an open let­ter … on mood

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - MEGAN NICOL REED - Do writee. megan­ni­icol­reed@gmail.com

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.

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