Traumatized. Depressed. Addicted. 80 pounds overweight.
That’s how I lived for years.
I felt like I was stuck in quicksand. I tried many approaches, consulted different doctors. Sometimes a new prescription, a yoga class, or a running program would help for a while, but I felt I’d free one foot from the quicksand only to watch the other foot sink deeper.
Of course, I was picturing the quicksand of the westerns and adventures I saw on Saturday-afternoon TV as a kid. That stuff would swallow a man whole. He’d utter his last words or blurt a confession that brought the show to its next plot point just before his face disappeared in the muck. Then there was only his dusty cowboy hat dancing on the bubbles where the quicksand gulped him down and belched.
Quicksand doesn’t actually do that. I know this because of Google. It’s on the Internet, so it’s true.
First of all, quicksand is usually only a couple of feet deep. Plus, it is not quick. So let’s call it slowsand.
Here’s the thing: slowsand gives you plenty of time to escape. It probably won’t kill you. But if you stay there — if you free one foot and then get an arm stuck, and free that arm only to topple fanny-first into the mire — something else will come along and kill you. Like high tide. Or that gambler you double-crossed in that saloon back in Flagstaff. Or bad TV.
If you’re like most of us, nobody taught you to escape quicksand or slowsand. And that’s understandable, given the blessed scarcity of man-eating sandboxes in most cities and suburbs.
So I found myself in my primary care doctor’s office, telling her that I lacked the skills to pull myself out.
“Then let’s get you the skills,” she said.
I almost cried. She can order up the skills? Her fingers clicked across the keyboard like she was directing Amazon to ship them to my door.
That’s how this started. I met the solvers of the quicksand problem. They were cleverly disguised as addiction counselors and trauma therapists and sleep specialists. Later they came in the form of peers: office workers and waiters and builders and yoga teachers who had found their own way out of the mire.
All of these professionals and lay people had different stories and vastly different training. But there was one common thread.
It’s the practice of paying attention to the mind and body, to one’s current surroundings. It’s the discipline of watching our thoughts and feelings with the knowledge that they will pass through like weather. They aren’t there to stay, and they don’t define who we are.
It’s so simple. And yet it takes time. That’s because we weren’t taught this any more than we were taught how to handle a quicksand emergency. But once you learn, you know how to save yourself. You can keep that dusty hat on your head. You can keep that muck from gulping you down. You can free yourself.
Free yourself. Read on.