Monday, March 6, 2017

Shoes on the wrong feet

Here is a picture of Gus, pretending to not hear me calling him.
Every year, either because winter starts to feel like a long, sad movie, or because my birthday is around the corner, I enter a stretch of strange discomfort, like shoes on the wrong feet. 
It has to do with inventory and the feeling of change in the air. What have I accomplished? What's next? What's my work in progress? How am I doing?

And so on.
It's common, this process of taking stock, but it makes no difference. You still wake up tired when your mind has been interviewing you all night, wanting to know where you'll be ten years from now.   
If I write when I'm like this, I don't write well. If I can get in the zone, I'm too distractible to stay there. I consume celebrity news like mental potato chips ("Some stars can't stop working together!") or read Word docs from 2004 to decide if I might still need them, or take pictures of Gus not looking at me when I call him. 
I can feel my mind going to sleep when this happens which is the way depression starts if you don't come up with a way to turn that frown upside down, and fast.
Two kinds of people just read that. Those who know that depression isn't about "what's wrong," and those who don't, and still ask depressed people, "What's wrong?" which is something depressed people can't answer because depression is not a reaction to something. Depression is winding up at a place inside your head where there are no windows or doors to show how you got in or will get out. 
And because I fear depression like dark rooms where there may be spiders, I don't linger in that state for long. Instead, I do something spontaneous to rupture the ennui.  Last year, I cancelled my day, put the top down, drove to the beach, and came home with a fetching car tan. 

Once again, I've been waiting for clarity, the way a jogger bounces at the curb, waiting for the light to change. But this year, I made some soft rules to make it easier for clarity to find me.  

I'll share.
The first one is to be quiet enough to hear the things you're telling yourself. "I don't want to," or, "Why bother," or, "It doesn't matter" are ass-kicking words. If those words were signs they would be orange with the word CAUTION on them. 
The second one is to move. Change the furniture around. Do laundry. Clean a drawer. Not hard stuff, just productive stuff. Move.

The third soft rule is the easiest and most important and it is to stop trying to create the future in the present. Instead, improve on simple daily things and let the future create itself. There are small ways we live each day which by themselves don't seem pivotal to success or happiness, but which, when improved together can deliver a very effective ass-kick. 

Sleep enough. 
Eat better 
Stay in touch with your peer group as well as your parents and children. 
Hydrate - it's more important than you think. 
Journal for a few minutes every morning or evening  to capture the thoughts that peppered your day, or will influence the day that's coming.  

Waiting for clarity starts with those uncomfortable questions we ask ourselves about what we're missing, what we need, why things don't feel as they should.  

But with kind attention to yourself, it can end with a feeling of having something you were missing, something you deserve, the belief that it is enough, and the desire to do something good with it. 

Now that you've fixed your shoes.


  1. Absolutely no words for how much I needed to see this today. It's that feeling one gets of: You too? I thought I was the only one.

  2. Such a clear perspective and recommendations around depression! Love Gus's pose.

    1. Gus is my hero and he knows it. Thank you!

  3. I like those soft rules of yours - it's good to have a little reminder in the back of your brain for where to start when things are grey and you're wondering how to brighten them up again.

    1. Thank you, Leanne. I find the soft rules are much easier to follow.

  4. I was just thinking about this today. I started feeling a little down. I was thinking about the past...when i do that I get very upset. I have lost so many people I loved lately and it s so hard. But I have to remember to just in the moment and enjoy the day I am given. If I worry about the future I also get upset. So I will just live for this day...just this one day....

    1. Renee, thank you. I have told myself and my kids and anyone else who needs to remember, "Up or down, it's just right now." That includes moods and melancholy. I hope you find good things in your "right now."

      Grief is

  5. Susan,
    For me, this is the jewel in your post: "Instead, improve on simple daily things and let the future create itself. There are small ways we live each day which by themselves don't seem pivotal to success or happiness, but which, when improved together can deliver a very effective ass-kick." In other words, do a little something each day and pretty soon, you've strung together one pearl after another until you have a necklace. On my good days, I do that. On the other days, I reread old Word docs.

    1. Thanks Brenda, I do love this response. Your pearl necklace got me.

  6. I struggle during this time of year too. I, too, fear depression (not the blues but real depression) like a dark room with spiders. I do just as you do when I start going into that dark room but I also ask God for help and expect to get it. And then repeat every day until unneeded.

    1. Beth, we stay strong that way, I think. The longer we live past 30 I think, the greater the chance we've experienced depression. It doesn't have to be a lengthy type for us to know the signs and understand that it's time to take things in another direction. And yes, I too, ask God to help out if I'm just not getting there on my own.

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