The Time That Is To Come Is Not…

All my past life is mine no more;
The flying hours are gone,
Like transitory dreams given o’er,
Whose images are kept in store
By memory alone. 5
The time that is to come is not;
How can it then be mine?
The present moment ‘s all my lot;
And that, as fast as it is got,
Phillis, is only thine. 10
Then talk not of inconstancy,
False hearts, and broken vows;
If I by miracle can be
This live-long minute true to thee,
‘Tis all that Heaven allows. 15

The Earl of Rochester

I only know one poem off by heart and that is John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester’s Love and Life. I read it when I was about 18, in some not very good novel, which I don’t think I even finished, but the poem caught my eye and it must have meant something to me then for me to memorise it. Possibly I was fascinated by what a rat bag the author of the poem was.

Its a bit peculiar actually, that I remember this poem because its subject became crucial to me in recovering from depression. The poems subject of course, is present moment awareness.  Like the old Inuit saying goes – Yesterday is ashes, tomorrow is wood. Only today the fire burns brightly, we only really exist in this very moment – everything else is either in the past and long gone, or is in the future and not in existence yet.

During the worst episodes of depression my mind would go over and over stuff, obsessing over the state of my life, mired in terrible thoughts that would spiral until I would be in tears. And it seemed like it would be better if I didn’t exist.

Those days seem remote now and I can’t quite believe that I used to think like that. What turned the corner into sanity for me was finding out that none of the drugs were going to fix me. I was going to have to fix myself. And I was going to find out that the way to fix myself was, strangely enough, to stop trying to fix myself!

The utter uselessness of antidepressants for me meant that I had to try to find some other way to feel better and get my life back. So I started to read, and read and read. And I discovered certain ideas that made sense to me – I have written a earlier post regarding Victor Frankl’s  Man’s Search for Meaning and the idea that we have a choice about how we react to even the most horrific occurances in our lives. That was where I started from.

Through wise authors like Dorothy Rowe and books like The Mindful Way through Depression by Williams, Teasdale,  Segal and Kabat-Zinn and the wonderful Stop Thinking Start Living by Richard Carlson, I began to heal. It didn’t happen straight away, but there was immediate relief  when first I realised that I didn’t have to go on thinking in the same way, that I had a choice, and that there were tools I could use to rebuild.

Now through present moment awareness, I notice when I start beating myself up over some perceived fault – in the past I hadn’t even noticed that I was doing it and I’d been doing it for years. I am a lot kinder to myself now. I try constantly to live in the moment. If I find myself starting to worry about the future, or regret or stress about something that happened in the past, I just bring myself back to where I am now – and its all ok again. This may not work for every one and I feel very lucky that it works for me.

I am not a master of this technique – I feel that I will always have to practise it over and over. It is so easy to forget and go back into the old way of thinking – those pathways are well trodden. But it is up to me and I will keep on trying.

Some of my Rules for Sanity

  • Forgive yourself
  • Forgive everyone else, it gives you strength
  • Be assertive – let others bleed all over you only when you feel strong enough to mop up.
  • If you wouldn’t say it to your own worst enemy – don’t say it to yourself. In fact treat yourself like you would like to be treated
  • You are human – it is o.k. to cock things up, in fact you have no choice so get used to it.
  • Some days just really suck – be patient and trust that things will get better.
  • There is ALWAYS something positive in every day, it’s just that sometimes you might have to dig a little bit to find it. Become an expert with the shovel.
  • Try your hardest to remember to be kind. Kindness is like chocolate chips, sprinkled across the muesli of life.
  • When you find yourself not being kind, or patient, or trusting, or forgiving, have a little laugh and forgive yourself. The world won’t come to an end and you have got until you die to keep on practising.
  • People aren’t really looking at you – much 😉

Oh, and watch out for horses..