Despair You are So Busted

Listening to NPR this morning, a doctor in Afghanistan said the entire country is very depressed. Caught between our drones and the Taliban, with no justice, no hope, no normalcy, despair is killing them.

Driving home, I thought about how despair and depression threatens so many of us these days – even though we are far from the horror of Afghanistan.  The suffering of the world can chip at your heart and you can wonder, “What’s the point?” Nothing seems to helps, nothing seems to change.

This is the voice of despair. Our job is to hear it and see it, and fight it – nobly, craftily, stunningly, and in community – and to never, ever give up.

Today, savor and serve by dismantling despair

If you don’t not feel any today, all the better for those who do. May you be an even brighter light.

Here are some thoughts on defeating despair:

  • Do not pretend despair is not in the house – acknowledge it like you would a guest who shows up at your front door – unwelcome, true, but none the less here so unless you are going to hide (crouching beneath the window like I did once from a kid selling candy I didn’t want to buy), be brave and say “Hello, I see you.” Despair does not like to be seen.
  • Do not armor yourself against despair for that takes your energy which is needed elsewhere and it gives despair more power. Instead, feel your feet upon the earth, stand up supple and straight, look out into the world, reminding yourself you are far bigger, oh so much bigger, than mere despair, and that you have resources to draw upon, yes you do!

I made my theme last year “savor”…. and it really changed my life. I hadn’t realized how much focusing on savoring changed my life until I was talking with my husband and he asked me if I was really happy, and I said yes. He expressed shock, since he didn’t understand how I could say I was happy and be dealing with anxiety and depression. I explain how the key was SAVORING bits of life. A TRUE taste of love or babies or a beautiful sunset, sometimes many times a day, sometimes less, had truly nourished me. These little “engagements” with life made all the difference… As soon as I let go of this idea that to be happy meant feeling happy ALL THE TIME, suddenly, I realized I could be… happy.

  • Savor like Lisa Rough who said to Rachel at the Cafe,

…if the world were to end tomorrow, I wouldn’t want to go wondering what was left undone.  I’d want to go knowing I was engaged in my life, in love with life, and knowing that that’s what mattered most in the end.

  • Connect – on line and in the flesh. Despair flourishes in isolation.

I feel your love, your presence, as this mission of mine takes root. It inspires me to expand into savoring life and serving it. Thank you.

Comment here to share what you are doing to bust despair. It so helps to have our little community.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Jill - March 22, 2011

This is an incredible gift! Thank you!!!

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    oh shucks, thanks!

Lailey - March 22, 2011

Thanks for this beautiful way of ‘unpacking despair’. Feeling despair, taking action against that which we most fear. Creating in times of despair. Put images and words to it. For me creating art is a way of shining the light on despair. Thanks Jen!


    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    I love that phrase – “creating in times of despair” I can feel that in my gut!

Michele Christensen - March 22, 2011

Your posts are the most real, the most potent, the most unmasked things I read. You render my soul bare when you tell it like it is. It’s wrenching and at the same time, a relief and a comfort. Thank you.

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    honey really? thank you!

Marianne Elliott - March 23, 2011

My antidote to despair has also been to take action. And I’m always looking for collaborators in taking actions (especially on women’s rights in Afghanistan) so if you are looking for a action-mate, I’m your woman.

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    action mate that is you my friend!

Kimberely - March 23, 2011

Well, I’ve been sitting with Despair all day at my table, so this was timely! I’m an eternal optimist, the person others go to for inspiration — and yet. And yet… my world is falling apart. My family is holding center while everything we’ve built together for almost 2 decades is crumbling. Finances, health, emotions…everything is up for grabs, the Universe takes no prisoners.

As the ‘spiritual core’ of the family (my husband’s words) I’m getting up, over and over… but I’m getting my you-know-what kicked, here! I know exactly what to tell others to do, and I practice what I preach (meditation, exercise, being a strong gatekeeper to negative aspects that only serve to undermine us in hard times, etc etc) but right now I feel pretty alone and exhausted. My approach right now is to just be present and keep gettin’ up, holding my head high. Easier on some days, harder on others. But I simply don’t have it in me to not press on.

So, thanks for sitting down to join me and pal Despair. Tea, anyone?

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    sometimes pressing on is all we have and that’s okay, you know? Kimberely so wish I could give you a hug!

kathleen - March 23, 2011

I find the greatest antidotes to despair are Generosity and Gratitude – and somehow these two combined serve to renew my faith and hope in a confusing and chaotic world.
Thank you for your inspiring words!

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    love those two paired together – that makes me think of all kinds of groovy things!

goddess tash - March 23, 2011

Thanks, Jen, for the inspirational post, as usual.

My small steps are: remembering to take really deep breaths from as low down in my body as possible – clearing my head at every opportunity with a walk, a breath, or meditation – listing my gratitude – acknowledging the feelings, allowing them, and hoping that they move through me by an action I could take: a call, journalling, getting out of my head by being present with my children.

Love the image of busting despair…or burning it up!

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    thanks Tash for hanging out with me!

Christine - March 23, 2011

“The Universe is conspiring to shower you with blessings.” Sorry, don’t remember who from, but the quote above reminded me of it. I ditto the idea of despair flourishing in isolation and therefore the importance of connection, HOWEVER we can manage it, whether it is big or small. Just to start from where we CAN start and go from there. Thanks Jen.

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    It might be Rumi – you are so welcome and so glad to have you here!

Ingrid - March 23, 2011

Hi Jen, you are so right- that we mustn’t ignore despair, and also that we mustn’t forget all that is still beautiful and triumphant and true in spite of despair. I appreciate your reference to being a brighter light- I think this is so relevant and sometimes doubted, discounted or overlooked. Love, hope, gratitude, generosity, the creation and appreciation of beauty- humanity needs the energy of these, and would suffer even more if we neglected them. I send money to the Redcross, longing to help in a tangible way, and then I also keep at the calling to be fully, lovingly, gratefully alive- to somehow play whatever my part in the dance of creation is. Love to you.

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    fully play my part in the dance of creation that is that what I want too~ so beautifully said.

Kestrel12 - March 23, 2011

In my day today Despair is winning. I am so present to the despair that I can’t emotionally connect with the notion that I have resources or that they can help. I know I’ll get through to a more clear place and be able to see and reach and benefit from the savoring and the support. But for today, thanks at least for reminding me that I am not alone in despair and that one can and will live through it.

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    I so hope the despair is NOT winning today – may the clear space come to us all.

Lynne - March 23, 2011

Strangely, despair became the best friend I ever had. Many years ago, someone I loved deeply was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I raged, I researched, I tried everything I could think of. Finally, one night, unable to sleep, I gave in to a total despair, acknowledged the inevitability of her death, of my own, of everyone I loved. That total surrender felt like dying.

But the instant I did that, I was filled with total peace. The sort of thing I had read about and never known. The experience was so powerful the effects lasted for months (as did a tremendous energy)! Since then I have known that I am more, life is more, the universe is more than whatever I might fear. And when I forget this, the memory of that experience reminds me. It has seen me through divorce and the deaths of both my parents.

Your post just brought all that back yet again. Thanks for that, and for being real here. This is what connection is about.

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    Lynne, I keep thinking of your story – it has brought me so much lightness – thank you for taking the time to write it here.

Alex Blackwell - March 23, 2011

Inspirational post Jen – thank you.

For me, leaning on my faith is the best despair buster I can offer. Living with the “I refuse to give up” mentality is a source of empowerment.


    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    Alex that is so beautiful.

Yael’s Variety Hour: Fitness, Biz Skills, Poetry — Yael Writes - March 23, 2011

[…] Despair: You Are So Busted. Jen Louden gives some guidance on dismantling despair-induced depression. […]

Susan Gallacher-Turner - March 25, 2011

Over the last 2 years, despair has been like a ghost hovering over me. I didn’t see it. I only saw my fear and all I did was run from it as fast as I could until I was burned out. One day, I just couldn’t run anymore and I found myself laying on the floor in the yoga corpse pose. I didn’t know why I did it at the time. But it just felt right, and now I see that I had to stop, lay down and let the despair sink through me. Slowly, over a few months, my energy came back like a soft light shining through sheer curtains.

Your words and all the comments here over the last six months have really helped me see all of this much more clearly. Truly savoring the small moments …is the key to being happy…I love that!

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    Susan, what a beautiful story – and so true – the light comes through when we let ourselves crack.

Patty - March 25, 2011

I’ve been reading and writing and thinking a lot about hopelessness these days, Jennifer. I see it in my client’s faces and hear it in their voices. I notice it consistently in the media. And it has most certainly gotten me down. It feels a lot like the despair you speak of, and when you say “do not pretend despair is not in the house” it reminds me of Rumi’s poem, Guest House: “Welcome and entertain them all, even if they are a crowd of sorrows.” I’ve been remembering and reciting those words today, so your post is timely for me. Thank you.

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    you are so welcome – anything we can do

Diane Ryan - March 26, 2011

I needed these words today to get me through this rough patch that I am experiencing.

    jenniferlouden - March 26, 2011

    I’m glad they were helpful!

Jennifer Boire - March 28, 2011

Jen, I have struggled with despair, and so appreciate this post. Writing this poem really helped me find a place of appreciation for life, inspite of everything that’s wrong with the world. It’s still good to be alive.
A Poem written against Despair

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. Naomi Shihab Nye

She walked around the circular block of her neighbourhood
and saw that it was good.
She saw lawns newly cut, hedges neatly trimmed,
gardens clipped and tidy.
She saw chrysanthemums flourishing in pots, purple and gold.
She saw asters and brown-eyed Susans in abundance.

She saw three children in the playground.
One toddler, hands full of cookies, came to pat her dog.
(Maggie saw that it was good).
She saw the fresh pavement on the driveway,
where a new family had just moved in.
She saw the sumacs flaming orange and red along the
soccer field, and maples’ tips torched with the same fire.
She saw the houses, driveways and lawns,
each one more beautiful than the last.
She saw the sky was blue and the sun was warm,
and she told herself that it was good.

And that, in spite of the continuing war in Iraq,
uncommon famine in Darfur and Zimbabwe,
continued violence in Congo, Afghanistan and Sudan,
the Aids epidemic in Africa, earthquakes, tsunamis
and junkies in downtown cores and homeless children
all over the civilized world,
that to be alive, right here and now, was good.

She took a deep breath, and told herself,
Just for today, all I can do
is quiet the war inside of me,
give up the struggle in my own heart.

If just for today, one person gives up despair
and practices opening her heart to hope,
then peace in the heart will be her gift.

Jennifer Boire

Yael's Variety Hour: Clear Writing, Facebook Stress, Dealing With Depression, and More - Yael Writes - November 28, 2012

[…] Despair, You Are So Busted is Jen Louden’s take, with solutions as well. It focuses on despair/helplessness built from an onslaught of negative news in the world. […]

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