For Fier and Finn.
“…All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
‘Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath, no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean…” – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge, Samuel Taylor.
Even if I weren’t a Coleridge fangirl, I’d admit that the above passage is a perfect description of the doldrums. In the case of the poem, the description is meant to describe the phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean…but I think it has merit in a religious context as well. To whit – that feeling that you’ve gotten into a ship and started an epic religious journey…only to stall out due to lack of wind.
I don’t know any religious people – pagan or otherwise – who have not experienced the doldrums at least once. (If you haven’t, please tell me; I want to know your SECRET.) Even my aunt who is a Lutheran minister and professor of Ancient Greek professes to go through the doldrums at least once a year. Sometimes she can see where she wants to be and cannot get there, and sometimes she has no idea where she’s trying to go at all.
My doldrums tend to be in the former category – I know where I need to go but cannot get there either because I don’t want to do what I need to, or I cannot figure out how to do what I need to. However, I’ve been in the second type of doldrums as well and it is horrible. Not knowing which way to turn, or which action got you there in the first place, or what to do now is just awful – I end up feeling helpless and hopeless and wanting to throw my hands up and say, “That’s it! I’m DONE!” And yet…here I am, on a path, and moving forward. It’s not fast or furious, but it is progress. I did manage to escape this last time, and that gives me hope that I’ll be able to do it again in the future when I need to.
So, how did I do it, and do I know anything that might apply to other people?
I can describe the How of this last episode – I sat in the doldrums knowing what I needed to do to get out but not wanting to do it. I yelled at myself to fucking move already, and didn’t. I sulked and felt frustrated…and then I decided to take a look at why I didn’t want to do what I needed to do. I looked at the emotions behind the dread, and found what was really bothering me, and then took tiny steps toward facing it. I was then so happy with the fact that I was doing something and it felt productive that I moved myself right back onto the path again.
When I’ve been in the doldrums without knowing what to do or where to go to get out, it’s been tougher. I usually end up taking a look at where I am and where I thought I’d be, and then backtracking to figure out where I took a turn I wasn’t planning. It’s not pretty, and it can take forever, but it helps somewhat. It also helps when I keep in mind that the doldrums are not forever – even if I chose to stay there and not try to get out, eventually someone or something comes along to snap me out of it.
Whether this helps anyone, well, only my readers can judge that.