When I think of the word “funk,” I think of James Brown. He had a weekly television show when I was a kid and I vividly remember a belt he wore often. The belt buckle said “sex” and it was spelled out in little light bulbs that flashed on and off. If my memory serves me correctly, I watched this on a black and white TV, but oh, the magic of James and his sex belt still came through without living color.
But I digress. The subject matter here is funk, but not of the James Brown or George Clinton variety. I’m talking about being in a funk; feeling funky but not in a get down, dancing, type way. The funk I’m referring to entails sadness; sometimes depression, often boredom, and a total lack of conviction for the age old “hope springs eternal” type wisdom. My two closest friends and I have recently experienced funks. We’re all in a certain age group—we’ve lived a lot of life and have compiled many experiences, good, bad, and yes, indifferent.
One friend confided she was having weird thoughts about her own mortality. “I realize that I could well have lived over half my life,” she told me over the telephone. This really got me thinking. All three of us were experiencing the “Is this all there is?” and “Here I am at (insert age here) and what have I accomplished?” and “There’s got to be more to life than this, right?” questions that can be overwhelmingly unsettling. These are hollow, rhetorical questions that either don’t have answers or have no less than twelve months worth of answers. And none of us can take that much time off work to chronicle the others’ answers in order to nip all this in the bud. So we have to deal with our funks one day at a time. One person at a time.
It’s hard enough when you yourself are feeling funky—to attempt to sort out your own emotions and get your own pretty head above water. But I adore my girlfriends so much and when they’re feeling bad for any reason, I feel their pain right along with them. I tend to be quite the positive, happy gal, so my friends worry terribly when I get blue. One thing I try to remember during my funks is to remind myself that a certain smart, level-headed person—me!—gives good advice and that maybe I should take some of the tips I was giving my girls and chew on them myself.
In many instances, I think life is pretty simple. Magazines, movies, and television portray life as series of clothes, parties, romantic moments, arguments, surprise trips to exotic isles, fad diets, never-ending plastic surgery procedures, family dramas, and cute pets. Friends listen intently to bitching and moaning and know when to give the “I know that really sucks, but it’ll be okay. Who really cares about big dumb (insert person’s name here) or mindless boring (insert place or thing here)? And remember I love you a lot. Unconditionally,” look, delivered right on cue. While this might represent a sliver of what real life is about, real life, for most of us, doesn’t come with Kraft services and huge paychecks and paparazzi trying to run us off the road.
Speaking of roads, on the other hand, one can be doing her best to go down the simple road in life and by golly; road construction is omnipresent, screwing up your best laid plans. The road to sanity is quite the long one and some people never arrive there. Or they get halfway there and they turn around, heading back to familiar territory.
When you’re entrenched in a funk, the best thing I’ve found to do is simply follow the road. Usually you come to the end of it and feel much better for having felt so funky. It’s awful, certainly, while you’re in it. But once my funks are over, I study the feelings that brought it on and the feelings I had while in it. Mostly I dissect what triggered my emergence from the funk, to gain insight on my mind, heart, and soul.
A very wise woman once told me that being happy has as much to do with being grateful for what’s in front of you as getting something you might think you really want. I try to practice gratitude daily. I find that when I hit a funk, it’s usually because I’ve gotten away from the daily practice of appreciating all that is part of my life. When I get back to that place of gratitude, I always feel much better. Humans have emotions and allowing ourselves to feel them is a huge part of living a life that is full and real.
I personally despise sadness. I don’t like to feel it; I don’t like sad songs or movies, and I loathe books with sad beginnings, middles, or endings. I like happy and I always have. But I’ve learned the importance of feeling my sadness, that I can know myself better through it. I am now fully aware that it’s a part of life for everyone. I hope it will be a long while before I experience another funk. If I start feeling funky, I’ll just think of James and his sex belt and maybe I’ll snap out of it before it gets a chance to take hold.