Writing Zazen

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Depression and Isolation – Digging for Nuggets

Filed under: Daily Practice — Shelley-Lynne Domingue @ 6:13 pm

Tuesday 20Feb07 5:27pm

In Wabi Sabi for Writers, Richard R. Powell discusses old world Japan when political leaders resided one year in their home province and one year in Edo and how the travel caused such improvements as roads and construction. Those improvements and movements of people led to the relaxation of class barriers and the flow of ideas, arts, crafts and books. “Literacy was officially encouraged, and in 1639 all foreign books were banned to encourage the reading and writing of Japanese… It was the start of sakoku, a period of cultural isolation. In a way it was a wabi time, a time of solitude and introspection. Sometimes isolation is a good thing, especially when it promotes reading, writing and exploration of what it means to be Japanese, or what it means to be you.”

For me the lines, ‘sometimes isolation is a good thing, especially when it promotes… what it means to be you.’

Some how it brings me back to being diagnosed with depression back in 2002. Because I didn’t want to take anti depressants under any circumstances I had to find ways to get myself out of it. I figured that if it was my thinking that got me there, it would have to be my thinking that got me out. My biggest test was finding a way to trust the universe that everything would work out all right. In 2003, I took the year off working. I quit my full time job and kept my part time job of which I worked one or two shifts a week. I dipped and dipped into my savings until there were no more. I took writing classes at Ryerson and did the Humber School for Writers program at Humber College. I didn’t do as much writing as I hoped but I was plagued with looking for ways to change my thoughts. That really was a full time job.

I wouldn’t allow myself to worry about the money and somehow the money kept arriving from different sources just in time, every time. That will give you a lot of peace for sure. I kept remembering what a psychic told me years ago, “Stop worrying about money, you haven’t died a winter yet. ” So I trusted the universe and the universe rewarded me. It was good.

Through working on my thoughts I found that one of my frustrations was that many of my friends, who all knew that I was diagnosed with depression, were still burdening me with all their problems. I honestly didn’t know how to tell them that they needed to stop burdening me. I’d bring up the depression in conversation but somehow it didn’t sink in that their negativity could be feeding into my depression.

That year off was a God send and a real gift to myself to find myself. When every last cent was about to run out, I was offered a full time job on a year and a half contract and happily took it. I was ready to work again. I was grateful to work with the same people I’d worked with in the past. I was happy that the flow of money would continue. I was happy that for once I trusted the Universe.

With strong legs, I went back to work and joined society once again as a pseudo regular gal. I knew that I’d have to be mindful that I could fall back into depression and I continued my practice. I still wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to but I felt sure that at some point that would pick up.

From 2004 through to 2006, I started to get more focused on the other things that caused my depression. The biggest issue was feeling over burdened by other people’s troubles. I started telling people that I couldn’t be their go to person about every last detail. Some listened, some didn’t. Then I started becoming more protective of my time.

There’s a quote/ comment/ story on a Napoleon Hill tape that I love. It’s about a man who would only associate with winners because he knew that by doing so, he would elevate himself. He goes to eat at a sea food restaurant and orders a lobster. When he gets it, the waiter explains that this lobster got in a fight with another lobster and lost a claw in the battle. The man says, “give me the winner, I want the winner!”

I realized that the same was true about people’s attitudes. If I was surrounded by negative people who focused on their problems all the time I couldn’t expect to stay out of my depression for long. In 2005, I protected my time so much that I hardly hung out with anyone. By 2006, I was able to make the goal to make my writing a priority in my life. I stopped answering the phone if I was writing. I said no to any invitation that didn’t sound appealing to me. I isolated myself. This isolation, however, wasn’t the depressive type of isolation, it was my form of sakoku. I was discovering what it means to be me with out the outside chatter and distractions. In a big city, it’s next to impossible unless you find a way to simplify your life.

For 2007, (my new year starts March 1st) I’ve set a goal to build up to writing 21 hours a week. I haven’t reached it yet but it’s something to strive for. I’d like to write 1000 hours or more in one year. My social life is coming back into full swing with a difference, I leave early if I feel like it , I say no when I don’t feel like going, I don’t stay if I’m not having a good time and I refuse to be the constant sponge for everyone’s burdens. If people need help, I’m more than willing to help, but not every single time at every hour of the day. I also make sure to get some kind of writing done before or after I’ve been social.

It was the peace of my isolation that made me realize how I need a certain amount of time alone. I had to be away from people to appreciate being around people. I had to figure out what my personal boundaries were in order to know when others had stepped on them.

Somehow that Wabi Sabi entry helped me to crystallize what the last five years have meant to me and the work that I’ve done. I didn’t even realize at the time that I was doing work.



  1. You are the winner.
    Positive isolation is hard and rare.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

    Comment by paintsilence — Wednesday, 21 February 2007 @ 3:55 am

  2. Thanks Paintsilence!
    I tried to send you an email but it bounced back. Your comment was really touching and just plain nice to see.

    Comment by Silent Warrior — Wednesday, 21 February 2007 @ 4:57 am

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