The Flip Side

She saw herself walking down a beautiful city street. It was an area where there were green spaces, museums, restaurants and pristine buildings housing all the help, entertainment and other things she needed and enjoyed. She was walking along with her head up in her favorite clothes holding a drink and soaking up the sun. There was a slight spring in her step and a glint in her eyes. As she passed people on the street all smiled and made eye contact. Most spoke and wished her a good day. Occasionally, she would see someone who was not smiling so she would make sure to smile at them and speak, getting at least a smile in return. She felt happy and content, pleased to pass along her good mood to the people around her.

Sometimes she could see her little guy with her either walking along holding her hand or see herself playing with him at some great park. On rarer, but heart warming, occasions she could see the teenager with them actually enjoying herself and their company. Other times there were whole family picnics. All four boys running and playing ball, brother and father grilling while she and mother served up food on a checkered blanket to the daughter and niece, who was crawling in the grass. And then the three friends showed up and she had a full day with everyone and their families. There was kickball and Frisbee, playing in the fountain, lots of delicious food and even better conversation. In the evening they caught and released fireflies while a bonfire was built and had s’mores and stories by the fire. Those days ended with a good book and a nice glass of wine or maybe hot tea in the perfect bed. That was the upside. That was walking in the light.

But then there was the flip side. As she passed along on these beautiful streets, she was aware that there was an alternate reality just beyond her perception. This was the reality of hopelessness, depression and pessimism. Even while walking in the light, she could see the shimmer spots where the barrier between the two realities weakened. On occasion, something dreadful from the other side reached through and grabbed at her, trying to pull her over and she would get a glimpse of that gloomy existence.

There everyone was complaining and tired. She looked and felt exhausted when she went there – like all the happiness had been drained out of her and she was doomed. There was nothing to look forward to. On occasion, light from the other side would shimmer through the barrier and everyone would look at it wistfully, but it was never enough to really pierce the sense of dread that permeated the place. You slumped along exhausted down there. You felt frumpy and irritable, sad and sick, hopeless and whiney. Women felt as if they were constantly suffering from PMS and there was no relief to be had and no time it would be over; they were tired and bitchy and unsatisfied. Even the most beautiful of them were made ugly by the expressions on their faces. Men were hotheaded, suspicious and aggressive. The place was full of teenagers suffering from every bit of angst they could dream up for themselves. Sometimes all you could think of to do there was to find a spot and curl up until help arrived.

The thought of trying to create optimism and radiate it was laughable – if laughter were allowed in such a doomed place. Even if you did try, someone else would just tell you to stop because it was hurting his eyes. That was the really scary thing… there was no breeze, no change, all was stagnant. And that could become comfortable after a while. Over in the light you had to be polite and speak to others and move forward all the time. There were all kinds of personal interactions with friends, family, acquaintances and strangers. There was small talk and other pleasantries to be observed. Here that didn’t exist. Everyone was on their own and focused on themselves too much to worry about what was going on with others. Didn’t care to find out, either. Better to be left alone and deal with yourself than have to hear an opinion or complaint from someone else.

Inevitably some friend or family member would risk it and come over to help those stagnated souls, but more often than not their help was not well received. Those stuck here would not want to be condescended to or made to get out of the cocoon they had created and actually take someone’s hand be pulled wrenchingly into the light. It would be too tiring. The light would be uncomfortable and people would look at them judging their bad hair and disheveled clothes. They would be spectacles for everyone to stare at. And then there would be all the work required to clean yourself up and get new clothes and fit in someplace new. No, no, it would be way too much trouble when you felt like this right now. At least you were warm and somewhat comfortable. Later, when you felt better you would come out, but now was not the time, thanks, so go away and leave me alone. Of course, more than likely, the friend or family member could not understand all these excuses. They had come in with the expectation that their help would be welcomed and appreciated. It was liable to piss them off when it was shunned for such petty reasons. And then came the standoff, more than likely ending in the friend saying fine, stay there if that’s what you want, see if I come over here again. And now they feel really abandoned. And angry. And so the cycle deepens and the depression was perpetuated.

At times like this in her life, when there was so much upheaval and that upheaval was not contained in one area of her life, was when she could constantly see the shimmer. She was managing to stay in the light, but most of the time only by sheer force of will and pharmaceuticals at times. The air around her was a distraction she had to make herself overlook. Part of her kept on the lookout for the dark shadowy tendrils that would come through and begin to snatch at her. At first they would just be irritating, but then they would grow as her frustration did. She had spent years over there, though, and she knew what it would be to go back. She could not allow it. Sometimes it was better to take a few minutes and imagine herself as she wanted to be and then pretend that was who she actually was. Silly, she knew, but it helped.

You would see it happen to people. The air would shimmer around them and then small holes would break through the barrier as the gray tendrils came through. Sometimes the person would start to yell or cry. Sometimes they would say nothing at all. Most of the time, others would come over and try to help and encourage them and the holes would close. Sometimes the tendrils would grow in size and strength until they were strong enough to pull someone over. Other times there would just be a huge opening and the person would simply be grabbed and pulled over before anyone else around them could make a move to help. You knew then some tragedy must have occurred – sometimes it would happen to whole families. All you could do was pray and bless them and hope they would be back soon.

And then, of course, there were the “flippers.” These people could not make up their minds. Usually they had strong ties to the light, either with family or their own personal guardian angel or God. Most of these people were dealing with life issues that were chronic and sometimes terminal, yet by some force within themselves or greater than themselves, they were able to spend most of their time in the light. Sometimes it became to difficult and they just disappeared with a pop to the other side. Most of the time they came back quickly. There was a little self indulgence for a time and then it was back to life and the enjoyment of it. These were the ones she admired most. These were the ones who truly had reason to go over and stay, but they made the decision to come back every time. At least that was what you hoped.

Now she had made it over from the flip side. The world around her stayed steady and solid. Something had changed and she was no longer seeing the world shimmer. Her problems and challenges had not gone away. They were still biting at her heels and demanding her attention. The best thing she could think to do was make the best decision she could and then let go of the outcome. She had read enough to know that this was a basic eastern philosophy and she felt like it was her only option. Worry would not serve her. It would cause the world to shimmer around her and threaten her already damaged self image. Her insecurities were many and real. Her flaws were damning and sometimes debilitating. She supposed it was better that she knew what those flaws were and at least had a rough idea of why she had them, even if she did not know how to fix them. At the very least they kept her grounded and made sure she was unlikely to judge others and make comparisons. She had plenty of faults of her own to remedy instead of worrying what other people’s faults were.

As she thought about the last few weeks and the good fortune she had that was totally unexpected, she smiled. She made conscious effort to hold onto that feeling of pleasant surprise and the intensity of the emotions she was enjoying. She would feel them without concern or fear. She would just let them be and fill her and make sure she appreciated every minute she felt this way. There was no use in worrying about the end or the crash. If it came, it would have to be dealt with in its own time. Now was the time for appreciation and enjoyment. With the world firm around her, she walked in the light and soaked up the sun for as long as she could.

Originally written November 11, 2009
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