Being comfortable with yourself

There’s a bit of a green thing going on as I write this. Today, as is fairly normal for me, I’m working in the Green Library at Stanford University, named not because it’s painted green but after Cecil Green, a wealthy British-born geophysicist and philanthropist who was one of the founders of Texas Instruments.

As is my normal routine now, I got an early train from Redwood City to Palo Alto, then hopped on the free shuttle which delivers people all over the vast Stanford campus, and it was on the bus that I witnessed the second of today’s green phenomena.

Seated just across from me was a youngish man, fairly conservatively but fashionably dressed, and with a face you’d probably describe as friendly-looking, on his lap a book about children’s education.

And here’s the thing. All ten of his fingers sported bright green nail polish.

Now this sight triggered two related but quite different reactions in me.

The first was a ‘wow, that’s unusual – an otherwise fairly conventional-looking guy, but with green nails’ kind of thing, which probably says just as much about my own (perhaps a bit boringly conservative) mindset as it does about his decision to sport decorated digits.

But my second thought was maybe more interesting, more along the lines of noticing how very unbothered he seemed about being on the bus with (unusually for a man) brightly painted fingernails.

In short, he seemed utterly comfortable and at home with who he was, and that to me felt like a big lesson.

Let’s imagine, for instance, that you happen to be going through a patch of low mood or depression – just as I do from time to time. It’s easy to see why you might dislike yourself for being like this, and you could easily believe that others are also taking a dim view of it. And of course it’s bad enough feeling grim, without also having to go through the whole self-loathing thing.

The thing is of course, although you and I may not care to admit it our depression is simply part of who we are. So isn’t there sense in finding a way to be comfortable with this? Or if not completely comfortable, at least a little less uncomfortable than we currently are?

I’m not talking about the type of comfort which mindlessly accepts that things are awful and will never change. I just mean we could perhaps both be a little kinder to, and more accepting of, ourselves than we currently are.

Perhaps being comfortable about letting our low mood show in public isn’t really that different from being okay about sitting on the bus with green-painted nails?

A particularly fetching shade they were, too.

11 thoughts on “Being comfortable with yourself

  1. Oh Jon. How I have missed your ‘voice’! Thanks for coming back 🙂 the others do their very best but there is something about your writing which manages to be personal and open without being presuming or patronising. You really have a gift. Sorry to gush about it but… It’s good to see you back. Good luck with Moodnudges 🙂

  2. So lovely to read Jon’s words again. This one is particularly visual and so we can all imagine our reaction to the greenness of the nails and the accompanying grace of the nails’ owners. Perhaps it is also worth noting that despite all that we might think, our mood is not evident for all and sundry observe and even if it were there are only a few people who might be interested. The nails are a very overt display but we are no wiser as to what is going on in this man’s head. Appearance is deceptive, transitory and superficial but it is what people see if they begin to look. As such it is a potential communicator at some level.
    What I want to know is, what colour will Jon be sporting today?

    1. I happen to know that Jon is sporting a purple buttoned shirt today, and grey jeans. Coincidentally, I also have a sporty purple shirt on, with grey leggings. But I do have crazy zebra-striped orange knee-high socks on! 🙂

  3. Hey Jon,

    Speaking only for myself, I find that when I am in one of those “low” moods I have absolutely no desire to even BE in public. It isn’t that I think about it, and decide not to be in public, but I do not even consider it. It never enters my mind. When I am in one of those “low” moods, it seems as though I have learned just to wait it out. And, the place that is most comfortable for the waiting is a place away from noise, people, intrusions, and conditions that require me to think and make decisions. For me, the time spent waiting really is a time of remaining still in all respects. Nothing much goes on other than to feel the “lowness”. From this, I have learned to recognize the “low” when I feel it coming, I have learned not to be afraid of it when it come as I know what it is and that it will go just like it came, and I actually have more respect for the return of all things not associated with the “low”, that being where I am when everything returns to normal.

    The only other way I can think to describe it would be to say that I allow myself to feel that I need to run to the basement when the sun goes under and it looks like rain. There I just wait out the storm while feeling ever bolt of lightening and every roar of thunder. But, it passes. And, when it is over, and I go back to what I was doing, the sun is out and everything is good again.

    In reading your comment about letting our “lows” show in our lives by being who we are and what we feel, struck me hard. I never thought that in hiding those kinds of feelings I would be depriving the people who love me the opportunity to be compassionate and sensitive at the time when I needed it the most.

    I am smiling while thinking of the fellow with green painted fingernails. I am not so sure that I would do that. In fact, I still stumble over the ladies with green and blue and (heaven forbid) black nails, unless it is definitely done as an accessory to the outfit they would be wearing. Sometimes that is cool. However, on Breast Cancer Awareness Day I did have a friend paint both of my thumbnails pink, but that was as far as I could go.

    On another note, I am a self educated, self appointed advocate for folks with Undiagnosed Adult ADHD. It is my quasi-professional opinion, as an amateur having studied Adult ADHD for 12 years, that one thing that we could do as a country to address the physical and mental health of our nation, even more than the Affordable Care Act, is to mount an army to address Undiagnosed Adult ADHD in parents raising families, employees who support our economy, and, yes, even the leaders and decision makers. My opinion is that if business alone would address Adult ADHD in the Workplace, that the economy would benefit enough , and business would increase profits enough to provide the resources so that everyone could be provided with health care coverage out of the increase in benefits alone.

    And, I would also like to say thank you for making yourself available to my life again. I had come to enjoy having coffee with you each morning. Welcome to the US and wishes for much happiness to both of you.

    John the Other

    1. Hi John! Thank you so much for sharing your story so beautifully openly. I think it’s great that you’ve learned to recognize the lows when they come, not be afraid of them, and let them pass. This sounds like a great approach, and hooray for pink thumbnails! So glad you get to have coffee with Jon (and sometimes me) again every morning.
      Alex(andra) the First

  4. I’m having a bright blue nail polish day which I can only do when I feel OK with myself. Another plus is that my blue nails sometimes provoke conversation which often involves laughs and meeting someone new. Amazing how colourful nail polish generates conversation – go on Jon try some out!

  5. I wear a bracelet with two sets of letters: IALAC reminds me that I Am Lovable And Capable. NFHB reminds me that we are all Normal Fallible Human Beings. Very helpful to me.

  6. Ah Jon, so good to have you back (and to MeMyself&I above – yes, I’m one of the writers who does their best and I too think Jon’s just a step above and beyond). I’ve learned to be OK with shutting myself in the basement (UK – cellar)- except now I have email to the cellar and a large sign saying “Mary is in the cellar: please communicate through the catflap. she’ll be out as soon as she’s able. Please don’t worry.” Another friend refers to her castle with a drawbridge and piranhas in the moat. Must get me some of those piranhas sometime; they sound most useful……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *