wake up one morning, and your spirits are low.
It’s like everything around you is wearing pale colors, and nothing makes sense. Sometimes this lasts an hour. Sometimes two. Sometimes two days, two weeks or two months.
It happens to everyone. And it’s okay. You may not realize it right away, but these states of mind are even healthy and helpful. Just think of them as… bridges.
“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” — Roger Ebert
In Beijing, I found myself unable to cross the road.
It was our first trip to Asia. After a long flight, we had just stepped into a whole new, unknown, and amazing world. Unfolding the paper map and turning it in every possible direction, we were finding our way to our downtown hotel, our backpacks making our backs sweat even more in the sweltering summer heat, our suitcases vibrating on the cobblestone sidewalks.
We came upon an expressway. The map was clear: our hotel was behind this noisy straight line. But the thing is, it was all fenced off. We couldn’t cross it. We looked to the right. The fences stretched as far as the eye could see. We looked to the left. Same problem.
There was no way through. Exhausted, overheated, we stared at each other with incomprehension and, I must admit, a hint of desperation mixed with growing irritation.
After a few more seconds, I started to laugh. My ex-partner looked at me in amazement. I was laughing at ourselves. We were so used to our Western way of crossing roads that we had failed to see the obvious. The hidden path. There was a huge pedestrian bridge about 20 meters from us.
When you change your mindset, you find the bridge. The highway represents the difficult times we all go through. We walk, walk, walk, and then we come to a dead-end that makes us despair without giving us a single clue on how to overcome it. But when we change our way of seeing things, we find the bridge. And it leads to the other side of the highway.
And so the down moments, no matter how difficult to handle, are always catalysts to a brighter future. They are inevitable for evolution. Provided you adopt the right mindset.
Don’t run away from the matter. Face it.
You can indulge in drinking, smoking, partying, bingeing, or sleeping. In a word, numb yourself. But that would be like arguing with my ex-partner in front of the highway, or crying because we can’t figure out the puzzle.
And then what? We would end up in the same place.
The right mindset is to cope. You feel depressed. Sad. Angry. Morose. Unhappy. Frustrated. All right. These are emotions. And here’s the point of emotions: they are the way your inner self communicates with the other layers of your self. They are messengers.
Emotions are raw. You can’t control them. That is not their purpose. Instead, welcome them, without judging them. They are there for a reason. The fact is, sometimes we don’t know that reason. Because your emotions speak a different language than you do. They let you know that something is wrong, but leave you not knowing what it is.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling empty. The first day I thought “ok, I can’t be fine all the time!”. The next day I wasn’t feeling any better. Nor the day after. I began to wonder what was going on. After all, I was living my dream, waking up every morning in Costa Rica as a digital nomad. Here’s what I did.
I stepped out of my mind, and into my body. When the feeling started to get too heavy, I closed my computer, even though it was only mid-morning, got up from my desk, plugged my headphones into my ears, and went for a walk. 10 minutes passed without anything happening, except that I was feeling sad, tired, disappointed, lost. It was only on the way back that the light came. I suddenly understood why I was feeling this way. I will write about this soon, as it is one of the major life lessons I learned.
This one was pretty quick to “solve”. At other times in my life, it has taken weeks or even months.
But each time, I did it the same way. I adopted the following mindset: I accepted the emotion and asked my brain to work in the background to find out what was wrong. I planted seeds in my mind before getting out of my mind and into my body.
The Bottom Line
It’s okay to be sad. Yes, even if you have no reason to be sad by “conventional” standards.
Embrace this emotion. Take some time for yourself if you feel the need. Lie down, do nothing, and wait for the cloud to pass. And if it doesn’t pass, it means that the problem is deeper than you thought.
Whatever your technique is, do it. Get out of your mind. Go walking, running, swimming. Read. Cook. Listen to music. Anything you can think of. It will help you see things differently.
Only then will you find the bridge. Which will allow you to cross the obstacle and reach the other side. And so continue on your path.