Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lethargic? Bummed? Do Something Different

I was in a blue mood for days. I was cranky and tired. I’d never recovered from getting up at 4:00 AM in order to get my relatives to their plane on time, early one weekend morning. It wasn't just that. I was under so much stress—a litany too long to start, much less finish. Then there was the 100-degree weather in the State Capital, and, at the time, California’s energy crisis, the incentive for keeping the air conditioning at minimum to avoid paying maximum electricity bills.

I was in such a funk, I could barely work, and I even admitted it to myself and most of the people around me. I began to discover that two of my other workmates in our row on Dilbert Avenue had also taken a deep physical and emotional dive. I began to wonder if we had sick building syndrome in Sacramento’s newest skyscraper. We had malaise, tummy trouble … a lethargic bunch that didn’t have the energy to give a hoot. (Talk about an energy crisis!)

When I got off the train in my hot, but achingly familiar suburb, I did something different for a change—something other than going straight home. I was almost out of gas, and I knew I’d be pushing it if I didn’t roll over the tracks the half-block to the nearest Quick Stop. While I was at it, I figured I’d roll another few blocks down to the grocery store, knowing I was also on my last grain of dishwasher detergent. And I had let my wallet bleed down to a little loose change. I needed a rendezvous with a money machine. It was too hot to go back out. I figured if I could just stand it for another half-hour, I’d be home free without fear of running out of anything essential—gas, money, or clean dishes. No more icky, sticky heat till the next day.

This simple act of doing something out of routine was my salvation. I really got into grocery shopping. I don’t think of myself as a person who gets into ruts, but I was coming to the realization that I might even be in a ditch.

In the past few years, I have had more than one occasion to rediscover how much I am wed to ritual, and how much any break in my routine leaves me crabby and out of sorts. And I am married to someone just as bad, if not worse …

… and we lived for eleven years with a dog worse than both of us put together. If I missed his walk by five minutes or his tuck-in ceremony by a nose, Bear was all over me, letting me know that his internal alarm clock was blaring. We chuckled all the time about our creature of habit.

The routines and rituals of daily living are a delicious comfort, but too much comfort leads to couch potatoes and prehistoric disease (dragon tail). Depression is another name for a rut, a ditch, a downer. No matter what you call it; you have dug yourself too deeply into the mire of life, going back and forth over the same spot, over and over again.

Give up, get up, and do something different! Do something that goes forward. Do anything but cover the same ground that’s wearing you thin and thickening like quicksand all around you.

How do you think of something different to do, when you can’t even create the spark to jump start your own life? If you can’t think of something different right away—at least do something out of order. Eat dessert first. Sleep with your clothes on. Read the newspaper instead of watching the news, or put yourself on a news diet for the night. (You’ll be amazed to learn that we can live without headlines!) . Skip your usual TV show and listen to the radio—or channel surf and randomly choose a program that’s the same number of clicks as the day of the month you were born.

Juxtaposition … the unexpected … random acts of kindness or disorder … they are rut busters.

When it comes to chasing away the blues—maybe, like I did, on the way to the ATM machine— you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that a little change is all it takes.

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