Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.
–Winnie the Pooh
I’m generally a very upbeat guy. As such, “down days” like today can be a real kick in the pants. I’m not depressed. I know what a mental health day feels like, and this isn’t that. This is stress. Specifically, financial strain. This is also a struggle with self-worth. Like so many dreamers and creative types, I fight to not base all of my value on what I do, but to remember that my worth comes from who I am. Even if a particular project fizzles, I am not a failure. I know that, but sometimes I forget it. And today, I have forgotten it.
As a kid, I grew up watching watching Winnie the Pooh and loved Tigger so much. I think I always related to his character: boundless energy, always on a “high”, never slowing down, and full of laughter. Tigger probably needed medicine for ADHD, but he didn’t get it. He would have been the teacher’s worst nightmare, but probably her secret favorite. I was that kid.
“Once in awhile someone amazing comes along…and here I am!”
I’ve always thought of myself as a Tigger, and so has everyone else. But being Tigger all the time comes with a lot of pressure. (Because he’s the only one.) So what do you do when you are typically a Tigger, but are having a down day like Eeyore or a grumpy day like Rabbit?
Find some music that soothes your soul. Pick up a favorite book–even if you can quote the damn thing cover-to-cover–and wrap up in it like your grandma’s quilt. Maybe pull away for a bit and get quiet. Or you might enjoy a little vice like one of my really good cigars. (It’s okay, I won’t tell.) If a stogie ain’t your thing, how about a nice cup of hot tea (peppermint and honey, please)?
“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
It’s so important to give yourself permission to be down sometimes. Anybody who tells you to “just choose joy” in those moments has obviously never experienced chronic pain, illness, or mental health struggles. If others aren’t being kind to you, set some clear boundaries. And for the love of God, be kind to yourself.
“Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.”
While Pooh offers some great lessons, we can also look at the life of Jesus, the most perfect man who ever lived. He even got away to a quiet place from time to time. Yes, he was fully God. But he was also fully human. And so are you.
In my world, I am surrounded by lots of Christians. And like many of them, I once lived in a fantasy world. I thought that because I prayed a little prayer at an altar and was dunked in a little tub, life would somehow always be a bed of roses. We Christians often say, “God is good.” While that may be true, it doesn’t mean our lives will be painless.
Friends, the roses have thorns and Jesus promised us we would have trouble in this life.
Somehow, we get in our heads that we need to have it together all the time. Or that not quite feeling “like yourself” one day equates to a sin. Or is it just me? I tell myself that I must be “up” all the time. What a crock.
Anyone who has lived with chronic illness or pulled themselves through the woes of depression knows that “just having faith” doesn’t always answer it.
I love this quote by Brennan Manning:
“Remember Atlas, who carries the whole world? We have Christian Atlases who mistakenly carry the burden of trying to deserve God’s love. Even the mere watching of this lifestyle is depressing. I’d like to say to Atlas: “Put that globe down and dance on it. That’s why God made it.” And to these weary Christian Atlases: “Lay down your load and build your life on God’s love.” We don’t have to earn this love; neither do we have to support it. It is a free gift. Jesus calls out: “Come to Me, all you Atlases who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.”
So what do you do when Tigger is your goal, but you’re having a less than Tigger-ific day? Embrace it. And know that you are entirely loved as you are. When you feel like you should be genuinely smiling, always dreaming, never complaining, on top of the world at all times, listen to the voice of Jesus as he says, “Come to me and rest.”
Bio: Steve Austin is a family man, writer, speaker, and mental health advocate from Birmingham, Alabama. Steve is passionate about recovery and the power of second chances. You can connect with Steve at www.iamsteveaustin.com