an open letter … on mood
We do not lose ourselves in a day, nor in a storm. But when day piles upon day, and rain comes down upon rain, then, yes, I have learnt, it is possible to mislay your true nature. Was I really ever capable of joyfulness, I asked myself a fortnight ago. Was I really ever that laughing woman, I thought, looking at a photo taken of me at winter’s outset. Haven’t I always been this sour bitch? Hateful of husband, harsh on children, irritated by everyone. If only I was an anchorite. An anchorite, mind, with Netflix and some kind of sweet pie all to herself. To retreat from the world; the very idea of it! Plans had been made, though, and obligations required meeting. Forced from my cell, I did not go graciously. My name was Misery and I sought likeminded company. I sighed, I carped. Isn’t this just normal, I asked, washing handfuls of salty nuts down with great slugs of wine. No, said a friend. It’s not. And even though I know her to be currently burdened with her own set of challenges, she told me she loves life. That there is so much to be grateful for.
The purported benefits of seeking out pink sunsets and small beauties, of documenting your gratitude, were not news to me, but for some reason a penny dropped. Maybe it was because however valuable ideas may be in theory, they are rendered most meaningful through exchange with others. Mercurial at the best of times, life for me is usually a roller coaster of corkscrewing moods and undulating emotions, for whatever reason, though, I had spent the past six weeks in a continuous state of flatness. But, galvanized by my friend’s gladness, and keen to avoid the anti-depressants I knew the doctor would likely recommend, I decided to undertake an experiment upon myself.
There was a youthful period when I fancied myself an actor. It was the early 90s and I was infatuated with Theatresports; that improvisational comedy, in which teams compete to convincingly execute random, farcical scenarios. Thankfully, however, an awareness that my talents did not equal my enthusiasm eventually prevailed,ld andd when,h in theh early days of our relatiionship, my husband and I sought therapy, I cringed and awkwardly coughed mym way through the counsellor’s fondneess for role play. (“Now I want yoou to imagine you’re him and he’s yoou and you’re lying in bed together ono a rainy Sunday morning. Howw would you want the other perrson to behave toward you?”) But one thing I did take away fromf those excruciating sessions was the popular psychological notion that you only have to “act as if”. That in order to change your feelings, act as if they have changed and before you know it this assumed state of mind begins to feel natural. I would begin the very next day, I decided. I would wake up and I would fake being loving and kind, being happy. I would give the dog a lengthy tummy rub rather than just resenting her muddy paws. I would applaud my son’s bed-making rather than grumbling at the bunched sheets. I would kiss my husband fully on the lips on his way out the door ratherh thanh just yelling,ll “RRecyclinl g!” It was not miraculous. I canno ot, in good conscience report, dear reader, t that overnight I transformed from rancorous harr idan to saintly spreader of goodwill. At first it fe elt downright raudulent. What a dick, I thoug ht, smiling at small hildren squealing on a seesaw w. And, needless to ay, there were no lols from myy side of the bed when I was woken at 5am on ne morning by my husband saying, “Hey Siri,” i into his phone. Still, it’s surprising how quickly it can feel right. ow quickly you find y yourself greeting the trange man in the c cleaning product aisle at the supermar rket with a “Lovely day!” How youy find yourself noticing th e gentle lapping of the high ti ide without noticing you are no oticing it. Of course I’m still feelin ng my way. Still having to rem ind myself that a bad day is not Armageddon.A That nobody g oes right through happy alw ways.
Life for me is usually a ro oller coaster of corkscrewin ng moods and undulating emotions.