And I’ve been fool and I’ve been blind
I could never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around
All of these questions, such a mournful sound
Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
Its always darkest before the dawn
I first heard this song on WFPK one morning on my (early!) commute to work, and was immediately struck by the lyrics. This time of year is always a little hard on me. That’s probably why I post very little here. There are dark memories in my past associated with this time of year, and I struggle with being drawn back to the past. It’s odd that I have such a hard time keeping my attention anchored in the present, because things are really going beautifully well for me right now.
You’d think your attention would focus on the beautiful stuff, the positive stuff, the happy stuff, but it doesn’t. At least mine doesn’t. There’s always a pull, a habit of attention to focus on what’s missing and what’s wrong. That habit of attention makes me good at critique and sort of awful at appreciation, although I sometimes overcompensate and hand out thanks and kudos like mini Snickers bars on Halloween.
What I love about this Florence + the Machine song is that the prescriptive is right there in the lyrics, in fact, it’s the chorus: “Shake it off, shake it off, shake it off.” And I think the repetition is necessary. When you’re breaking old habits, you need a lot of reminders.
It is hard to dance with the devil on your back, and I invite him for a piggyback ride way more than I realize.
I shake him off when I focus on the present. I shake him off when I pay attention to my blessings and live immersed in those blessings. “Appreciating” them quietly and from afar doesn’t really cut it. But dancing wildly with my daughter in the kitchen? Walking and chattering endlessly every day or so with my husband and best friend? Throwing myself with abandon into the most enjoyable tasks I have at work? That shakes off the gloom pretty well.
I love to write, and writing is where I do some of my “soul work” but I’ve learned it has to be balanced with living. In the words of Thoreau, “How vain is it to sit down to write, when you have not stood up to live?” Writing out my feelings can become a way of dragging around the dead horses in my past. I didn’t come back to the page for a while (other than work writing, obviously) until I had stood up to live for a while, to create new experiences, to gather up some fresh prima materia for the work.
But I’m in a better place right now. I’m getting out of my head and into the world enough now, that I think I can take a few breaks to write things down a bit more.
Do you find that the past is more motivating, or demotivating, in how you behave in the present? Do you have a good balance of introspection and action in your life?
I hope you all have a really good weekend.