Let’s start by defining what I mean by a funk. It’s when some adverse event or events happen which leads to telling ourselves, “Dang. I’m in a funk.” It isn’t something that puts you in a bad mood for a morning or a day, but something that puts you out for days on end.

It’s a capitulation to being in a ‘bad time.’ To the point that a friend asks how you’re doing and you respond, “Actually, I’m in a bit of a funk.”

I’m writing this because I’ve been staving off my own funk these past few weeks. What happened? The biggest culprit has been a low-level, annoying, lingering cold for the past ten days or so, the hallmarks of which are an on and off headache, on and off low energy and a light cough.

There’s a chance it could be allergy related. I’ve done the COVID tests so pretty sure that’s not it. Whatever it is, it’s bugging the hell out of me.

The Gerkens go to Washington

But what really put it to the test was taking the whole family — fifteen, thirteen and seven year old kids and my wife — to Washington, D.C., for five days. We love our family trips but, truth be told, they are always challenging. Planes, rental cars, hotel rooms, museums, kids fighting…You know, the usual family trip stuff.

Not to mention the usual mom and dad family trip bickering. Like what? We spent several cool, educational, but exhausting hours touring the African American Museum and then my wife, knowing I’m under the weather…

My Wife: “Why don’t we go walk around the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial?”

Me: “I’m exhausted. And feeling awful.”

My Wife: “Ohhh. So we’re gonna play the sick card, are we? Poor thing.”

Me: (in my head) “F*&K OFF!!!!!”

What I actually did was say nothing and head for the Washington Monument which was only a couple hundred yards away so doable. Then we headed for the car.

Retrieving PupCheeks

The annoyance level ticked up to DEFCON 50 when my wife chimed in with, “Can we head over to Georgetown to pick up Violet’s stuffed dog from Martin’s (the restaurant where we ate the previous night where my youngest left her treasured toy dog, nicknamed PupCheeks, under the table)?”

Mind you, it’s Friday at five o’clock, the absolute worst traffic of the week in DC, nowhere more so than in Georgetown. In order to avoid a 120-decibel cry-athon erupting from my seven year old’s stentorian vocal cords, we plowed our way over there, scooped up PupCheeks and peace returned to the land.

But enough of my kvetch-fest. Back to the story at hand: Funk prevention.

Staving off my funk

So, what have I been doing to prevent myself from entering the Funk Zone? I have done my level best to keep telling myself, anytime I feel miserable from the cold and its energy-sapping, headache causing ways, some version of:

“Okay. I feel rotten right now. But it’s right now. And that’s it.”

Bottom line is that I cut myself from thinking about and catastrophizing about the future.

And that is the point of this piece. Because that is what being in a funk is about. It’s about literally anointing yourself with the moniker: “I am in a funk.” And when we do that we vastly increases the odds of our funk lingering far longer.

The ego foments funk-dom

Why is that? Because when we declare ourselves to be in a “rough time,” our psyche starts looking for ways to buttress that. I know that sounds crazy, and it is, but we do it.

Often times it’s picayune things like missing an easy three-foot putt on the golf course. “Guess that’s just my luck. That’s just the way things seem to be going for me…”

We literally create a new identity for ourselves of “Person Going Through a Bad Time.”

So, what should we do?


Stay present during tough episodes

No. We simply take each thing as it comes. And when does each of life’s little adversities come to us? Only and always at the same time: The present moment.

In order to not fall into that self-identification as “Person in a Funk,” we simply need to take everything that comes our way and say, “That’s what’s happening right now. Period.”

Whether it’s a missed putt, a headache, a speeding ticket, a fender bender, a fight with the spouse, an ugly comment leveled at you on Twitter or any of a million other adverse situations we experience, we respond to it like the individual event it is. Then we let it go and move on to the next moments we experience.

I hope this makes sense. It’s about not letting events accumulate in your head in such a way that the ego burrows in and announces to you and the world that you are officially in a funk.

Mindfulness at its best

What this is is the quintessence of mindfulness. It’s staying present for the moments of our lives and not letting our egos intervene with thoughts of, “Man, this a bad time for me. I have a headache and I just stubbed the heck out of my toe. Looks like the funk continues…”

No. Just one thing at a time. One experience at a time. One moment at a time.

Patience is required

Doing this sometimes require a boatload of patience and persistence. The ego desperately wants us to capitulate and start complaining about what a bad time we’re having.

I can’t tell you how many times I felt lousy on the DC trip and said to myself, “I feel bad right now. That’s how I feel now.” But I left it at that.

In so doing, I know I’ve made what could have been a truly awful period not that bad.

File this one in the “Benefits of Mindfulness” folder.