“Greyness” over life

Posted 07 Feb 2011

This blog entry is about the “greyness” I experience. It could sound rather self-indulgent & childish… you’ll have to be the judge of that!
Before I write about the “greyness” & what it means to me, I should explain that I consider that my life & lifestyle is very good, in fact I feel that I have been blessed by God with so many great things: good health, a loving wife, great family & friends, creativity & imagination, an opportunity to explore & produce Bible cartoons, etc, etc. My life, when viewed from the “outside” must look idyllic. My faith & lifestyle is one I am very, VERY grateful for!
I am also not trying to gather sympathy or pity for myself. I do not write this blog for those reasons. I am passionately interested in truth, & I seek to explore my experiences, feelings & thoughts & then to record them, in order to share them with anyone interested in reading them. I expect there is an element of self-expression & analysis in here, which is also beneficial to me.

Having given these qualifiers I’d like to examine what I discovered this morning: the sense of “greyness.” I recognised that I am grateful for many good things in my life, but I also recognised that I experience a constant, nagging, dullness that pervades every aspect of me & my life. As I reflect on all the positive things I have, I can see that in the “background” of everything I have & everything that I do & everything that I hope for in the future, is an ever-present sense of sadness & lowness. As I look at my past life I can see that for as long as I can remember I have had this experience that gently, permanently, constantly sits over me & what I am doing. It is like a subtle fog or smoke. I called it “greyness” because I couldn’t think of any other word for it!
In contrast, I often experience “brightness”, or positive things that happen to me: I watch a good film, eat nice food, get a good idea for a cartoon, enjoy good times with my wife, family & friends, etc. I might read something that really impacts on my consciousness & is really good &/or thought-provoking. Discoveries mean a lot to me. The seeking of truth matters to me, & when I come across something that is true, or important or significant, it makes me feel good, positive & that “brightens” my day & life.
It is normal for people to have ups & downs, to have positive experiences & negative ones. That’s just life. And my life is no different. But behind everything is the ever-present threat of the “greyness.” Even when I am experiencing a good, positive, happy event, I can sometimes become aware of the “greyness”, which has moved back in my conscious awareness, at least for a short respite. It’s as if the “greyness” fades into the background of my life, but it never leaves me completely. Positive, uplifting experiences & events can temporarily overcome or blot out the “greyness”, but it always comes back, without fail. And sometimes it comes back amidst the positive event too.

As I said earlier, my current lifestyle is great & I am so blessed to be me! But even in this positive assessment, I can feel the “greyness” on the edges of my life. It often feels like I am looking though sunglasses that darken my view of things. The “greyness” acts to dampen things down: my positivity, my joy of living, my ability to be spontaneous & free. The “greyness” acts as a negative filter, draining the “brightness” out of a scene, or experience, or thought, or prayer, etc.
As I look forward to the future, I must admit that I see the “greyness”. It is better to live for today, since looking further forward exposes me to more of the potential “greyness”, like looking through more & more layers of gloom: it tends to blot out the hopefulness that I expect of the future. Even with the prospect of holidays, & other life-affirming events, & the prospect of good creativity & artwork in 2011, there is constant conflict between me trying to be positive & look for the positive in situations, & the ever-present greyness, threatening everything, pulling me down.

To mix metaphors, I feel like I am like one of those sharks that have to keep swimming, or else I will slowly sink to the bottom of the sea, & suffocate. The “greyness” is the resistence to positivity that would otherwise be my experience.

There is a difference between God & life.
God is the supreme being: he is perfect & he can do anything. But life is not perfect, sometimes we experience good things, sometimes bad. We have freedom of choice (which is a gift from God) & sometimes we choose the wrong things. There are consequences to all our choices – good & bad. In regard to the “greyness”, I recognise that God & life are not the same things. Whilst God could dispel the “greyness” from my life, he hasn’t. Perhaps he will, but perhaps he never will. He has the power to do so, but in his infinite wisdom, he knows what I am experiencing & what I have always experienced, in this “greyness”. He knows how it affects me, & how it brings me down consistently & constantly. But will he rid me of it? That remains to be seen. All I know is, that he hasn’t for more than 40 years.

I have become used to seeing the “greyness” in all & every aspect of my life. My experience is that it always returns & that nothing dispels it for very long. Not even the most positive, earth-moving experiences one can have. Even the most amazing, exciting, Christ-centred experiences soon fade & the “greyness” creeps up upon me once more, overshadowing all the previous joy & happiness. That is not to say that I am constantly in the doldrums or always sad & complaining. Sometimes I am positive, happy, & full of vim & vigour! It is just that these positive feelings do not last very long, they are rather like a shaft of bright sunshine, that breaks through a cloudy day. But I know that the “greyness” of the clouds will soon return.

I think I have become so used to the “greyness” that I often don’t even recognise that it is there or that it is affecting me. Jacob in the Old Testament, walked with a limp after a wrestling match with God. He just got used to walking with a limp in the end. I think I have got so used to walking with the limp of “greyness” that now I merely compensate for it & move on, as best I can. It has been with me for so long now that I doubt whether it will ever leave me, or that anything could ever be powerful enough to remove it. It is not that I doubt God could remove it, it is simply that my experience is that he hasn’t done so in all the years of my life to date. That is not doubt about the ability of God, it is merely the truth of my actual life experience.

I believe there is a vast fast-flowing river of power, love, confidence, etc that God could send down on us. You read about this in revival sermons or people’s experiences of rival. Last night I couldn’t sleep, & found myself wishing that God would show me the river of his love. My experience of God’s love & power is a mere trickle, the tiniest glimmer of water, the smallest flow of experience of God. There has to be more than this! I often wish I could experience more of God, like people report they have in revival times. But I have not experienced that for myself… I wish I would!

Self-indulgence or just the truth, for me?
Does this all sound a bit self-indulgent?… perhaps.
Am I trying to be self-indulgent… no.
I suppose this might all sound self-indulgent, especially to someone who does not experience the “greyness” as I do. Winston Churchill referred to “the black dog” of depression. Perhaps my “greyness” is depression, or sadness, or some other dejected state of mind?
Not everyone understands mental illness, or depression, or other matters relating to the mind. Some people’s attitude or advice might be “just snap out of it” or “just choose to be happy” or “God can help, you’ve just got to have faith.” My experience is that no amount of will power or “trying” seems to make any difference to the existence of the “greyness.” Whilst will power & a deliberate decision to “always look on the bright side of life” (Monty Python) might bring temporary relief, the “greyness” merely bides its time & waits for my efforts to expend themselves. Then it moves in again.

Perhaps my experience of the “greyness” is no different from anyone else’s, maybe it is entirely normal? Perhaps this really is “just life” & everyone experiences it? I don’t know for sure, since I can not experience anyone else’s life! It seems that other people experience genuine joy & happiness, & don’t talk about having something like the “greyness” perpetually influencing them. But who really knows? Perhaps most people are too engaged in life; the washing-up, fetching the kids from school, worrying about the cost of fuel bills, etc, to notice the “greyness”? Perhaps I hope for too much, & wish for happiness, confidence, contentment & fulfilment that simply is not available here on Earth, anywhere, or at any time. Perhaps I am reaching beyond the possible. Jesus said in John 10:10a (ANIV) “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Perhaps I have a romantic, over-optimistic view of what that “full life” should feel & actually be like? Perhaps the life I have now is the very best it can be & this is my “full” life? Perhaps God does not offer us any more than what we already experience?

As I consider the “greyness” it occurred to me that in the past I have tried to avoid it. I’ve created various coping strategies to try to deal with it. I’ve immersed myself in TV & film narratives, which have taken my attention away from how I was feeling at the time. Moving pictures still have a huge attraction for me! I’ve mis-used alcohol many times in the past. I’ve looked at the wrong websites, magazines, etc. I’ve used various other things to try to distract myself from the “greyness.” But now I realise that all these things are distractions – attempts to get away from the “greyness.” That is hardly a good way to solve the problem. So now it occurs to me that what I really need to do is to look straight at the “greyness” & not try to avoid it. Is it really all that scarey? Maybe if I look intently at it, & allow it to engulf me I’ll come to realise that it isn’t as strong as I think it is. Perhaps avoidance merely keeps it coming back, whereas moving into the “greyness” may actually enable me to dispel its power & hold over me. It’s a thought anyway.

Could I do without the “greyness”?
Am I so attached to the feeling of “greyness” that I would rather keep it, thinking that it helps to define who I am? Some artists seem to believe that it is necessary to suffer for your art. There is some sort of perverse pleasure in thinking that, but it is really an immature thought & attitude that I no longer believe.
Would I rather get rid of the “greyness”, so that I could experience life as I imagine it should be lived: without an ever-present dampening of my spirits? That’s a no-brainer (as they say!)… of course I would prefer to be rid of this cloud of perpetual gloom that overshadows all I’ve ever done & threatens all I’ll ever do!
Will I ever experience a permanent freedom from the “greyness”? I hope so.

Don’t get too comfortable…
Someone once wrote that we are not to get to comfortable here on Earth, as it is not our final destination. It is not our true home. We are to live in tents – life here on Earth is temporary & our eternal life (whilst it starts here) finds ultimate fulfilment in Heaven. Perhaps the “greyness” which I experience is common to all of humanity: perhaps it is the temporary-ness of this life? Perhaps it is impossible to be happy & joyful on Earth, because this is not our true home? Perhaps the “greyness” does me a favour: it reminds me that I’m not home yet?


Comments are turned off for this article

Go to Blog Archive page