I would rather spend my life close to the birds than wishing I had wings.”
~House, episode 1, season 5, “Dying Changes Everything.”
While 2009 was preparing to be shoved out the back door by people with more energy, my husband and I were asleep. We didn’t watch it go. I awoke at a few seconds after midnight to the sounds of applause and thought: 2010 must be lookin’ good. Then I smiled and fell back to sleep. In the morning, my favorite sound woke me: crow rush hour.
I will not miss the old year, despite all the good it brought: the helpful friends, The Book, all the music—in clubs and at home. And I have no regrets about the time I spent wallowing, mired in misery, even beyond the worst of the pain; I needed it then. But I don’t want to forget it because I don’t want to repeat it.
So how do you change your penchant for negativity when life seems to knock you down? Why do some people get right back up again and others sit in a weeping heap first, sometimes for ages? I know which of these people I want to be, and I know who I am; they are different.
Don’t you find yourself wishing you could snap your fingers and snap out of it—your mood, your depression, your funk, your anxiety—even if it has roots in reason, like catching the flu or waking up to four slashed tires? Don’t you wish you could glide through it, that the wrinkle in your day doesn’t become a tear in your fabric? That you could just turn the dial on your brain and adjust your attitude, like you would a guitar amp, to get the mindset you want, so that all the stuff that goes in through that cool yellow patch cord connecting your ears to your mind gets processed and comes out with some ethereal reverb and some happy country twang? Sweet Peavey Alchemy!
You know me. I’m not one for bullshit or all that new-age hooey. (I still cringe at my shiatsu guy’s choice of music; while I’m getting painfully pulled and poked, it sounds like a Chinese restaurant. Just put on The Prodigy, I tell him; that’s what my body hears.) I don’t need any cross-stitch philosophy or self-help books or letters from the universe telling me how great I am. But it never hurts to remind yourself that thoughts become things. It’s those messages from water all over again.
Years ago, when I was suffering from insomnia, my therapist taught me an interesting trick. He said that we sometimes have bad dreams, but we can control their outcomes. Even with a subliminal knowledge that anything is possible in a dream, we can escape from whatever is chasing us.
I bet we can learn to do that a little while we’re awake, too. You don’t have to go around telling your glass of water that it’s beautiful before you drink it, but you do have to drink it. A lot of it. So depression is chemical; does that mean your only treatment ought to be chemical? It’s situational, too. It’s environmental. It’s medical. It’s not only that you’re born with or develop a deficiency in serotonin or norepinephrine or dopamine; it’s that the deficiency keeps you from getting the other things that make your brain healthy: good food, exercise, positive thoughts. If you don’t want to be around yourself, who is going to want to be around you?
An acquaintance sent me an email the other day. “We are now living in the future … hope to see you in it soon.” When he does, I am going to be smiling, if for no other reason than because it's what I’ve decided to do.