Your height is forever, give or take an inch or a few as you age.
Love is forever. Sometimes.
And that’s it. That’s all I can come up with on the forever scale.
So why did I grow up so hooked on forever? I assumed that every sentence ended with “forever” or “forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I assumed that meant forever.
But obviously it doesn’t since you can be many things and be them for as lot or as little as you want.
I wanted to be a lawyer. I’m still a lawyer. And I work as a lawyer. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes less than a lot.
But maybe tomorrow I’ll say I’m tired of being a lawyer and I want to be something else.
All I know is that life is a lot easier for me when I add “for now” to my sentences.
I’ll eat Halloween candy for now.
I won’t eat it forever. I probably won’t eat it after Friday or so. But for now, it’s easier to eat Halloween candy than to think about whether or not to eat Halloween candy. It’s easier to just eat it than to figure out my Halloween candy plan, approach, strategy or rules.
It’s just Halloween candy.
I’ll keep my hair this length for now.
Maybe I’ll grow it out soon. Or cut it again. Or whatever. But for now, this is the length it is.
Luckily for me, hair grows pretty fast. Because I change my mind a lot regarding hair length.
I’ll love myself for now.
Because why not.
I’ll do everything I do today for now. Because for now, the things I do today are working.
I’ll eat mostly healthy today. I’ll move my body today. I’ll watch less news today. I’ll laugh more today. I’ll tell a few people I love them today. I’ll keep quiet at times today. I’ll finish my deadlines today. I’ll clean a bit today. I’ll get good sleep today.
And all of it is just for now. Because maybe tomorrow it will make better sense to do things differently.
A few days ago I felt less than good.
I don’t like to say I felt bad because bad is relative and I’m grateful that my personal type of bad isn’t all that bad, relatively speaking.
But, nonetheless, I didn’t feel as good as I prefer to feel.
I felt worried. And anxious. And a little off balance.
Luckily, at that time, I was able to remember that all of those feelings are just for now.
And now, that particular phase of for now is in the past. It’s over. And the scars are barely visible.
My mother used to say “do whatever you want” in two very different ways.
One “do whatever you want” was delivered in that horrible mom voice that we all hate. You know the one. Where you know your mother is right and it really just pains you to admit it to yourself or to her?
Child: “Mom, I’m going out to play in the freezing rain even though I have a cold and my once-in-a-lifetime recital is tonight.”
Mom: “Fine. Do whatever you want.”
You know the voice.
My mother’s other “do whatever you want” was more hopeful, inspiring, encouraging and positive. No matter what I said I might have an interest in, my mother would say “Try it! See if you like it! You can do whatever you want!“
Then my mother would gather a list of every opportunity in our town for pursuing that interest while I moved on to a completely different possible interest.
I am positive there is a special place in Heaven for the moms (and dads) who work harder than their kids to make their kids’ passing dreams come true.
The good news is that I eventually grew into an adult who is very good at trying anything and everything.
The bad news is that I really wanted to try anything and everything but trying things is limited by 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.
Plus, I have no trust fund. I have to work ten jobs to make a living in Washington, DC, recently voted the stupidest place to live since it’s so ridiculously expensive. So trying anything and everything really isn’t a viable option.
A large part of my mental and emotional liberation as an adult has been the realization that there are lots and lots of things I can’t do – because I don’t have the necessary talent or passion – and that there are even more things that I just don’t want to do.
And focusing on what I don’t want to do has made it much easier to focus on what I do want to do.
I don’t want to see new movies in the movie theater. I don’t want a day job that requires lots of interaction with people or attendance at meetings. I don’t want to go out to lunch. I don’t want to be a leader. I don’t want to wear suits.
And that’s just a measly five things I don’t want to do. My actual list of things I don’t want to do stretches into the high billions. There are SO MANY things that I really just don’t want to do.
My older brother and his oldest daughter have caught on to my outlook on life. My brother will ask me with a smirk whether I’d like to go to a rehearsal of a musical production of Equis. And I will tell him that I can’t imagine anything worse, so no thank you. And he’ll feign shock.
That’s our thing.
My niece will tell me that she’s going to tell me what activity she’s doing but only if I swear not to laugh and say “that sounds awful.” Then I’ll tell her that “I can’t swear I won’t say that sounds awful.” And then she’ll tell me what she’s doing anyway and admit that it even sounds kind of awful to her.
Needless to say, many things sound awful to me. Not because I’m negative or closed-minded, but because I’m a human. Not everything turns me on. And that’s okay.
It’s a little harder when I think something popular sounds awful – because lots of people like really popular things. But that’s okay too.
I say no a lot of the time.
But saying no helps me to say yes to the things I really, really want to do. And saying no is necessary for me to do the things I have to do. Like write and draw and paint badly painted paintings. And sleep.
I have to do those things. They are, in the words of a writer I talked to last night, my therapy.
You might not be able to figure out what you want now or for the next few days or months or years. But you already know what you don’t want. Making the list helps you to rule things out. It’s an especially helpful task when it comes to job or lover hunting. Eliminate the jobs and partners you don’t want so you can focus on pursuing the ones you do want.
And finally, the caveat that goes along with every suggestion:
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. BRUTALLY HONEST.
You might assume you’re being honest with yourself because you’re an honest person. And because you’re not a dishonest person.
But are you really being as honest as you need to be? It’s hard to admit that you don’t want to work with people when you’ve been told all your life that you’re a people person.
It’s hard to admit that you want to work with people when you’ve been told all your life that you’re shy.
So forget everything you were told. Because you were told those things by people who don’t have to walk in your shoes.
Eliminate the things you don’t want. It makes more room and more time for things you do want. And need.
Words are really helpful, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Sometimes it helps to add a word or two. And sometimes it helps to take one or two words away.
For instance, the trash will probably get taken out more better if you say “Can you please take out trash” instead of “Canyou please take out the trash sometime in this century?”
And saying “Thank you” is a lot more effective when you leave out the “NOT!” at the end.
And some words are better off being replaced.
For example, compare these two sentences:
“I should put the clothes in the dryer.”
“I will put the clothes in the dryer at the commercial.”
It’s easy to see why the word “should” doesn’t work. “Should” isn’t part of a plan or strategy. It’s really just part of a campaign to make yourself feel like you’re failing.
I shouldn’t use the word failing, now should I?
Heh heh heh. Get it?
I try not to use the word should. I try to stick with saying whether I will or I won’t. It’s more honest. And then I don’t get stuck with negative baggage. It’s really negatory to think through the analysis of “I WOULD if I were just stronger, better, faster and more disciplined.”
That’s not a helpful analysis.
As for adding words, there is no better word to add to your sentences than “now” – or it’s cousin phrase “at this time.”
Consider these sentences:
“I can’t do math.”
“I can’t do math at this time.”
People who say “I can’t do math” are basically admitting that they checked out of math in the third grade and haven’t considered trying it again since then. If you’re that person, trying saying to yourself “I can’t math at this time.”
Now seriously, doesn’t that sound ridiculous?
What in the world could possibly keep you from doing math at this time? You’re an adult. You can figure it out.
It’s not rocket science, unless it’s rocket science math.
But if it’s regular math, like figuring out a tip or doubling a recipe, you can do it!
Let’s try another one:
“I can’t help myself.”
That’s a good one.
“I must eat an entire family size box of chocolates. I cannot help myself.”
Really? At this time? You can’t help yourself at this time?
I doubt that’s true.
I bet you really could help yourself if you wanted to help yourself.
Maybe you just don’t want to help yourself. In which case, say the following:
“I cannot help myself because I do not want to help myself.”
Part Two of “The Problem with Depression” focuses on the fact that the condition of depression makes it really difficult to ‘keep your chin up’ or ‘lighten up’ or otherwise keep your head high. Although it feels good to talk about getting through tough times after the fact, it’s not as easy to be positive about the future – or even the next day – when you’re in the actual throes of the tough time. With depression, it’s pretty much impossible.
So again, that seems pretty obvious, right?
But it’s not so obvious.
Because a lot of folks make it through a REALLY TOUGH TIME only to then find themselves struggling mightily to manage the tiny ups and downs of a normal, routine day. But because they made it through the REALLY TOUGH TIME, those same folks think everything should now be fine. And easier.
But REALLY TOUGH TIMES aren’t always followed by easier, finer times. For some people, the tiny ups and downs of the day don’t feel tiny. Sometimes even tiny things feel big. Sometimes they feel difficult. And sometimes, they feel too big and difficult to manage, even though they are relatively tiny compared to REALLY TOUGH TIMES.
I used to wonder how all of the people in my neighborhood, at school, and at work were managing to do so much and enjoy life when every day was so exhausting. Eventually I realized that not everybody’s day-to-day life is exhausting. Not everybody has to work so hard to get the simple things done. Not everybody has to ponder every detail of the day until thinking about the day overshadows living the day.
Many, many people are able to get dressed, get out, be out and do things without having to think and rethink the who/what/why/when/how. I even know people who show up for every event or activity they say they’ll show up for, regardless of whether they’re energized, tired or recovering from a bad day.
A long time ago, I was jealous of people who lived life more easily than I was capable of living it.
But something changed. I began to view other people’s ability to live easily as a sign that an easier life was possible, regardless of the wiring I was born with in my brain.
So, what does it look like to force oneself to live easier?
Here are five of my learned habits for living easier:
Habits for Living Life Easier:
 Acknowledge the bad days.
By bad day, I don’t mean a day that’s bad. Although it could be a day that’s bad. Something yucky happens at work or at home. Sure, it could be a bad day.
But it could also just be you having a bad day.
If that’s the case, acknowledge it.
 Isolate the badness.
Try to distinguish the bad from the not bad. This is an especially helpful tool for those who are quick to catastrophize.
If a part of your life is giving you grief, remember to acknowledge the parts that are okay and not bothering you. It will help you to keep perspective.
Draw a pie chart and see how big the bad part is compared to the not bad part. Pie is always helpful.
 Get the basics done.
Do your homework. Go to work. Carry out your obligations. Show up for important things.
You don’t have to be winning or charming or the life of any party, but make sure to get the basics done so you don’t have the weighty baggage of being behind when life gets easier.
 Think about illness.
I know, I know. That sounds weird.
But it helps to think about how you handle a cold or a flu. Do you question it? Doubt it? Fight it?
Do you feel bad about yourself for having caught a cold or flu? Do you blame yourself and swear it will NEVER happen again?
Of course not.
If you’re even somewhat normal, you eventually have to concede that the cold or flu is (1) bigger than you, (2) stronger than you; (3) not going away as quickly as you would like, and (4) totally annoyingly disruptive.
Then you realize you have an excuse to lay around and watch junk on television, so you do.
If something yucky has happened or you’re feeling yucky, let it ride. Don’t keep checking to see if it’s gone or over. Don’t promise yourself that it will be over soon.
Accept it. Nurture it a bit.
And be comforted in the knowledge (yes, the knowledge) that yuckiness usually passes within a few days.
FYI: My yuckiness usually takes a solid five days to work itself out. And it helps me to know that. I can plan better when I feel the yuck descending without my permission.
 Stop feeling bad about feeling bad.
It’s lousy enough to feel bad. It’s even more lousy to feel bad about the way you feel.
If you feel bad, you feel bad.
Get some exercise, get some sleep, get some extra sleep and some extra exercise.
Eat some soul-filling food.
Call a friend – or isolate – whichever works for you.
But don’t feel bad about the fact that your wonky mind is being wonky. Then, refer back to (4).
I really should have called this blog “Find the Habit” instead of “Find the Quiet” because every other post is about habits.
But I really do think that almost everything comes down to habit. Yes, the habit may have been the result of something you couldn’t control – be it depression, anxiety, or some other condition. The habit may have had some useful purpose once upon a time – kind of the way summer vacation was originally so that the kids could help with the harvest.