A Little Pick-Me-Up

Roses Costes

What do you do when you’re feeling low? I’m asking for a friend, we’ll call her Merin. Merin has been feeling particularly down recently, really worn out and stifled creatively, ground down from the tedium of her day job, directionless and all around in a funk. Merin has tried all sorts of remedies which previously worked so well: visiting museums, buying fresh flowers, burying herself in books as a distraction, wandering Paris in Google Earth, chopping off all her hair, eating a 9×13 sheet pan of cake by herself, making lists of the most simple tasks so she can feel, just for a second, a satisfying sense of accomplishment. She would normally sit down and write it out, as writing has been Merin’s chief form of therapy since she was a kid, but thanks in large part to the brain-atrophying futility of her daily work, she can’t summon the creative power needed to do something that once came so easily, so joyfully to her. Words don’t come, everything she’s written to this point seems banal, awful, embarrassing, she should just delete all 185 pages. Merin is worried, truly concerned, because she can feel herself turning bitter, hears herself making snappy remarks to her doting, kind husband (we’ll call him Kamal), for things completely unrelated to him, things that are not his fault, nor really within his power to fix. Kamal only wants Merin to be happy, after all. Kamal is kind of a saint and also a major babe and Merin is really, really sorry she has been hounding him about the goddamn dripping kitchen sink, because who cares about the kitchen sink, it’s a sink, it drips, it isn’t Kamal’s fault and it isn’t even about the sink, honestly, it’s about Merin being the grumpiest of grumpy cats and she’s really, truly sorry, Kamal. She’s trying.

So my Merin’s question to you, kiddos, is this: what do you do when you need a not-so-little pick-me-up? What works for you? Short of jetting off to Paris to ameliorate this situation (which is happening in oh, 40 days anyway), do you have any advice?

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April 7, 2015 / art / photo / life / dog / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 47

47 comments

  • I usually read through old diaries, or look through old blog posts. There I find another perspective I had, and I’m usually glad about how things have changed, how happy I was then and how happy I am now, and get new strength to continue on developing to have new things to reread about myself in the future.

    Oh. And Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

    • That’s such a wonderful, insightful suggestion, Emelie. I truly hadn’t thought of it –this blog, this funk– that way, but of course you’re right. That’s why we’re documenting by blogging, right? To “reread about myself in the future.” That’s so profound and yet so simple! Thank you so much. xo

      And ice cream/gelato is always on stand-by :)

  • this may sound like the most counter-intuitive advice ever, but I’d say do nothing. forget all the things you’ve been over the years let to believe will help. lists. flowers. cakes. every attempt to fix THIS will just make THIS bigger and badder and let it grow totally out of control. life is like that. there are ups and downs. and sometimes the downs are long and unpleasant and it feels like something is out to get you and like you don’t deserve any of this. talk to your parents or grandparents. they just went on with their life and got out and over the shitty periods in their life. if there is nothing you can identify that you can or, more importantly, are willing to actually change [get a divorce, quit your job, move, etc] then just get on with life. write, even if it’s shit. read, even if you don’t enjoy it as much as usually. go to museums, even if they bore you at the moment. it’ll all come back. in the meantime, if you want, you can try to figure out what’s in there to learn. because I do believe there is a lesson in everything we do or that happens to us. a lot of people are in a funk at the moment, or so it seems. I’m most definitely in a huge funk. and I don’t even need Google Earth to wander the streets of Paris, I just need to leave the house. and guess what, it bores the living daylights out of me. but instead of doing stuff, meditating on my head, or learning to juggle macaroons, I just try to get on with it. for whatever reason, this is where I am right now and this is how I feel. every time in the past when I tried lists or treating myself to stuff or did a few trips to get out of that head space, I eventually walked right back into it. we are not meant to be or capable of constant happiness, no matter what clever marketers try telling us. all of this is cyclical. and without the occasional funk, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good times.

    sorry for the preaching :) xoxoxo

    • It does sound counter-intuitive, because we’re never told to just “wait it out.” I know it’s different in Europe, but there is an entire industry here that has basically made it unacceptable to ever be sad without shoving pills at us. It was refreshing when I lived in Paris to not be bombarded with commercials for anti-depressants or all sorts of medications. But just because it’s counter-intuitive doesn’t mean you aren’t on to something; I absolutely think you are. It’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with a low this low, so it might just be that I’ve forgotten that there is no immediate magic to flattening out life’s ups and downs. I have to just let it ride. Thank you for that perspective, P. There’s something to learn down here, and I need to be open to it, if only to better appreciate it once I come back up. (I should mention that getting a divorce would make things about 1000000% worse, though, haha. The other suggestions don’t sound half bad, though!) Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, doll. xo

      • it’s pretty much the same over here too. just not as extreme. we are also led to believe that we have to do = consume something at all times to not feel whatever it is we’re feeling. and even when it’s good, we are told it could be better. all this aspirational lifestyle stuff [of which many bloggers are a part of] – I’m so bored with it. we are growing into a society that can’t handle negative emotions, failure or disappointment. everything is beautified and stylized and photoshopped to perfection. I think we all need a dose of reality… xo

        • We really have formed this society (I’m just as culpable; I’m aware I’m doing it when I post anything on here or on Instagram, and while I’m able to recognize it, it doesn’t stop me from perpetuating it) that has to have everything look perfect. And don’t even get me started on the culture of avoiding failure or disappointment. Kids can’t even be told “no” anymore for fear it will forever damage their psyche. xo

  • Yoga, and mindfulness. But mainly yoga.

    • Thank you, Nina. I’ve been saying for years that I want to give yoga another try; my experiences, six and 10 years ago at least, were less than the stellar, life-changing, relaxing experiences everyone else seems to have with it. But I’m open to trying again! Especially now. :\ xo

  • I always find that exercise and fresh air, whether it be a good long walk or going for a run, helps lift my spirits and allows me to set my gaze on something bigger, making it just enough easier to see the whole picture. Hope you find something that works!

    • Thank you, sweet thing. My therapist stressed exercise above all else many years ago, at one of the lowest points of my life, and I don’t know why I haven’t been giving that a try this time around. I don’t know if winter had anything to do with it, but now that the weather is changing and I can stand to be outside without freezing, I plan on going for a loooong walk this weekend. Thank you so much. xoxo

  • i’m at a loss. this whole topic hits too close to home for me to offer any real advice. empathy and support instead, maybe? i want to say the same as petra: step away from everything. abandon those “tried and true”. do anything BUT the things you think you *should*.

    what helps me (and what i constantly try to remind myself) is to block out the periphery, narrow your range of view. it hits me most clearly just being with august. everything is new and fascinating for him. the world is constantly revealing secrets. after 33 years i’ve started tuning them out… UNTIL i squat down next to him (for example) and we observe a bug crawling on the sidewalk and we describe exactly what its doing and why its doing it and how amazing it is because all that was doing on beneath our feet before we noticed and then i’m like, AHA! it doesn’t even have to inspire words or pictures, it just wakes me up again.

    i suspect in another short 40 days at the very least you will get those AHA moment over and over, but hopefully spring or philly or kamal (ahem!) will offer more than a few until then. xo

    • I’ll take anything you’re willing to offer, Lucinda, you don’t know how much it means. It helps knowing someone else has been there, too. I know we’ve all been there, but I think with the nature of blogs it isn’t as widely discussed as the “good times,” you know? It’s incredible, the love you have for August, and how much you’re learning from him in return. Not that I’m saying I need to bring a baby into the world just yet, but there’s definitely something to your suggestion of narrowing my focus and blocking out the periphery. Kids are great exercises in that, aren’t they? I’m going to give it a shot (not the baby thing!) and see how it works. It might be the simple thing to make this low period a little easier to bear. Thank you for being you. xoxo

  • i have to agree with petra on this one too. sit with it, get cozy with it, feel it, accept it and, then, maybe the answer will come to what the root of the issue is. maybe it is your job? maybe feeling in limbo? maybe you need a change? maybe you just need to wade through these feelings for a bit and let them run their course? i hate feeling ‘bad’ but as i recently went through this over the fall i realized trying to fight it off was seeming to prolong it. once i embraced it, honestly, after a week or two it started to fall away and i it became really clear there were a few changes in life i needed to make (i am still working on those things by the way, but they now feel like things to work on and not a weight pulling me down). i firmly believe we can’t be, scratch that, don’t need to be ‘happy’ all the time and sometimes not being happy is healthy too. it allows us that time to be introspective, make change, explore our emotions and experiences. but if i had any advice i’d say keep talking it out. xoxo

    • Thank you, darling. I love the idea of “getting cozy with it” because it’s something I never even really considered before hearing it from you guys. We’re rarely told to accept it, you know? We’re so quick to want to correct it and offered a thousand options to do so. But like Petra said, it can’t all be happy all the time. I know I haven’t been, but maybe it’s been a longer stretch of time between the peaks than I realized? I don’t know. I’m happy to hear you were able to push through your own low point a few months ago and come out with fixable things to address, and that they aren’t dragging you down anymore. I think the best thing I’m going to take from this really will be some prolonged, intense introspection, trying to find the ‘root’ of it. Thank you, twinsy. xoxo

  • Ugh, I’m totally where you are (except for the sheet cake – god now I want some cake). At times like this, sometimes you just need the creative energy and juices of your people. You know, your kindred spirits who can talk through everything (in circles and circles if you must) with you. Who can help make your ideas and thoughts better and give you different ways of looking at things. I’m here, you know, if you ever want to chat about things / ideas / burblings

    • Girl, bake yourself a cake. The hardest part about it is waiting for it to come out of the oven and cool long enough to frost; that sort of patience ain’t in my wheelhouse. The payoff is cake, too, so it’s a win-win. But it can’t solve everything, believe it or not. I love your suggestions to talk it out. I think I need to do just that. Thank you so much for the offer, doll. xo

  • Exercise! Try to physically and mentally take care of yourself, and then just be patient; it’s just a phase. For what it’s worth, I know that’s practically impossible. I’m frustrated with my life–and my reaction to it–myself right now, and it’s so hard not to think about how to fix it. And, like Rooth said, lean on your friends. But mostly, focus on taking care of yourself, and try to be patient. And know that we love you!

    • I love you (all you guys!) too! I am so, so appreciative of your kindness and all your helpful advice, too, Samantha. This winter made it tough to walk around outside too much, but I know that long walks are good for me and it’s one of the only forms of exercise I can bring myself to do without hating. I’m sorry you’re having your own frustrations, too! We can vent to each other if you want. :) xo

  • I make a list of all the things I am grateful for.

    • Thank you, Tina. I need to do that regularly, separate from how I’m feeling now! xo

  • Time 3 since the system keeps saying there is an error….
    Merin may want to call Smohn to fix the leaking sink. Kamal is a candidate for sainthood. Now that Merin has become aware that a 9-5 job depletes her soul, she may want to consider following in her father’s, coincidentally also a Smohn, footsteps. Merin could divide the week to fulfill her creative need with the reality of real world demands.

    • Thanks, moo! I think you’re right, that dividing my week into a more fair balance is the only thing that’s going to stop me from feeling like I’m so creatively stunted. I know Daddy had that as an option for a while, and I wish he could’ve had it for longer. I think he’d want me to do what I could to make it a reality for myself, too, don’t you? Also “Smohn” took me forever to figure out, by the way. I told you my brain doesn’t work at the same speed these days. xoxo

      • On the third attempt to post, I forgot to add the disclaimer at the end of Law and Order, Smohn’s favorite show, “The preceding story was fictional. No actual person or event was depicted.”
        I do, indeed, think he would want you to do whatever would make you happy and fulfilled.
        Let’s not compare the brain of a 28 year old with her mother’s who happened to be the oldest mother in the PTA. OK?

  • I always find escaping into the outdoors has helped me…like going hiking or camping. There’s something about the silence of nature that just clears the mind! :)

    • Thank you, Valerie. As much as I love urban living (it’s all I’ve ever known), there is a distinct lack of surrounding nature to get lost in. It also doesn’t help that as a city mouse, I’ve grown wary of anything lurking under rocks and branches, all those creepy-crawlies. It would definitely be a distraction, though! :) xo

  • If Merin’s job is the problem, she should leave it and either pursue her creative passions fulltime, or find another job that is less soul destructive.
    I work in the business of people who are in bad places in their lives. It’s true, what Petra said. Radical acceptance teaches us that we need to embrace it, open the door, let it in, realise the feeling can’t hurt us unless we let it. Then open the door and let it go when it’s ready. Don’t push it out. It’s part of life.

    P.s. That’s not to discredit any of the strategies Merin has been using to help get through her days :)

    • Thank you, Lauren. You’re so kind to share all of that, and the radical acceptance mindset is one I need to embrace. “Realize the feeling can’t hurt us unless we let it.” That’s so staggeringly simple and beautiful, and yet so hard in practice. I need to get better at that. Or, Merin does. Merin knows that she should fulfill her creative passions at least part-time, but it’s such a scary transition to make and despite all the mounting evidence that it will be the most healthy choice for her, she’s still wavering. Oy. xoxo

      • You’re right – it is hard in practice, and takes many confused and painful cycles for us to learn it. It definitely isn’t something that comes naturally!

        But we learn better with each cycle and soon it won’t seem so bad. One of my favourite quotes says, ‘everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.’

        And now I’ll throw one of my work analogies at you: If you can feel yourself sinking or drifting away, put your feet on the ground, take a breath, focus on the shore and head in that direction.

        X

        • That is so poignant. I have heard that quote before, but I’m unfortunately one of those people whose anxiety spirals so wildly out of control with the slightest provocation, so instead of being able to rationally understand that it will be okay in the end, my brain bleats at me, “It’s not okay, it will never be okay, this is how it will be forever.” I’ve actually just started some self-hypnosis recordings to try and alleviate some of that. Anxiety has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. But I love the analogy to drifting, being lost-at-sea. I just need to ground myself and focus on the shore. Thank you so, so much, Lauren. xoxo

  • I’ve been feeling the funk too. The exhaustion of every day. Trying to find the balance. I can’t offer any sage advice (and it seems like you have plenty of awesome advice here already!) other than to wait it out. Play it out. See where it takes you. Just like anything in life, it’s a journey – some of the roads are clear and the sun is shining up above, other roads are tree-ridden and the sun can’t creep through… but there’s always a little brightness past the brambles, and there’s always a new perspective to be had.

    • There’s something so poetic about the visual you conjured up, Marine, with the dark forest and the sunlit roads. Thank you so much. Have you read “The Phantom Tollbooth”? There’s a chapter where Milo enters ‘the doldrums’, represented by an actual space of land where a literal fog settles in and the laziness overtakes him and makes his brain slow down. Life imitating art, imitating life, and all that. He eventually drives out of it, and I have to remember that I will do. So will you! I’m sorry you’re having balance troubles, too. Let’s go on this journey together. xoxo

  • I’m sorry you’ve been feeling this way. I’ve had quite a few lows lately too. Honestly, the thing that helps me the most when I’m feeling down is talk. Talk, talk, talk. Talking about the hows and whys and having someone on the other side who understands where you’re coming from and won’t blame you if you’re angry, tired, sad or grumpy. So, yes, talking is the first thing I do when I feel bad, even if sometimes it’s the one thing I would like to avoid. That, and chocolate.

    I hope you will feel better soon, Erin. I wish you all the best and I’m sending you a big transatlantic hug.

    • Thank you, Charlotte, and I’m so sorry you’ve been going through some lows, too. It must be cyclical, as so many of us seem to be struggling with the same lassitude and frustration. I think talking it out, removing its power by dissecting it from every angle, might be a really good idea. And, of course, there’s always chocolate ;)

      Thank you endlessly, mon choux. Big hugs right back to you across the pond!! xoxo

  • You have a way with words, lady, because you somehow managed to make a distressing situation enjoyable to read about.

    I agree with others that it’s probably just a matter of time before things will come back up again. There are highs and lows in life and without occasional lows, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the highs as much. You had a lot of happy and exciting major life changes happen one after the other so I can only imagine how jolting the low must be.

    The examples you use are pretty spaced out in time, which indicates that if this low hasn’t been around for a while, then at least a nagging sense of dissatisfaction has been lingering in the background for a little too long. If that’s the case, I’m sorry, and I know exactly how you feel.

    Maybe you can try to turn the low into a learning opportunity. See it as a chance to reevaluate where you are in your life, whether you’re happy with what you’re doing, whether you’re happy with the outlook you have in your daily life. And having a measure of growth can be really helpful, which is where reading old journal entries or books you’ve read before or watching movies you loved can help remind you of how you felt when you wrote the entry or read the book or watched the movie.

    But then again, sometimes just acknowledge that you feel stuck gives you enough momentum to put the low behind you. I hope that that’s the case this time. We are all rooting for you!

    • P.S. I came across this recently and it made me think of you: http://www.writersstore.com/dont-break-the-chain-jerry-seinfeld/

      It’s another way in which one can try to achieve a goal by focusing on the process and celebrating the small victories rather than focusing on the goal itself and feeling like a failure for every day it is not achieved.

      I printed out a free calendar template for the month and starting crossing off the days but it only worked for the first two days. So my chain is broken. But I’m not going to beat myself up over it and I’m going to make my own pattern on my calendar. :)

      • Ohhh, yes, that is incredible. Thank you for thinking of me! Printing that out right this second and hanging it up. Small victories that are easy to visualize and therefore easy to remain accountable to? Count me in! You always find the best stuff. I have faith that you will find a pattern/habit that works for you with that chain, too. Definitely don’t beat yourself up! xoxo

    • Oh, you. Thank you so much, S. I think, after writing about this and reading everyone’s thoughtful and kind comments, that I’d somehow forgotten what being low felt like. You’re so right, there was a string of non-stop ups last year (Paris! wedding! honeymoon! holidays!) that the comedown feels a lot more pronounced this time around. “Jolting” is a great way to put it. Anxiety and depression have long been ghosts of mine, but this go around just feels lower. I know it’s not, though, on some level. And yes, the choice to evaluate everything in my life right now has been presented to me, and I’m going to take it. Cake can’t cure a deeper sense of dissatisfaction (no matter how much I eat, and I really ought to stop eating so much…), but reassessing where I stand and what changes I can make to better my mental/emotional/creative health is actually a really lovely side effect of this whole thing. I love your suggestion to read old journal entries or books to recapture a past mindset. How brilliant is that? Goodness, am I lucky to have you.

      Thank you so, so deeply. I’m so grateful for your thoughtfulness and insights! xoxo

  • Ugh I am sorry Erin. :( I know exactly how you feel and go through different waves of feeling uncreative or just pure unhappiness when things do not go my way. For me- am I getting enough sleep. Second since I can’t read that much with kiddos- I have been listening to creative entrepreneurs podcasts. A lot of them talk about the inner critic and sort of helping me getting back on track toward my business goals.

    • Thank you, sweet thing. I’ve always been so impressed with your dedication and ability to keep creating no matter what, especially this year as you’ve painted every day. I guess I assumed you had it all figured out and didn’t have any of these sort of struggles ;) But I love your advice, and I think those podcasts could be super helpful to me, hearing other creative share their struggles and know I’m not alone, you know? Thank you for always being so supportive! xo

  • chocolat, fleurs et parfois un bon vieux film !

    • J’ai achete beaucoup beaucoup de fleurs! Et regarde “Midnight in Paris” un fois ou deux ;) xo

  • Appart le commentaire d’avant ! Je souhaite à Merin de penser surtout en positive, de voir la chance qu’elle a d’avoir du talent et le génie de commencer à écrire un bouquin ! Tout le monde ne peux pas écrire un bouquin, c’est pour ça que je encourage Merin d’être très courageuse et de ne pas se laisser aller par les idées négatives ! J’en suis sure que ta copine arrivera un jour à finir son livre. Pour être positive, ta copine aura besoin d’un boîte des macarons Ladurée ! xoxo

    • Oh, merci mon choux!! Tu es trop gentille, vraiment. Je ne sais pas que j’ai “du talent et le génie de commencer à écrire un bouquin,” mais je vais prendre tes mots, parce qu’ils sont tres encourageant, comme d’hab. Merci pour tous, Eva! xoxo

  • Just some silly things but: sit in Rittehouse Square on a bright sunny day ( redundant ) , weekends being best and people watch, oh, dog watch too.
    Listen to albums of Cole Porter and George Gershwin and if really down listen to Porter’s “But not for me.”
    Go and see if you can get a tickets to the two companies closing out their seasons with Wm. Shakespeare . That being the Taming of the Shrew and my personal favorite. ( after Hamlet ), A Mid Summer Nights’s Dream.

    • Not silly at all, Ted! Rittenhouse! Our own little slice of Paris, just a stone’s throw from my house. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that (probably because until the past week or so, it hasn’t been remotely warm enough to enjoy it!). I think you’ve just given me my Sunday plans for this week. :)
      I’ve seen posters around for “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” (my personal favorite!) and they are just so dreamy. I haven’t seen a stage production of Shakespeare in far too long. Might have to change that. xoxo

  • i’m so sorry i missed this post when you needed comments the most (i’ve only now catching up on blogs and i know how re-assuring comments can be, like little virtual hugs).

    i too have a day job, and an at-home job on the side, and i at times feel stifled. i take to waking up early just to have an hour to myself and my coffee, and no one else is invited except my dog bc well, you know how much comfort those creatures can bring. sometimes in that hour i will read a book, a magazine, watch a netflix show that steven doesn’t watch, or i might even watch youtube. these last few mornings i’ve watched paris vlogs on youtube. it’s been five years for me since i’ve visited and i miss it more than you can know. (actually, you might know, my fellow francophile). anyway, i know that starting my day with one hour just to me, helps me get to the weekend. and the weekend is where i flourish the most. a mini vacation every week, even if it’s only spent at home.

    • Oh, my darling girl, don’t apologize! You have nothing to be sorry about, truly. I am still reassured and squeezed by your sweet words, don’t fret. I’m sorry you’re feeling stifled these days, but you’re already doing everything for yourself that I would’ve been able to recommend: time alone, quietly, with things that bring you joy. Paris vlogs! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Can I steal your ideas? I think they might help with what I’m going through, too. And I love your refreshingly positive take on weekends. Mini vacations! So simple. Usually, my weekends are a flurry of activity and house cleaning. I need to reprioritize during the week so I can really savor them the way you say. xoxo