Everyone’s writing about their New Year’s resolutions so I think I should join in. My resolution is to continue what has been a pretty successful two-week effort to control my own moods.
I am a sitting duck for episodes of depression and anxiety, times that I describe as ‘sinking like a stone’ or ‘beating it back with a stick.’ These are usually consequent to nothing, feelings that rise up to choke me while I’m stirring a pot on the stove or wiping the snow from my car. It is a feeling of not having done enough or having done too much, regretting the past or dreading the future. A poisonous little menu, don’t you think?
Sometimes, the moods are dark but fleeting. Sometimes, they move in and stay, fat, sloppy clouds that sit on my lap and drip on my papers for weeks, sometimes months.
I am mindful of the thousands of times I asked my mother, “What’s wrong?” and she replied, “Nothing.” As it turned out, plenty was wrong. She just didn’t have words to put to what she was feeling. Neither do I.
But because of my mother, I try to watch how my face rests in repose. Do I look sad? Worried? Time to raise my eyebrows and look bright and ahead.
Lately, I’ve been trying to be more conscious of mood shifts and rise up to greet them in a more assertive way. I know, for instance, that walking outside for any amount of time, will make me feel more hopeful about the future. It’s a simple thing, taking a walk, but it’s basic feeling well and able. I’ve done three long distance walks (60, 60 and 39 miles) and I think that was the allure. Feeling well and able.
I have also been trying to draw a smaller circle around the things I can control and let the things outside that circle go their own course. This sounds neat and tidy but it’s foreign territory for someone for whom every problem generates a strategic plan and a task list. I tell myself, ‘back away from the white board, put the markers down, this doesn’t concern you.’ Needing to find the logical answer is addictive. And overbearing, I should add. That just occurred to me. It’s overbearing.
So the past two weeks – the Christmas season, a notoriously bad time for me and many of the people I know – I’ve maintained a firewall around my head. The firewall was comprised of equal parts of being with people I can depend on for their good humor, staying modest in my expectations and goals, thinking small and only about the present, and purposely enjoying myself.
I look at this list and I wonder if I could possibly be more mundane. I read like every third meme on Facebook; the only thing missing is a kitten about to be swallowed by a warthog who tells us to ‘look on the bright side and make your enemy your friend.’
Twenty-five years ago I quit a pack a day cigarette habit. Cold turkey. I quit smoking because I had a kid with asthma and there were only so many believable “I have to go the store to get something” escapes to my car to smoke I could pull. I loved smoking. Smoking made me happy, no, smoking made me not nuts or so I thought. But I left smoking. I left my Benson & Hedges by the side of the road and went on to have a decent life without them.
I want to leave depression and anxiety in the same dirty ditch.
I figure I’ve got a two-week run on it. I just have to figure out how to keep it up. There’s nothing that says I have to live out my life as a sitting duck when I could be a swan or an egret or something else a lot more elegant.
So there, that’s my New Year’s resolution. To be an egret.