The February Lists

Ten things that bring me unexpected joy
  1. Singing bus drivers
  2. The way British people pronounce the word Yogurt
  3. Red Vines. Not Twizzlers. Red Vines.
  4. Clerks and servers who offer honest answers when you ask How’s it going?
  5. Anything reminiscent of Sophia Lauren
  6. Ivory dish soap
  7. Diet Coke, in a can, softly frosted from the back of my fridge
  8. The beaded pencil cup on my desk
  9. Men with different colored beards and mustaches
  10. The way Lola squishes her whiskers together when she yawns

Ten things that irritate me more than they should

  1. The crud that forms around the rim of ketchup bottles
  2. Cab drivers who play Sade
  3. My inability to properly cook rice
  4. The word custard
  5. Dictators who wear hats (Note for the voting booth: hats are always a bad sign)
  6. The color of uncooked chicken
  7. The sight of broken branches
  8. People who knock on doors as they simultaneously open the door
  9. Non-absorbent hand lotion
  10. Applesauce
Almost March

o-o-o-o-o

Today is the last day of February.

I cannot recall the last time I have been so happy to see March. Cold, wet, rainy March. It’s truly an ugly month around here but it marks the end of particularly rough winter.

I am elated.

Irrational, and elated.

If you have followed the blog for a while you may have picked up on my recent lack of creative brain juices (pardon the technical term). It’s a February thing. In September they run like a  bathtub faucet, but in the dulldrums of freezing cold February, I struggle to produce a trickle. The paint brushes go away and the yoga pants come out.

January is worst, but February is exhausting.

Did I mention how happy I am that March is almost here?

I know I’m not the only one who struggles through this, and I know I am not the only one who sometimes feels like I am going crazy. Not Overlook Hotel Kind of Crazy as Holly put it, but just jumbled and drowning. It’s like I can’t drive my own brain.

There was a while in college when I toyed with the idea of becoming an art therapist. It didn’t work out for me but I put enough textbook time to pick up a few lessons on how to use art as my own personal coping mechanism when things get rough. And when art is not sufficient, and yoga pants are no longer a comfort, I learned how to use observation.

Observation is a powerful thing. The ability to recognize and appreciate one’s surroundings is an art all by itself.

I don’t recall the textbook, but I remember reading a series of accounts of post-traumatic-stress (PTSD) patients, mostly recent combat solders who were isolated and bed-ridden. They were not ready to speak about their experiences but the hospital staff needed ways to keep them from shutting down completely.

Among other things, the soldiers were asked to write down everyday experiences that brought them unexpected happiness or sadness….likes vs dislikes, appreciation vs anger, good vs bad.

The sound of the wheels on the meal cart = good
The smell of changing bandages = bad
The way the doctor washed his hands = appreciation
The lack of television stations = anger
…so on and so on.

Certainly not enough to properly address genuine PTSD, but enough to keep their senses alive and aware of their surroundings, at least long enough to make it through weeks laying flat in a foreign hospital with scarce resources. Sometimes discussing their observations with staff and other patients would raise all kinds of emotions and issues. Things that had been buried long before they ever landed in the hospital.

It’s funny how the mind squirrels away stuff, only to be nibbled on in the depths of winter.

This winter has been particularly rough and I have been keeping observation lists as a way to cope and make it through February. And while I am certainly not struggling through PTSD, I find these lists extremely helpful when it comes to keeping my senses stimulated. These lists keep me from shutting down and hibernating.

I have heard of people using these sorts of observation lists in non-art-therapy contexts, almost as a way to loosen their senses and stir up creativity, ease writers block, etc.

I’m not sure if anyone will get anything out of it, but I would encourage you to try making a list of your own sometime. Don’t sit down and write it down, let it come to you naturally over the course of a day or a week…even an entire month. Write them down on scraps or receipts or jot notes in your cell phone. At the end of a set period of time, type them up. Share them with others. Notice any patterns? It gets your brain turning. You might even conger a cartwheel or two. Imagine that? Mental cartwheels in the dead of February!

Make a habit of it and take a way a whole new appreciation for your surroundings. I don’t know if it will help anyone, but it certainly can’t hurt :)

….And here is the good news: put away the yoga pants y’all, MARCH IS HERE!

Comments

  1. says

    Yay for March! I finally gave up on february and started doing nothing but baking, cooking and taking baths. True hibernation. I’m looking forward to more of your great diy ideas coming with the warmer spring weather!

    xo Mary Jo

  2. leah says

    now i am dying to know how british people pronounce yogurt. how could you say such a thing without giving a link or something?

    also, you remain awesome and i love the rest of this post.

  3. says

    british people say ‘yaw-gurt’. i’ve lived here for about 7 or 8 years and it’s one of the few words that i still notice is different. haha!

    i love your lists. i make love/dislike lists too, and i’m always observing. are you really homey? i’ve thought a lot about my observing in the past few years and realized that i do it to feel at home in my surroundings, however temporary they may be. my fiance thinks some of my observations are weird, but i’ve always thought that not only are they normal, but they make me feel like i’m getting a lot more out of life than people who just see the basics.

  4. says

    My yoga pants are going nowhere!! I’ve put on too much weight over winter (lazybones!), so they are comfy. Ha.
    I know exactly what makes me happy without fail- little birds. They would top every list, and I intend, after this post, to make lists. There are endless possibilities to put them to use!
    Birdies… hey, I’m smiling already!

  5. says

    I have the horrible tendency to lose lists whenever I make them, but I love the idea. I’m also so excited to see March…but I’m really looking forward to May. That’s when things start to get truly beautiful around here!

  6. says

    I’m glad March is here too. The daffodils are starting to bloom around here so I hope more warm weather will follow. Although we have had snow in March. Still, I’m trying to think positive.

    Love the lists idea. I don’t do that, but might try. Oh, I can’t do rice either, so bought a rice maker – works wonders!!! Just dump everything in, turn it on and wala! Done.

    Love the painting. Looking forward to what March brings out in you…

  7. says

    I’m glad you all are thinking about making some lists of your own. I hope you share what you find!

    Leah, octoberzephyr is right –it’s “yaw-gurt” but they work an H sound in there too. My ears twittle just thinkin about it!

    Octoberzephyr, yes I am a home body too –you make a good point. Maybe it is a way to feel more comfortable in new surroundings. I have been told that I comment on these random things most often in restaurants/hotels/homes, and come to think of it, usually new ones. You are on to something!

    Anne P –You know, you are the second person this week who has praised the wonders of rice makers. Think I have only heard of them as something used in dorms or trailers, where have I been??? I need to pick one up ASAP!

  8. says

    Wonderful idea, gonna list some stuff. Happy first of March, my dearie! Your brain is fizzing now, because you invented the word dulldrums and I love it!!!!!!

    First on my list of things that bother me more than necessary: servers who ‘correct’ my correct pronunciation of “Nicoise.”

    And things that make me unreasonably happy: a free refill of hot water in my teapot at my favorite slow coffee shop.

  9. says

    March is my birthday month. This means that all devotees of Aunt Peaches can do whatever makes your heart sing on March 8th. It is also International Women’s Day plus the end of Mardi Gras….a coincidence? I think not!!!
    Best wishes pals.
    Naomi

  10. says

    Yes, yes, yes…my creative juices also seem to dwindle to a trickle starting in January and culminating in a full-on creative constipation in February! Yesterday, as I was moping about, bemoaning the fact that yoga pants are all I can, in fact, wear on my newly blossoming booty, I saw snowdrops blooming in my yard! I grinned like an idiot and the rest of the day was cake! Simple joys, my friends, simple joys.

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