A philosopher friend recently shared an article with an intriguing title: The Case for Melancholy. In the piece the author waxes poetic about the merits of embracing one's dark side. Throughout the article he conflates melancholy with creativity and disparages what he perceives as our culture's celebration of happiness and pursuit of bliss.
I was struck by the how starkly the contrast was painted - as though finding benefit in the blues is only possible if we shun not only our own sunny sides, but also the optimism of others. Isn't it possible there is merit in embracing a desire for solitude and expressing joy? Must the two be mutually exclusive?
Some among us were born optimists - constantly convinced they are on the cusp of overcoming whatever challenge they may encounter. Others plan and prepare compulsively - certain every worst case scenario will come to pass. Some awaken singing a cheerful tune before their eyes even open. Others can't conceive of conversation before coffee. But most of us dance between the extremes, and if we are honest, we would admit to finding ourselves at different points along the spectrum at any given moment.
Rather than relegate ourselves - or others - to a one-dimensional existence, it can be freeing to simply accept where we are right now. Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to the present moment, on purpose, and without judgment. Whether we experience melancholy or cheer, we can set aside the need to label it and instead observe, accept, and proceed. And I think it is a valuable practice as we head into the frenzy of the holiday season.
In the coming weeks, many of us will spend intense periods of concentrated time with family and friends - full of the potential for delight as well as drama. Even the most compatible families have their opposing forces, and over time lingering friction can rise to the surface.
But what if we allowed ourselves to experience the feelings and people we encounter without judgment? What if we commit to simply stop, take a breath, observe, and proceed? This month I encourage you to allow yourself to be melancholy - or cheerful - or whatever else makes you your unique self - and consider extending the same grace to those around you.
Enjoy a mindful conclusion to 2015...