Today was a rainy day. I would not necessarily say dreary, as that is a label which comes from inside. And I felt mostly OK for the greater balance of the day. But after a long day of doing very little except visiting the chiropractor and making a few phone calls, I laid down for a few minutes in the early evening to rest a bit. Earlier in the day, I had been distracted from my thoughts while reading and also by doing tasks. I was reading a Philip Yancy book of interviews with unlikely characters who brought him around on his circuitous path back to his faith. In the end, he came back to Christianity, but his influences ranged wildly from Gandhi to Tolstoy to Dostoevsky to Martin Luther King, Jr. And he has met and interviewed, or else heavily read from, all of these sources. And he has written about his experiences with each one in detail. It has been a very good book for me to read. His book has spawned me to read about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Tolstoy, Annie Dillard, and Harriet Tubman, among others.
Yet when I laid down, a thought laden with loneliness and loss whispered to me that my eight year wedding anniversary was just a few days away. My wife and I had separated about ten months prior. I see my daughter three days a week, so I interact with my wife often. She and I still disagree on many things. My interactions with my wife are usually good but sometimes irritating and difficult. I am currently attempting to grow my close social circle beyond mostly just my mom and dad and younger sister. I very much prize my solitude, as most of us goofy little animals who are “writer-sorts” do. Often it allows me to think on things, set long- and short-term goals, and consider the direction of my life. It allows me to expand on thoughts I have had and turn them into writing. It allows me time to consider what is happening in my five-year-old daughter’s life. It gives me time to think of creative solutions: touch points for her learning, or lessons on getting along with other kids, or new experiences we can try together. Sometimes it gives me time to reflect on myself, or time to learn lessons from life and nature during periods of rest. But I need others in my life as well. And I need enough others that I can “spread myself around a bit.” I was on an all-too-familiar early summer high for the couple of weeks before I first wrote this reflection. During this period, I had busied myself with fixing things around my wife’s house or planning and building one of my many projects.
I also took up painting. Currently, I seem to have a strong inclination to paint and draw almost exclusively trees, which I am enthralled with at this point in my life. Some of my articles for NAMI have even centered around my thoughts bred from considering trees. But I was staving off a bipolar high that had been rearing its head for the past couple weeks. My psychiatrist responded by quite dramatically increasing the dosage of a mood stabilizer that I was on. The increase quickly began to reign in my lack of sleep and irritability and also my seemingly endless source of energy. This is a very good thing. I do believe the few people in my small, close social circle were getting very weary of my diatribes on all things existential. I am quite sure they do not need any more people telling them what was wrong in our world and our society. There seem to be plenty of people doing that already.
However, one day as I was coming back down, when I tried to lay down this unwelcome and depressing voice crept in. I often experience noticeable lows when coming down from a high. I had read an article earlier in the day that said it may be a good idea to name the source of the thoughts. The writer of the article said that she, herself, had named hers for an Asian God of destruction.* She, who is also a professional in the field, said that naming a source for one’s thoughts was a good practice that helps one separate one’s thoughts from one’s “self.” This allows one to see the thoughts as things one is just holding at the current moment. Therefore, it helps one to separate from them more easily. Reading her advice and naming my thoughts drove an important point home to me. The thoughts are not me. They are just thoughts. I can have thoughts and, if separated from them, I can decide what to do with them. I don’t have to just react or allow them to spin me into a pit of despair. And, according to the article, naming a source for them helps one to separate: to see them for what they are and then let them go. Often, my thoughts instantly stir me into some action. Sometimes it is a good thing. Many times it is not. Today, when the thoughts came at me, I was laying in my bed in my mostly empty apartment bedroom. The room was dismally lit by a small north-facing apartment window looking out to a cloudy sky. That evening was one of many rainy late evenings we had this midsummer. This time, I called the thoughts “whispers from Pele’,” after the Hawaiian God of volcanos. Often, thoughts similar to the ones I was having at the time precipitate some kind of loneliness or despair. And that is very understandable, given what I was facing: it was my first wedding anniversary alone in eight years. Other times, when the thoughts come, especially when I am high from my neurotransmitter imbalances, I instantly react. In that state, they sometimes stir me to act out of anger. Or, at the very least, the thoughts lodge some new perceived injustice in the world close to my heart.
So lying in the darkened room, I labelled my thoughts as “whispers from Pele’.” And, though I could not voluntarily stop them out of some magical superhuman “mustered willpower,” I got up out of bed and wrote this article. Since I could attribute the thoughts as coming from outside my centered self, I could choose to do something different than lie there and entertain them. I could write about them. And quickly the thoughts ceased. What was left was thinking about the thoughts. It led to something quite a bit more productive than getting down on myself or falling into despair. It led to this article. And writing something useful gives me something to be proud of. It left me with a sense of accomplishment. So the practice of labelling one’s thoughts as coming from a particular source does work for me… Q.E.D.. Of course, given an experiment I had tried only one time, I should know better than to bank on it as “proven.” Yet, it worked so well when I tried it and I have evidence from others, including the aforementioned article, that it does indeed work. I think the best thing to do is keep trying it and see what happens. Now I have a name for these depressive and destructive whispers. All I need do is recognize, “oh, here are some more whispers from Pele’.”
Interestingly, as part of writing this article, I looked up the god Pele’, on Wikipedia. Pele’ is not a male “God,” like I thought. In Hawaiian mythology, she is a female descendant of the Gods. In their culture, as in Native American cultures, and many other tribal cultures, creative Gods or beings are often either female or have feminine qualities. Pele’ is at the same time the destructive force of fire and erupting volcanoes, and as such, she is the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. In their lore, she descended from Papa, or Earth Mother, and Wakea, or Sky Father, both descendants of the supreme beings. Therefore, in the ancient Hawaiian chants. Pele’ is said to be “she who shapes the sacred land.” The name I haphazardly chose now has a new meaning for me. I separated from what were destructive thoughts. And low and behold, labelling my “thoughts from Pele’” led to the creation of a new article that just may help someone else. For me, this little coincidence is one of the many subtle “no-so-coincidental-coincidences” I experience as brushes on my cheek in my life-long walk with my Creator. This is very much one of those “little nudges” that speaks “His” (traditionally also a “Her” and “Spirit’s”) peace and direction to me. This other voice which I call God says to me, “My beloved son, you are on the right track. Nice job. Keep up the good work.”
So, ‘fer sure… I will let you know how it turns out.
William lives in mid-Michigan. He is married and has a five-year-old daughter. He has written poetry for 28 years, wrote for a spiritual blog for five years, and writes for various blogs and newsletters.