I engaged in an exercise at the end of every day in 2018 during my emotional slump. Each night after I went to bed, I counted all of the good and remarkable things I’d experienced in my life. I could usually list at least twenty-five. Counting all these experiences helped me believe there were more good things in my future. Now with my slump resolved, I’m glad I sought out creative tools to get me through a tough time.
I often have trouble hearing when I call help lines to obtain assistance with technical issues. I believe many call centers use cheap headsets and don’t adequately train their employees. Sometimes I must ask the help desk employee to speak slowly and clearly at least half a dozen times before we can communicate effectively. This is a frustrating process, and by the time I receive help, I’m often testy. I occasionally fear I’ve been the customer service representative’s worst call of the day. I often have to apologize for my behavior as the call ends.
I try to balance this deficit by remembering to thank any customer service representative with whom this issue does not occur. I go out of my way to be generous with my praise in the hopes of creating some balance for my bad behavior during other calls. We aren’t capable of being our best selves all the time, but I like to compensate by
In the spring of 2018, I went through a slump. I wasn’t depressed, but I felt demoralized and defeated for about a month. I decided to complete at least one kind act a day to help boost my morale. I hoped that reflecting each night on my day would give me something to remind me of my best self.
I try to be kind in general, but this purposeful exercise highlighted that desire. I don’t think one thing pulled me out of my slump. Moving out of it was a multifactorial process. But I believe all my combined, small efforts had the desired effect, and about a month later, I was more myself again.
Recently I’ve been flashed a peace sign several times at stop signs after I’ve waved another car to go ahead of me. I’ve always appreciated a thank-you wave, but the peace signs feel especially sweet to me. They remind me of my early childhood in the 1960s and the anti-war movement that the sign represented then. I also associate the peace sign with the best of hippie culture, which was all around me in New York City where I spent the first half of my childhood.
Occasionally someone waves at me to precede them at a stop sign. I’ve flashed the peace sign at them, letting them know of my appreciation and adding a little nostalgic sweetness to my day.
In my early fifties, I began to associate the Fourth of July with ice cream. I’m not sure how this connection was made, but I don’t feel as if I’ve celebrated the holiday if I don’t go out for ice cream. For the last couple of years, I’ve taken friends to an ice cream parlor that custom makes ice cream from scratch while customers wait. As I explained to my friends, the ice cream makes me feel “Fourthy.” More than on any other holiday, I dislike being single on the Fourth of July. Going out for ice cream with my friends alleviates those negative emotions, and I’m pleased that I can enjoy the holiday again.
I’ve had the same employer for almost eleven years, and I like my job. But occasionally I hit a rough patch and need to work through it. I had one recently and wasn’t looking forward to returning to work after a week off. I felt disempowered, but I hoped I’d be able to work through the problem. On my first day back, as I walked from my car towards my office building, I imagined myself with a golden, vibrating force field protecting me. I felt silly doing this, but it was the only thing I could think of to bolster my spirits. It gave me a small feeling of power. Imagining myself as social worker/super hero didn’t solve my issue, but it made me feel proactive instead of helpless. Sometimes we have to stretch to find solutions to our problems, and even then, the solutions aren’t perfect. But they are better than remaining stuck in negativity.
In 1984 when I was twenty-four, I attended a Smokey Robinson concert with my big brother Charles, his fiancée, and a few of his friends. One of the friends lit a cigarette during the concert, and I asked if I could bum one. (In 1984 people were allowed to smoke in concert halls.) In college I’d decided to allow myself one cigarette per calendar quarter, and I’d never gone over my limit.
Seeing me with the cigarette, Charles asked me to step into the aisle. He ordered me to move near the concert hall door and stopped me before we reached it. Standing in the theater’s aisle, he proceeded to read me the riot act. He cited the early deaths by cancer of two of our grandparents, both of whom smoked, and in extremely harsh terms urged me to never smoke again. I was completely taken aback by his aggressive brotherly love. Thinking about it now, I’m moved to tears. I’ve never taken a single puff on a cigarette since that night. I owe my total abstinence from cigarettes and the potential health hazards I avoided to my brother. For over three decades now, I’ve been grateful for his tough love that night.
While visiting my stepmother recently, we went to the drugstore to buy her toilet paper. Suzy had a particular brand she liked, while I prefer a different one. Standing in front of the paper goods we discussed our preferences. I laughed and observed, We know we’re getting older when both of us care this much about toilet paper. My wonderful stepmother did not disagree.
I’m a minimalist. Sometimes people come into my home and ask, Where’s all your stuff? I don’t like to keep things that don’t have personal value or that aren’t used regularly. For a while, I owned two large, deep frying pans. I don’t cook often, so I gave one of the pans to a thrift store.
I found myself avoiding using the remaining pan because it was so unwieldy, and cleaning it was challenging. At times I avoided something as simple as scrambling eggs because I didn’t want to clean the huge pan. My solution was to go to a discount store and buy a small pan for the eggs. Sometimes I think, to use an old phrase, that I have rocks in my head. I’d let my desire to pare down possessions complicate my life in a way that was unnecessary. Finding a compromise between my desire for fewer possessions and my need for accessible cooking tools was simple once I thought about it.
The answers to our challenges are often easy to grasp if we’re willing to flexible