In the Mood
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
How are you feeling today? Are you having a good day? Does anything seem possible? Do you have a healthy list of things to look forward to? Can you barely suppress a smile as you pounce on the keyboard or pull out that notebook, secure in the knowledge that the next 24 hours will be full to the brim with joy, love and whimsy.
Good for you! Mazel tov! Congratulations. I could not be happier for you.
But perhaps…just maybe…could there be the slightest possibility…that, right now, you are not a bundle of barely contained joy? Does the thought of writing one more damn word fill you with despair? Does everything feel a little bit harder, colder, nastier today? I get it. We all get it.
Has it ever happened to you, that when you’re in a “good place” all the platitudes in the world ring like shiny pearls of wisdom? Of course you must “try, try again!” It’s absolutely time to “turn that frown upside down!” Every rose has its thorn and every thing will most definitely work out in the end…we all just need to sit back and enjoy the ride.
But when you’re going through a rough patch, words of encouragement can range for mildly annoying to outright infuriating. Maybe I want to keep my frown, maybe I want to give up, maybe I hate this particular ride.
When I was a kid, and my family encountered those moments when life started to get difficult or annoying or frustrating, my would turn to me and say – sometimes with a wink and a smile, sometimes with a grimace – “stop this world, I want to get off!”
But just like that roller coaster you weren’t sure you wanted to ride in the first place but is now barreling towards its first loop-de-loop, it’s too late to disembark now. We’re here for the duration…
So even if you’re just not feeling up to it, I encourage you to take a few moments – ten minutes even – and just write out a couple of sentences. Describe what your feeling or what’s making you mad, or maybe focus on listing what you ate for lunch. It doesn’t really matter what you say, it’s the act of writing it that’ll make all the difference.
“Just as walking aerobicizes the physical body, producing a flow of endorphins and good feelings,” says Julie Cameron in The Right to Write, “writing seems to alter the chemical balance of the soul itself, restoring balance and equilibrium when we are out of sorts, bringing clarity, a sense of right action, a feeling of purpose to a rudderless day.”
Throughout my life, my writing has saved me. It’s saved me from the boredom of a three-hour Contracts class. It’s rescued me from awkward conversations. It’s been my companion when times are tough and my record keeper when everything’s going so great I’m not sure I’ll be able to contain all the happy memories without jotting some down. I’ve written myself out of bad situations, written myself into better jobs, and even once wrote myself halfway around the world.
“The deepest secret in our heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world,” says Natalie Goldberg. But just because we love the world, doesn’t always mean we have to like – especially during times of great stress or sadness. If your struggling right now, I’m so sorry and I urge you again to take a moment to check in with yourself on paper.
If you don’t know where to begin, then might I suggest a writing exercise from The Right to Write – get a piece of paper and number 1-50, then jot down anything and everything that’s ever made you happy. If 50 is too daunting, start with ten, or five. Shit – even one thing that makes you happy will get the ball rolling.
“Writing our list of fifty happinesses causes us to see how simple some forms of joy are,” says Cameron, “how we can make ourselves happy in simple ways – read the Neruda poems, eat ice cream, take time to check out sunsets.”
There was a time in my life when I was forced to commute about 30 miles a day to a job I mostly detested. The drive itself veered from mundane to hellish – uncoordinated stoplights, distracted drivers, roadwork and a ridiculously slow speeding limit (under 40 mph) – and every morning I sighed when I turned on the car ignition and backed out of the driveway, knowing exactly how the next 45 minutes of my life were going to play out.
But every day I passed a green field of alfalfa that housed a small flock of fluffy white sheep. This little oasis amidst the concrete and blacktop was flanked by tall eucalyptus trees, leaves in constant motion. And there would be the sheep, munching away on their bounty, oblivious to the cars trundling by. It never failed to make me smile.
So here’s my truncated list of things that make me happy – see if you agree and then go write your own…
- A sleeping tuxedo cat in a patch of sun.
- Peach sorbet and fig gelato sharing one cup of coolness.
- The sudden whiff of ocean breeze that drifts up from the beach on a sunny afternoon.
- The tight, unrestrained and completely authentic hugs that children dispense with abandon.
- Sharing a joke with a good friend.
- Always, and everywhere, a really great glass of wine.
- Watching a dog greet his owner.
- Looking forward to next episode of your favorite TV show.
- Falling in love with a new song and playing it on repeat.
- Cracking open the spine of a new book you’ve been dying to read.
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