Today’s post is an advice column, one I hope will be recurring.
I get letters! And often, the best advice has a central theme:
Stop already with all-or-nothing thinking.
This week’s topic:
“When I can’t do the thing I don’t need to do (go to the beach; play chess) that I used to love to do, I hate myself for it.
I used to be so much more effortlessly passionate. What’s wrong with me?”
Oh my, this is a tough one isn’t it? One I ask myself on the daily. And, yet, those of you for whom I have the maddest love have figured it out. Over and over and over.
“We know that you do tiny awesome things in your life that deserve greater recognition. We want to be the ones to recognize your achievements.”
Great advice from us to us.
I’m going to quote one of my favorite comments from a great thread here -
“When I’m down the rabbit hole I try to banish some thoughts. Anything along the lines of ‘always’ or ‘never.’ Those two unchangeable, eternal words are my enemies.
I fail *sometimes*.
Also, intensifier words are not useful to me then. ‘Very’ (which a good word to avoid in general), ‘extremely,’ ‘strongly,’ etc. They satisfy my darker side to express, but they only prolong the misery.”(thanks to Ray Nolan. Used with permission.)
Your editor has not always been so happily-marginally-functional and well-adjusted. Like all of us, I have suffered my lonesome valleys, fog-shrouded off-ramps, and black farts of imploded self-hate.
So, I started a journal, and discovered
Personal Rule Number 1: Tell it.
Got a worry? Articulate it, even if only to your dog. Do a little something to get what’s in you out. This is perspective.
Personal Rule Number 2: Wait.
Feeling wrong, sick, ugly, exhausted, un-inspired, hopeless, or just punk sore at the world? Wait an hour. Your lizard-brain knows how to self-limit lowdown moods. This is timing.
The trick is to not attach reasonable-sounding thoughts to your visceral downtimes.
Personal Rule Number 3: Practice active dormancy.
I can not stress enough how effectively even a little activity will dispel great clouds of despair.
How many of us have gone into those ho-hum pendulums of alternatively hurling oneself at a self-actualization goal, and hating/dreading the sight of the gym? (*Hand-raise here*)
No matter how ‘fit’ I was, I was still plagued by unpredictable bouts of Chronic Fatigue.
One day last month, a quite sensible doctor friend of mine referred me to the recent raft of literature pointing out the beneficial effects of as little as ten minutes a day of gentle exercise on such common complaints as depression, anger, and, yes, fatigue.
I haven’t needed sick leave since.
(See also Fitness By the Numbers, MORE Magazine, March 2011)
So much of what worries me/us is related to perspective and time.
The things that were throbbing nightmares at 3 a.m. are little monsters that can be swatted away by the time I have my morning coffee.
Hope this helps. A little nothing of a something is braver than nothing at all.
Got a hitch in your all-or-nothing giddyup? Feel like a motherless child in a post-modern playpen? Articulate your concern to me.
Photo credits - iied.org, Raggedy Annarchy