Onion Season

Thinking Out Loud

I admit it. I’ve been in a bit of a funk and struggle in the last couple of months. I find myself in moments of tearfulness and other times, I feel a disconnect and indifference to life.

A few weeks back, I started a new routine in the morning where I got up and walked around our block. Doesn’t sound like much. It’s a big block – almost a mile around. Most people who know me see me as a morning person – and I am. However, soon after the pandemic hit, I began sleeping in later and later and even staying in bed until ten or eleven o’clock in the morning some days playing my solitaire game. You would think that would have been a signal of something to me after over nine years of healthy morning routine…but that’s the subtlety of depression. It can start small and ease its way in unbeknownst to its host.

The walking really helped – for a few days. I felt accomplished and bouncy for the first time in a year. However, when the gray clouds returned and it moved from a novelty to a routine, it lost a bit of its sparkle. I kept it up – and I am glad…but the return on investment seemed to shrink each day.

Then it happened. I’m not sure what it was exactly. Something a book I was listening to said or a fleeting thought that caught hold. I’m not sure which. Something set me off and I spent several hours in gut-wrenching sobbing. It was as if the sadness of all of life hit me full force. Images in my mind made me feel more and more isolated as the day went on. I thought to lay down “for a minute” that turned into hours. Staring, I could not move. It all felt so heavy.

Haven’t I gotten over all this yet? I thought I was healed.

I am sure I am not the only one who has had these kinds of thoughts – and y’all, I teach healing and recovery tools every single day in one way or another!

Here is a bit of good news: As long as you are alive, you will have sadness, anger, anxiety, and even depression (not the disorder, just the emotion) from time-to-time. Why is that good news, you ask? Well, my friend, because NONE of these things are character flaws. None of it means you have failed. Oh, don’t get me wrong – we must pursue helpful and healthful responses to our thoughts, emotions, and situations – but no, it is never…yes, I did just say that…never ever wrong to feel these things. Not. Ever.

Times like these, when I enter the forest that grows darker and darker before I know it, when I overflow with feelings that feel foreign and friendly all at the same time, when I’m pushed toward thoughts and behaviors I thought were long gone, these are what I now call, “Onion seasons.” We’ve all heard that metaphor that recovery is like an onion. It is trite to say, I’m sure, but there is truth to it. Not only are we multilayered and astronomically complex, so is all of life. Some more good news? For as long as you live, you will never reach the core of your onion. Nope. Never. You will not arrive and no pleasant emotion will last. Are you getting the hang of this now? Can you guess why this is good news? Again – it’s not a failing on our parts. We are far too unique, rich in depth and color, and continually unfolding to ever “get a handle on it” fully.

Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying we can’t reach a place of stability. I just think we have to redefine what that actually means. Stable does not always mean steady, unmoving, or “together.” Stable engines in cars misfire all the time – but they know how to reconnect and keep going. Stable, to me, means a system that can right itself when knocked for a loop. This may entail some solace, solitude, time to regroup or it may involve a pity party with friends followed by a solution session. It can take a million forms but the goal is to get back up after every fall. That’s it. That’s all.

There was a time in my life if anyone would have offered me the “magic blue pill” to yank me out of my onion seasons, I’d have taken it without a bat of a single eyelash. Now, though…I would not trade a single one of them for all the money in the world. Were they worth it? Some of them yes, some of them no. Am I worth the work needed to build an abundant life? YES. Whatever it takes to live a life of striving toward abundant love, life, and joy is worth it to me.

Mistakes, valleys, missteps, and blunders are not failures, folks – they’re fertilizer. They seed the soil of life with valuable information and experience that allow us to be relatable and compassionate. When you fall – and you will fall (whatever that means to you) – don’t beat on yourself. Debrief it. See what sent you there and create supports to prevent it if you want to but, don’t self-flagilate. Not everything that happens is good – but everything can be redeemed for good. If you have not had a life that evidences that, keep seeking. I’m not the only one who sees this.

You. Are. Worth. The. Quest.