#chestisms

FACEBOOK

Twitter

WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND?

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

44 comments | July 2nd, 2012

(story by Mir, form Woulda Coulda Shoulda.com)

There's any number of perky aphorisms and directives designed to help you turn that frown upside-down. Don't worry, be happy! Choose joy! Do what you love and everything else will follow! Make a vision board! Develop an attitude of gratitude!

None of these sorts of things is necessarily wrong or bad. Sometimes they're even helpful. But the flip side of a society that encourages mindfulness and self-actualization is that it tends to be very unforgiving when someone won't—or simply can't—pull themselves out of a hole. And depression is one heck of a deep hole.

Never did I feel more self-loathing than when I was a deeply depressed teen, and my inability to "shake it off" felt like yet another personal shortcoming on top of everything else. Granted, I was a teen a long time ago, but even in today's society (which embraces both psychopharmacology and therapy to a much greater degree than the world I grew up in) there seems to persist a notion of personal control, and some sort of weakness if you can't exercise it. The flip side of that, of course, is that even while truly, clinically depressed, there are some choices one can make to curb the self-defeating thought patterns and self-flagellation. It's just a very fine line between "snap out of it!" and "this might help, a little." And when you're a child or a teen, everything happening right now feels like ALWAYS.

Even as an adult, I have by no means mastered depression. It still happens to me sometimes, and I am still grateful for medication and good therapists and people who love me even when I'm acting like Eeyore.

The one "mind trick" I still use, and have tried to teach my kids in tough time, is a simple Favorite Things exercise. Yes, my son reminded me that he's allergic to cats the first time I sang him a little bit of the song, and we don't have any roses. That's not the point. The point is that when all else fails, remembering even the smallest things which bring you any measure of happiness can serve as a reminder that good exists.

I needed to do this, myself, a few days ago. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and I found myself slipping into that pit where everything is despair. I lay in bed that night and stared at the ceiling and mentally counted some of my Favorite Things: Clean sheets on the bed. The way the dog sneezes. The sprinkle of freckles across my son's nose. My husband's cowlick. The faces my daughter makes when she's trying to get me to laugh. Cold ice cream on a hot day. Listening to the tree frogs at night. Fireflies. Unexpected mail. That first sip of morning coffee while everyone else is still sleeping. Baby lizards on the porch. Crushed ice.

It's not earth-shattering. It doesn't "fix" anything in the general sense. But it provides a little anchor… a little fleet of anchors, really, in otherwise turbulent times. I don't know if it takes me all the way to "Life is Good" when it really doesn't feel that way, but at least it takes me to "Life still has Good in it."

Do you ever play a mental game of My Favorite Things? Will you share some of them with me?

 

(read more Mir here.)
 

44 comments

  • Anonymous

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    I just got my toes painted, and it makes me smile every time I look down.

    Report this comment

  • Amy

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    I don’t do that necessarily. But do you remember when you posted about Chickie having problems sleeping and she would like for you guys to name things that are good for her to think about when she went to sleep, and then you guys got her that 12,000 Things to Be Happy About book? Well, the day you posted that, I was about two or three years into my horrible marriage where everything had pretty much gone to hell in a hand basket. And I ordered that book the day I read that post. Now pretty much once a week I flip through the book. And every so often I see something there that I’ve not seen before and it makes me smile even more. Oh, and I can’t tell you how many of my house guests have picked up the book, found something amazing and run to tell me about it. It truly is the little things.

    Report this comment

  • Michelle

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    YES to crushed ice!
    One of my favorites – every morning, before anyone else is up, I make breakfast and tea and sit on the couch (catching up on blogs, natch.) Our cat takes the opportunity to sit on my lap and purr, and it’s a lovely start to my day. Never been so intentional about the favorite things, but I like the exercise. :)

    Report this comment

  • Victoria

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    I’ve lived with depression since I hit my teens. Never diagnosed as such, but more, she’s tired, school is demanding….I’ll not bore the readers with more on that, but last week I started anti-depressants for the first time in over a decade because I finally admitted needing help.
    But, pills aside, I love to bike, walk in the woods, comb through the second hand store looking for “treasure“ and I keep in mind that my kids and husband appreciate my presence. So, not a cure, but a help.

    Report this comment

  • Cindy

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    I’m a smells person apparently. My favorite thing list seems to revolve around smells…and interestingly enough, so does my LEAST favorite list (but that also includes textures for whatever reason).

    Fresh baked bread, hot from the oven and totally slathered in real butter

    Rain, the slow and steady kind or the fast and furious. I love storms but the smell of the earth during and after a good rain, oh it’s lovely.

    Rivers. I love rivers and they have a unique water smell. It’s not just the water but the mud and sand, the things and creatures that live and grow along the banks. It comes together in an overwhelmingly flood of smells that I find intoxicating. When I’m driving and it’s been a stressful day, I’ll slow down when I cross a river, roll my window down and search for a whiff in the air. It’s a quick fix because I’m instantly transported to the peace and tranquility I find on the banks and water of a river.

    Babies of all kinds, people and animals. ‘Nuff said.

    My boyfriend smells like a hot dream, all the freaking time. He wears great cologne but it’s more than that. It’s the unique smell of him that I think I can pick out of a crowd if I had to. I lean into his hugs and breathe deeply so I can wring all enjoyment possible out of his presence.

    Tomato plants. They smell divine and I liked the smell LONG before I ever actually would eat tomatoes. Weird but true.

    Report this comment

  • Brigitte

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    A dry, cool day under the pines, watching the sun dapples move around in the gentle breeze.

    Report this comment

  • meghann @ midgetinvasion

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    As frugal as I am, I believe in fancy soap, bath towels, and bath rugs. That way, no matter how bad things get, I can take a nice bath, then wrap myself in a big fluffy towel, and step on a plush bath rug. For just for a few minutes, things feel a little better.

    Report this comment

  • MomQueenBee

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    $5 bouquets of alstroemeria from the grocery store that last for days and days and days.

    Much better than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes.

    Report this comment

  • Sarah

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Counting Blessings. I like it.

    Report this comment

  • The Other Leanne

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Home, and returning to it…that sense of having arrived safely when I walk in the door, and the feeling that this is where I can be my whole self.
    Also, making babies smile in the shopping aisle. Big, shiny Harley-Davidsons in parking lots. The first hummingbird of the season. Cats finding fascination in a bug on the ground. The sight of an eagle on the tideflats, shredding a salmon.
    Everything ^Cindy^ said (except her boyfriend).
    Remembering how far I’ve come, and what a miracle my life has been.

    Report this comment

  • Diane

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Small favorite things around me help make me smile. I brought a mouse pad to work – just a regular pad, but with a picture of a pretty yellow house’s porch, with flowers and a quilt hung on the clothesline. Makes me happy. (well, and makes me want to go home to my happy place and sew, but you can’t have everything, I guess). I’m more visual, I guess, as I’ve been doing this with a number of little pretties.

    Report this comment

  • Aimee

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    I think I need to start doing this. One thing that always cheers me up is when my cats groom their feet and splay their toes to clean between them. They look so funny and sweet and intent upon their work. It always makes me smile.

    Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    The way my girl, my ten year old ‘baby’, still wants me to pick her up when she is sleepy in the morning and the way her head still fits just so in the crook of my shoulder. The way she pats my back now and rubs it the way I do to her, to calm and soothe. The way my husband gets in bed with me in morning, still wet from his shower, and I squeal and yell and pretend to hate it until he kisses me, or that first kiss hello when he comes home from work. Coming down the stairs to the smell of fresh coffee brewing. A dinner someone else cooks. Laughing so hard you cry. Crying at Wedding videos. The way it smells before it rains. The puppy dog smell of a child whos played hard outside all day…

    Report this comment

  • ScottsdaleGirl

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    The ocean…standing next to it, standing in it. Walking near it. So calming.

    Report this comment

  • Frank

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Having grown up in the ‘north’, you may appreciate this. One of my most favorite things is being outside after a snowstorm. Yes, its pretty visually and all. But its the absolute silence created by the snow absorbing sound.. with no wind… and I lived at the end of a dead end street… so few cars to break the silence. Its the one thing that has always let me find inner peace. naturally I moved to the ‘south’ so it is essentially gone, but I can still remember it clearly.

    Report this comment

    • Anonymous

      Posted on July 3, 2012

      Yes, yes, yes to this, Frank. I have the best memories of the Chicago snow, and being outside in it alone with no sound at all except my crunching foot steps as I walked. The thought brings me peace.

      Report this comment

    • Em

      Posted on July 4, 2012

      Don’t forget that blue hue everything takes on, how you can see as well as daylight by it, even in the middle of the night. Can’t wait for snow again!

      Report this comment

  • RuthWells

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Looking out the back window at 4AM (having woken up to pee) and seeing an incredible firefly show against the backdrop of the dark, dark woods behind our house. (A little on the nose, but it WAS magical.)

    Report this comment

  • erika

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    At least I’m not dead or in jail.
    That was my mantra in my 20’s. Now that I have kids, it is more like…
    At least my kids are healthy.

    I suppose I’m kind of a downer compared to whiskers on kittens?

    Report this comment

  • Chris

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    The act of my big dog looking doleful right before he rolls over to give me full access to rub his belly (and the weird, deep, satisfied sound he makes once I do), the gentle nudge of my other big dog when I’m deep in thought and he notices I have a hand free to pet him, and how, once I’m giggling at him, my husband will keep trying to expand on whatever made me laugh to begin with just to see me smile longer. If I didn’t have those things, I would have to be content with dappled sunlight on a spring afternoon or the kind of rain that allows you to have the windows cracked enough to smell it while taking a really good nap.

    Report this comment

  • Stacy

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Birds. I love watching birds. They helped me (along with zoloft) pull out of a 20 year depression (hey, it runs in the family: we all thought it was normal). Now, if I feel that twinge, I just sit and watch my bird feeders. Birds are beautiful, they sound beautiful and they can fly. What more would you want to be?

    Report this comment

  • Laura

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Reese’s peanut butter cups. Losing myself in the depths of a good book. The sight of my puppy, rolling over and over in the grass. Clean sheets. A big hug from an old friend. A flirtatious smile, directed at me. Cinnamon french toast. Being out under the redwood trees on a hike. (I’m in N. California.) The crash of the waves at the ocean. The warm, sleepy cat curled up next to me. Decadent chocolate desserts, shared with a good friend.

    Report this comment

    • Holly

      Posted on July 3, 2012

      I’m in N. California, too and I have to say that I love the sound the wind makes through the Redwoods. Especially when it’s the only sound. :-)

      Report this comment

  • Jan in Norman, OK

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Sitting in my comfy chair with my legs stretched across the ottoman, in just the right place under the ceiling fan to feel the air moving ever so gently around me. Serene, meditative, private, floating — none of these really describe the feeling but it’s something in that neighborhood.

    Report this comment

  • Jacqueline

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    The sunflowers growing like crazy in the front corner of my yard.

    Report this comment

  • Em

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Getting a new magazine in the mail, 2 M&Ms stuck together, kids mispronouncing words, animals doing weird things – ever see a bird walk? Why? I also have a large dog that forgets she is large often bangs into things when she turns around. A new pen, Ohh! All new school supplies, A to do list with stuff I will actually get done (go ahead, make one with wake up and eat on it. Feels good.). When someone gets a good candid picture of you dispelling the worry that you (I) make weird faces. The feeling when you really have to pee and then you do. A cool breeze. Word jokes (most recent – Irony: the opposite of wrinkly. You asked what makes me happy!). Finding a show you like on TV and realizing it is a marathon. Free shipping. When you have to ask for help and expect another dead end but the person is actually helpful. A good parking spot. A thank you. Watching karma play out – good or bad, it feels good to see. Dick Van Dyke. When a stranger holds the door for you and smiles.

    This was fun… I’m going to keep thinking

    Report this comment

  • erika

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    oh crap. please, mir. please forgive my asshat comment above. sometimes my stupidity and unthinkingness astounds me. i tried to remove it, and couldn’t. i am sorry.

    Report this comment

    • Mir

      Posted on July 3, 2012

      No worries, Erika. I knew what you meant and took no offense. (That’s a super good thing to be thankful for, needless to say!)

      Report this comment

  • Karen

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    I’m coming out a bad time myself. I found keeping a journal helps me. This is the same me who never could keep one when younger. The last notebook I kept had a page at the front dedicated to what made me happy and what I loved doing. I read it as often as necessary. Some of the things? Singing to the radio. (I can’t listen to music when I’m depressed for some reason.) Palm trees. The sunshine Down South (I’m from Up North and we don’t get much in the way of sun up here, especially in the winter.) Waking up in the morning with a cat curled up on each side. And corny as it may sound, doing something nice/good for someone else helps a lot.

    Report this comment

  • Kathy

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    The smell of my secret crush at work. (I can always tell when he’s stopped in the office, even if I don’t see him because his scent lingers.) Seeing my kids smile after a successful riding, cello or drum lesson. Celebrating successes with my kids. Fireworks. Waking up or coming home to a clean house. Clean sheets on the bed. A neighbor that puts out my trash each week. The way I feel when I finish a knitting project. Handing everything over in prayer. Waking up just before the alarm goes off.

    There are so many little things that make me smile when I am feeling blue. I will have to remember them more often. Thanks!

    Report this comment

  • Susan

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    This particular “Off my Chest” has made me think and smile. I love hearing all the simple things in life that uplift us or help us through difficult times. I needed this today. What makes me smile or feel peaceful is looking at the beautiful emerald water at the beach and watching the seagulls fly. My dogs and their silly antics, and especially their sighs of contentment when they get in my lap and curl up for a snuggle.

    Report this comment

  • Karen P

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Watching my cats sleep. They always look so comfortable! When I use my ipad Jax always jumps up and gets right in my face. (Maybe because I have let him see cat bird videos on the ipad?)
    Seeing a quilt or knitting project come together.
    Participating in my son Garrett’s exercise classes. Seeing other people enjoy what he is doing. He sings along to many of the songs that are playing whether it is a Silver Sneaker Class or Zumba…all the older ladies seem to love him! Hearing my son Greg play the flute.
    Talking to Kelsie almost every day and proud that she will be getting a PHD next year.

    Report this comment

  • Heather

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    I got to fall asleep tot he sound of rain last night, and it was loverly. :)

    Report this comment

  • Zoe

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Reading all these comments makes me realize there are a lot more things I enjoy than I thought. I’ve lived in a state of depression for most of my life, excluding the couple of years that Zoloft and I had a good relationship. The “bootstrap” mentality always hacks me off, because I pulled my straps right off from the effort somewhere around age 6, and pretending feels so disingenuous. I have to agree with Cindy, though… smells are my thing. My absolute favorite, the one that always makes me smile, is freshly-cut grass. Some of my happiest moments are spent at dusk after I put away the mower, watching the birds catching the bugs I stirred up, with the kitties rubbing my legs.

    Report this comment

  • Jen

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    My son’s smile, especially when he’s being particularly devilish. Late afternoon drowsy naps with the sun glowing through the blinds. Icy cold lemonade. A good book to read. Watching my mom slowly come out of her deep depression to interact with my son – watching her really see him and be with him. Lupins. Going to bed early just to listen to music for an hour whilst ignoring the housework.

    Report this comment

  • Eva@fmb

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    Watching my 5 and 6 year old children dance. Pure joy. Freedom. Expansiveness. Expressiveness. I also love to dance with them, follow them as if they are the “teacher”.
    I also vote for free shipping mentioned by Em above. Made me smile.
    These posts are great. Thanks Mir et al.

    Report this comment

  • Katy

    Posted on July 3, 2012

    I have a pocket-sized notebook titled “Good Thoughts (Philippians 4:8)” Some of the scribbles include peppermint ice cream, fresh-from-the-dryer bedsheets, dancing barefoot in the driveway, warm chocolate chip cookies, pigtails, showtunes, gerbera daisies, interstate highways in Hawaii, the color periwinkle.

    Report this comment

  • kazari

    Posted on July 4, 2012

    I am totally having the sort of week/month/year where I have to keep counting my blessings. I try to write down three every day. Today was a sick toddler, a migraine, and now he’s at his his dads, so it’s hard… but
    1. I am making (sortakindahealthy) chocolate pudding, just for me.
    2. An interrupted night’s sleep (thank goodness!)
    3. Clean sheets. Clean WARM sheets, thanks to a new dryer.

    Report this comment

  • Traci

    Posted on July 5, 2012

    The smell of my kids’s heads — even the 11-year-old has whiffs of his baby smell. I have no doubt that even if I were deaf and blind I could pick my children out of a crowd of kids just by pressing my face into their hair. Also my children’s giggles — especially when they’ve made each other laugh so hard they can’t stop.
    Swimming in salt water (which I’ve only done a handful of times), tasting the salt on my lips, feeling the heat of the sun and the cool breeze.
    A day of reading and resting. Knowing I can read uninterrupted and nap when I’d like.
    Waking up to a quiet house and realizing my husband had taken the children out for a while so I could sleep in.
    (Isn’t it funny how both the presence and absence of our children can make us happy?)

    Report this comment

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Swimming, swimming, swimming | Woulda Coulda Shoulda - [...] today I’m over at Off Our Chests, thinking about some of my favorite things, and how sometimes they keep…

MORE STORIES