My emotions used to rule my world. Sometimes, my sadness and down periods would overwhelm me for days or even weeks at a time, drowning me in a sort of hollowness I felt helpless to escape from.
I have an image of myself curled up on my bed in my old flat in London, crying all the tears and wondering why life was so hard. So many times I lay on that bed, the emotions sweeping over me like titan waves in a never-ending storm.
And the mantra I carried around? "I'm just an emotional person."
And last week there were quite a few tears as the days went by. More so than usual. I cried on the phone to a friend as I shared some feelings I hadn't known were there. And I shared on Instagram how I'd found myself crying in my kitchen, pining for romantic love.
But every single tear I've shed since summer last year has been different to all the tears that have fallen before. Because even as the tears fall I have one foot in the emotional whirlpool that's playing out in front of me and one foot behind it, observing precisely what's going on. And whilst the journey that brought me to this place is a story that lasts for years, I can perhaps sum it up with the most useful seven words I learned in 2016:
You're feeling your thinking in the moment.
These seven words are why I can cry and pine for romantic love in my kitchen and then stop five minutes later and feel nothing short of totally ok. They're why the sadness can't last and why I no longer lose days of my life to my feelings.
They're why I so often now find myself on the verge of tears, desperately wanting to have a moment of feeling deeply sorry for myself, but find only that I'm able to laugh.
If you could see me you'd think me turned entirely insane, for sure. For a woman who so wants to cry but can but laugh is a ridiculous sight if ever there were.
To know that you're feeling the result of your thinking in any particular moment is wildly liberating. Because the nature of thought is like the nature of clouds in the sky. They move on through. They pass. Occasionally they accumulate and become dark and heavy but sooner or later they keep moving and make way for the next clouds.
If you're able to take a moment the next time you're feeling sad or down and see if you can notice what's going on. Because what you'll find, if you're able to separate yourself for even a second from how real it all seems, is that there's a thought-created story playing out inside your head.
Maybe the thoughts are you'll always be sad and alone and that you're missing out on the best part of life because you don't have a romantic partner.
Maybe the thoughts are saying you don't have anything special to offer the world and your business is a joke.
Maybe the thoughts are saying you'll never quite make it work and you'll never truly be able to break free and make a full time living doing work you love on your own terms.
Whatever the thoughts, if you can separate yourself from being inside the story of the thoughts for a second and bring yourself to the outside of the story of the thoughts so you're able to observe it happening whilst it's happening, you have an opportunity to break the spell and see that the sadness or the pain or the anger or the frustration you're feeling in this moment is being created by the story of those thoughts.
And, very importantly, that those thoughts are both transient and illusory. Which really just means that you don't need to panic about what you're feeling and give it more weight than it deserves. You can feel the feelings whilst they're there whilst simultaneously knowing that they're not here to stay and that they're created by an illusory reality made up of thought.
I know what it's like to feel very sad. I know what it's like to go for days or weeks feeling depressed or down. And whilst I would never presume to know about your sadness, what I do want you to know is that there's a possibility that your experience of it can be different to the way it might be right now.
And for me it starts with this:
The acknowledgement that maybe, just maybe, this isn't just the way it is or the way it always has to be.
Love and courage,