In short: some days are better than others. But, what consistently makes the biggest difference in my peace of mind has to do with where I’m putting my focus.
When I focus on election day or the next four years or the week the last glacier melts into the sea or whether the polar bears will die out — you get the idea — my Weltschmerz grows.
Anticipating trouble, fretting about what might be, or could be, or should be, and even what probably will be, feeds my Weltschmerz like a steaming bowl of hot porridge on a cold morning.
Instead, I work to focus on what is right in front of me, what needs to be done next, or simply what is, now.
Of the many to choose from, here are my favorites. Do any sound familiar?
I try to exercise everyday — try, being the operative word here for we writers are a sedentary lot. When I exercise — which these days means getting in my 7,500 steps by snowshoeing around the property or going into town and walking the sidewalks, or simply going up and down my stairs any number of times — I get a physical lift in my body. (Along with the newly created aches and pains, of course.)
Movies (Netflix in our case, due to Woody’s hearing loss, which keeps us out of commercial movie theaters) help. As does reading good books.
I’m reading novels again, fiction, and I’m enjoying the simple escapism. I also like the fact that the good ones will teach me something about this world we live in. Historical fiction, it appears, is my new favorite genre.
I recently finished Hilda and Pearl by Alice Mattison, set in 1950s Brooklyn with the McCarthy era in the background. And I’ve just begun a reread of Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, set in South Africa. This was my favorite book in high school, for it taught me the power of inequality and injustice, a message that never left me. Probably not the best choice in coping with my Weltschmerz.
Maybe I should try some humorous books and watch Netflix comedies. Do you have any recommendations for me?
I take pleasure in eating well. It’s a gift I can give myself and those I love … even if Woody does most of the cooking. The colors and flavors of the food, the textures and tastes, all are important to savor.
My job is the clean up and there I can focus on the pots and stacking the dishwasher and washing by hand the pieces that need that.
I find the more I can be totally invested in what I am doing in that moment, the more content I feel about that moment. No more multi-tasking for me.
I recognize that this eating to stave off depression can be a slippery slope. But, in thinking about how I’m coping, I’m aware that fully enjoying the food I eat, acknowledging it as nourishing my body, is helpful. Even paying attention to my chewing. Someone once told me that every bite deserves 32 chews. Imagine. It’s a challenge I set for myself now and then and, honestly, I have NEVER made it all the way to 32. Have you ever tried to chew a bite 32 times before swallowing?
By the way, my favorite comfort foods involve cheese, oregano, and eggplant. Maybe not all at once, but add any of these into whatever you’re cooking, add a little heat and I’m hooked. What are your favorite comfort foods?
What do you do for fun? Some dance, some go out to parties and congregate with friends, some go to comedy clubs and laugh. Some hike in nature. The point is, that when you’re having fun, you are in the here and now.
Hiking is fun for me (and I can get in my steps), and there is mounting evidence of the many health benefits derived from being in the outdoors. I love the stillness that hiking in nature provides. But there is one more place to focus that helps the most:
Music Helps Me Most of All
For me, what is consistently soul enriching as well as deeply enjoyable is to listen to music and to sing music with others of like mind.
The music I love to listen to is usually familiar music, tunes I can tap my feet to and, especially when I’m in my car, sing along with.
There are neurological changes that occur when we listen to music, which would make a great post in itself (and will some day). For now, it is enough for me to know I feel good when I listen to music that speaks to me.
Here is a song from my playlist that came up the other night as I was first writing this and seemed well-suited to this post. This is Jackson Browne singing Steven Van Zandt’s I Am A Patriot, first released in 1989.
The lyrics are in the drop-down box below.
I was walking with my brother and he wondered what’s on my mind I said, What I believe in my soul ain’t what I see with my eyes And we can’t turn our back this time
I am a patriot and I love my country Because my country is what I know I want to be with my family the people who understand me I’ve got nowhere else to go
And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous
And I was talking with my sister she looked so fine I said, Baby, what’s on your mind She said, I want to run like the lion released from the cages Released from the rages burning in my heart tonight, yeah
And I ain’t no Communist but I ain’t no Capitalist And I ain’t no Socialist but I ain’t no Imperialist And I ain’t no Democrat and I ain’t no Republican I only know one party and it is freedom
I am, I am, I am I am a patriot and I love my country Because my county is all I know Want to be with my family the people who understand me I’ve got nowhere else to go
And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous And the river opens for the righteous
Songwriters: Steven Van Zandt I Am a Patriot lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management
I hope you spent time with this song. How did it grab you? Did it leave you feeling uplifted? Hopeful? Could you relate to it or did you hate it? I have, at one time or another, experienced all of these reactions to this song.
A Few Final Thoughts
Finally, I’m heeding some lessons from my LEAPFROG book and trying to smile more, to make eye contact and connect with strangers who cross my path (Chapter 2). It’s quick, it’s free, and it doesn’t leave me feeling achy and stiff.
Most days I don’t start out wanting to smile at strangers. Heck, most days I don’t even remember to want to. But when I do remember, people return the smile. And I feel a jolt that says to me, “Good. People are good. Life is good. We’ll be OK.”
And, there is always the gratitude list (Chapter 8). Again, just the act of searching for things to be grateful for can improve your mood. But I’m lucky; I don’t generally have to look far to find things for which I’m grateful. That helps enormously.
How about you? How are you faring? What are you focused on these days?
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