Struck By Living

Coping with depression and living life to the fullest.

Christmas Zen from a Mediocre Meditator

Why do we do what's bad for us when we know what's good?

It’s the time of year where I begin to realize my ideal self and my real self will never match up. My friends’ Christmas cards stack in my mailbox, professional portraits on fine card stock, while I stand at Kinkos/FedEx reprinting our annual interfaith holiday letter that missed Hanukkah by over a week. The folds of my letter hit the photos in the wrong place, decapitating my husband in one shot, a triad of foreheads in the other. The Kinkos employee sees my grimace and offers sympathetically, “You’ll get better at this each year you do it.” That was nice. Too bad I’ve created this newsletter for 14 years. Perhaps I need remedial holiday card training.

Hanukkah at our house (see the Christmas tree in the back?)

My “stay well” habits have crumbled in the face of the holidays as well, too much alcohol, salt and sugar in forms I had not yet imagined. Spent after a day-long series of meetings and a talk I gave for UT Southwestern Grand Rounds last week, I lectured myself. “You should go for a run or do yoga,” I counseled myself, stopped at a red light. “Only 4 pm, you have plenty of time.” When I got home, I found a JK Microchip gift pack – mini chocolate chip and pecan sweeties dime-sized cookies, accompanied by Cheddar Cheesies with Texas Heat. The hell with yoga. I crammed half of jar of cheesies in my mouth and then went to a reception where I had two glasses of wine.

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The next morning I felt like crap of course, and wondered why I crater so easily to behavior that offers such a short shelf life of feeling good. Once again, the self I should be shook her head in disgust at the self I am. On top of all this, Dallas iced over, so I couldn’t run for four days. With everyone stuck home, I lost my quiet time and didn’t meditate for the same time span. My “stay well” list that I had espoused so eloquently last Thursday for Grand Rounds seemed completely out of reach by Monday morning.

But this morning, I started over. I set my alarm early. I picked up a copy of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki to read the following words:

“In our scriptures, it is said there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. . .

Those who can sit perfectly physically usually take more time to obtain the true way of Zen, the actual feeling of Zen, the marrow of Zen. But those who find great difficulties in practicing Zen will find more meaning in it. So I think that sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse and the worst horse can be the best one.”

While I meditated, I’d love to say I had some great vision or inspiration, but I’d be lying. I spent the whole 20 minutes trying to unclog my head from list of things I need to do and just breathe. So hum. Need holiday stamps. So. Didn’t buy enough envelopes. Hum. Just breathe. I am behind. So hum. I am.

As unfulfilling as that meditation session was, it set the tone for the day. I embraced the whole bad-horse-best-horse idea. I’m not perfect, but despite my flaws, I’m learning, growing and trying. Things began falling in place. The sun reappeared and the weather warmed enough for a walk in the afternoon sun. When I got home, I found a tin of Chocolate Dipped Killer Pecans on my counter. I thought about resisting, but then the milk-chocolatey-pecan-spicy sweetness hit my taste buds. Maybe just a couple more. Luckily I ran this morning. Oh well. Giddyup.


For more information about Julie K Hersh or her speaking engagements, check out her Struck by Living website.

Julie Hersh is the author of Struck By Living: From Depression to Hope.


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