Ten things that bring me unexpected joy
- Singing bus drivers
- The way British people pronounce the word Yogurt
- Red Vines. Not Twizzlers. Red Vines.
- Clerks and servers who offer honest answers when you ask How’s it going?
- Anything reminiscent of Sophia Lauren
- Ivory dish soap
- Diet Coke, in a can, softly frosted from the back of my fridge
- The beaded pencil cup on my desk
- Men with different colored beards and mustaches
- The way Lola squishes her whiskers together when she yawns
Ten things that irritate me more than they should
- The crud that forms around the rim of ketchup bottles
- Cab drivers who play Sade
- My inability to properly cook rice
- The word custard
- Dictators who wear hats (Note for the voting booth: hats are always a bad sign)
- The color of uncooked chicken
- The sight of broken branches
- People who knock on doors as they simultaneously open the door
- Non-absorbent hand lotion
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!