One of the new skills I have developed over the last decade is the art of saying 'no'.
After nearly 50 years of wondering how on earth I ended up doing things I didn't want to do, I discovered the trick: you just say no. Nothing more.
What people do then is ask me, "why not?" and that is where it all falls apart. I'd start making excuses and they'd come up with ways around my objections. So I stopped making excuses, stopped giving reasons. Some people are incredibly inventive when it comes to thinking up ways around your reasons. Just say 'no'. If really pushed, just smile and say, "No. I am not going to do this. I am not going to give reasons. The answer is no." And keep repeating it. It works!
I've suddenly realised that this same approach is necessary for another problem in my life - depression. I have suffered from depression since my late teens at least, from mild depression to suicidal depression.
People always ask, "what are you depressed about?", and I have tried to tell them. They then come up with reasonable arguments for why I shouldn't feel that way. They'll tell me that it's not that bad, that although the pain is great now, it will ease off, that I should look on the bright side, be positive, that I should be grateful for what I have because other people have had more pain, more grief, less 'good stuff' than me. Someone else is blind, diabetic and has just had a leg amputated so I should stop weeping and be grateful (after I had a miscarriage and D & C). There is always someone whose life circumstances are worse than mine.
Over the last few years I have, at last, learned to manage my depression. I have found ways and means to stop myself hitting rock bottom - no, those are the wrong words - the problem with depression is that I never hit anything as solid as rock bottom: it's an eternity of thick suffocating, soft, cloying blackness. Whatever, I have found ways to avoid the worst of it.
But after decades of believing all these people, believing that if only I could stop being so selfish as to focus on my own woes, and focus instead on how good I have it, especially compared to others, I have discovered something. I learned to focus on my woes, because other people have taught me to with their endless what's-the-matters.
Yes, external circumstances give me a push to start rolling down the hill, but they aren't the problem. The problem is that there is no problem. There is nothing. Deep inside of me is a void that isn't caused by my many miscarriages, by the deaths of my parents, by illnesses, by cruelties, desertions, betrayals, there are no excuses, no reasons: the black void, the Nothingness, just IS.
So now I have discovered the only answer to What's-the-Matter? is:
"Nothing is the Matter. It just Is."