“Always pack lunches the night before.”
“Always take the stairs.”
I’m starting to assemble a list of things that improve the quality of my life, and yeah. So far I’m killing it with two whole things. It came to me as I was walking into the building where my dentist has his office, and whenever I’m there with my kids we take the elevator because buttons.
Your kids love them, too, don’t they? They fight over who gets to push the buttons and suddenly they’ve hit six different floors in the process. And you’re just standing there thinking, why can’t we be one of the species who eat their young?
Fortunately there are only two floors in that building so I never have to take a four-hour elevator ride when they are with me. I was alone last week, looked at the elevator and thought, “Always take the stairs.” It was just one flight, but had it been five I still would have made the trek. Little physical exertions like this feel good and will help to keep me in good enough condition that I can take the stairs 20-30 years from now. Why is that important? Because walking canes are cumbersome. I’m vain.
So, two things so far. I’m adding to the list as they come to me instead of sitting down and deliberately writing out a list. It feels more organic this way. Every day last week I made the girls’ lunches the night before and, my god, so much space opened up. Ease and serenity immediately filled it. I stopped dreading the race of the morning routine. Yeah, I know every parenting book and magazine and website in the history of the world has included this advice, it’s nothing revolutionary, Heather Armstrong, are you seriously just coming to this realization? HEY. Cut me some slack, Barbara. What do you expect? My mom dropped me on my head when I was a baby and I grew up to become a blogger.
This is all a part of recent efforts to tackle my anxiety head on, to figure out ways to ease the grip it has had on my life for the last few years: juice fasting, engaging in joyous activities, cultivating a new mindset, remembering to take the stairs. A few weeks ago I had my eyebrows waxed by a close friend who has been doing it for almost a decade now. When I walked into her studio her jaw hit the floor. I knew my eyebrows had gotten out of hand, but come on. OVERREACT MUCH, MRS. HANSEN.
“What HAPPENED to you?” Oh my god. She and my daughter are colluding.
“Oh god, I know it’s been awhile—”
“You’re glowing!” she interrupted.
“Continue,” I said.
“You look totally different. Not that you don’t normally look great, but you look so much more at ease!”
“No, it’s okay. I know I normally look like crap. But this? I’m self-helping the shit out of my life.”
Yeah, some of these voodoo magic fairy things are working. One of the biggest transformations has been the ability to allow myself to have a bad day. A few months ago if I was having a rough time I would have thought, “I suck at life. In fact, I will always suck at it. No one sucks at it more than I do.” Because even my depression wants to be valedictorian.
Now? Now I stop myself and think, “Wait. Normal people have bad days. Everyone has bad days. You’re having a bad day. That’s all this is.” This tiny shift in thinking has had the hugest impact on my life because in the midst of something terrible or wrong I am finding light.
However, I don’t know if any of you have looked at your calendars recently, but March somehow happened. WE LET MARCH HAPPEN. I blame Obama. And last week I ran into a string of bad days that knocked me over so hard that I felt like I was drowning, like I was being hit in the head by wave after wave of water, a nonstop deluge. A bit of the old Heather returned and whispered, “All that voodoo magic fairy stuff is bullshit. It’s not working. It will never work.”
Because here I was expressing gratitude and finding joy and seeking out good things only to run up against an obstacle and suddenly lose my ability to cope. When I sat down to get up close with my thoughts that word started to blink in giant red letters: COPE.
Wait a minute. March. MARCH! Spring equinox. Rapidly changing light. Inability to cope. Would you look at that.
I write these posts (like this one and this one and this one and this one) to remind myself as much as I write them for you. And I am so glad I have them to reference: this time of year is hard for those of us who suffer from depression. We should be gentle with ourselves over the next few weeks.
My mother and I were texting this morning after I had come to her in a very vulnerable place last night. She said to me, “You are doing your best. Give yourself some space and credit for being human.”
She’s right, and I love the sentiment for more than what she means on its face. Do normal people get knocked over like this? Does everyone suddenly find themselves unable to cope? No, they don’t. I know scores of people who cope throughout the year perfectly fine and never butt heads with an obstacle. But they might have other symptoms of being human: high blood pressure, a temper, acne. Maybe they have heart disease or warts or never call their mother on her birthday. Normal people have diseases and character flaws and areas in their lives where they fall short.
I love that she didn’t say to me, “Give yourself some credit for your illness.” She was inviting me into the circle of all of you and all of us. Give yourself credit for having a pulse, kid, because you open up the engine into any human being and you’ll find missing and broken pieces.