Pushing back the Brown

What is the Brown? It’s this feeling that sometimes creeps in, or, at other times, sweeps over me like a wave. It is a mix of self-doubt, self-hatred, laziness and lassitude. At its core is fear.

I started calling it the Brown when I was trying to do that thing you learn in meditation: as it was cresting over me, I tried to feel where it was in my body. It seemed to rise up, not always inside of me, but beside me. I could feel it along my right shoulder, then swell up inside my head and over it. I tried to visualize it. The color “brown” instantly came to mind.

I had written previously of waking up some mornings with a black hollow feeling. The color “black” or the idea of “hollow” both described a sensation that was too clean to me, too pure, to easily deliniated. “Brown” is more descriptive and more accurate. Brown is mud. It’s murky, thick, dirty, a mix of so many things. Brown is dirty water. Brown is shit. A dull orange brown is the color you get when you take the primary colors of paint or Play-Doh, and blend them all together.

The Brown was hitting me rather relentlessly for a couple weeks. The feeling would come over me first thing in the morning, as I was making coffee, trying to exercise, writing anything in my notebook, at work, trying to craft a sentence, before I had to make a simple phone call. It was this constant presence.

Then some ideas hit me. First, I thought, in each moment that I start to feel the Brown, I have a choice. I can let it come and give into it, and sit immobile. Or I can push back, and say, “no, not now.”

I could take action. I felt this first desire to push back while I was at the gym exercising. I was in the middle of pulling up some weights in a bicep curl. The Brown seemed to rise up with the curl of my arm. It made me want to stop the set, put down the weights, pick up my keys and leave the gym. I’d go sit in the car and just sit. And ruminate, on all the reasons I couldn’t finish the work-out, on all the reasons I couldn’t get moving in life.

Pushing back: the solution seemed simple. Just finish the set of curls, and then move onto the next exercise, and the next, and finish the work-out. I had a choice. Give up and go sit in my car and stay immobile, or finish this set and the rest of the work-out.

I finished the work-out. The Brown went away.

It would come back an hour later, and a dozen more times over the rest of the morning. But I accepted that I had a choice, and each time, I said “no” to the Brown, and finished the small task I had started, or made the phone call that was on my list of things to do.

When I woke up this morning, I felt the Brown sweeping over me. Reading the newspaper made it worse. I sat down and started writing this entry. The first few sentences were hard to get out. “This is dumb,” I told myself. “I’m not ready to write this. I can’t write this. The words won’t come.”

I pushed forward a few more sentences. And now, I’ve written about my fight against the Brown. The Brown has retreated. For now.

6 thoughts on “Pushing back the Brown

  1. I think, dear Soccer Mom et al, the meditative thing would be not to fight The Brown, but to give into it and see what you learn. This is, after all, the most effective “fight;” to not fight at all.


  2. Remember Richard Carlson? He wrote those “Don't Sweat the Small Stuff” books? He was from Walnut Creek but died several years ago. His books have been very helpful for me when the “black hole” looks inviting.

    Scott Peck's “The Road Less Traveled” begins…”Life is difficult.” My therapy has always been to read inspirational books and it has helped.


  3. Hello all,
    Yes, I am finding that this is a learning thing, a learning time. There's a part of me that sits outside and realizes and accepts that this is just something I have to go through. As far as not fighting it? I don't know if I'm necessarily fighting it. But I'm recognizing “The Brown” and saying to myself, this is what's going on right now. I can either go ahead and feel it and sit with it, or do some small thing to alleviate it. It doesn't feel that good, as some of you know. And, Therese, I do know about Richard Carlson. Haven't read his books yet but his own life and early do present a powerful message. The one benefit of the Brown is that it is making me appreciate more the small things in life that are precious.


  4. I found “Playing Ball on Running Water” helpful. You're sort of doing it already. Don't dwell on how you feel, just do what needs to be done. When I feel what you call the “Brown” closing in, I write up a to-do list. Every day I do at least one thing from the list and check it off. When I look back a few days later and see how much I've accomplished, I invariably feel better about myself – less a victim of circumstance.


  5. My dad used to call it getting the “blues”. I spoke to a doctor once about some anxiety I was experiencing. He said he would write me a prescription for some meds if I wanted it, but then he said.. “you know, now everyone wants to be happy all the time…no one wants to get the blues anymore…”. I declined on the meds.


  6. Agree with Anon #1 – What we resist -persists. Wisdom is knowing the right response to feelings of helplessness / powerlessness, ie not “fighting”.

    Oftentimes, it's a matter of just addressing physical sluggishness wherein one is advised to “move one's ass” as you do when you run.

    Another right response is to “feel into it” to inquire of it, to inspect it. Oftentimes there is a “message” from “The Brown” that our subconsciousness whats us to understand, hence it's persistence until we honor and respond to it.

    Psychological maturity and self understanding is knowing which trip to take, the one to the ice cream store or the one to the running trail.

    Thank you for sharing your excellent writings, personal reflections and musings.


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