A few months ago, a friend and I were talking about life and she shared her journey with depression. The past several years have sent many losses her way and she was finding herself sinking deeper into depression. Being the inspired, creative person she is, she created a mood chart and began to monitor her moods with the idea of seeing what she could do to raise her spirits.
She created a 1 to 10 chart, with 1 being suicidal and 10 being euphoric. She explained how monitoring the chart had helped her recognize several actions that could raise her mood at least twenty percent, but that she was still seldom able to rise above a 7 until a doctor helped her find a prescription that made it easier for her to function at a higher level.
The "privilege" of disposition
I was shocked by her story. She is one of the most positive, upbeat, creative women I’ve met recently and I had no sense of her struggle. It made me realize one form of privilege we seldom recognize could be labeled “positivity.” I have no doubt my optimistic, positive disposition is as much genetic as it is learned, perhaps more so. My husband, who dealt with depression his entire life, once told me on a good day, he was normally a 7. For me, 7 is a so-so day.
Since everyone has ups and downs, I decided I wanted to monitor my moods and needed to create a chart that more closely matched my fluctuations. While my lows would never be deemed suicidal, I have noticed more “blah” days in the past few years. Moving into this third stage of life where the normal expectations of careers, success, responsibilities, and so on, have been altered if not altogether suspended, it seems critical to re-calibrate our lives. I want to make sure I know what tools I have for operating at a maximal level of joy and appreciation.
The upper end of my scale represented "perfection" ... magnetic, ecstatic, powerful. In other words: hubris, tempting the gods, too good to be true, unattainable.
NOTE: If you decide to try this action, you’ll most likely want to create your own chart and action list. If you want to see mine, send me an email or a PM on Facebook.
This morning’s “Aha!” ... Fetters and Tens
The past two days have been relatively low energy … for reasons I haven’t completely identified yet. I didn’t sleep well last night (one lonely, very expressive dog wanted someone to talk to), so I woke up a bit out of sorts, just wanting to hug my bed. Definitely in the 7 range.
However, today was also housecleaning day and Marie would show up at nine so I had to tidy up and get stuff out of her way … and then go out for three hours. On my bah-humbug way out the door, I decided to at least take my camera, my journal, and my Spanish workbook. And, treat myself to a favorite breakfast with a shady tree offering me a cozy place for food and my journal.
The past several months have blasted a hole in one of my firmly held beliefs. I am a computer person and almost can’t write long hand anymore. As much as I’ve read dozens of writers extolling the virtues of writing long hand, I refused to accept their recommendations. I’m still writing everything in Evernote. However, I started a manual journal a few months ago (thanks to the inspiration of the friend mentioned above.)
That journal has given me two lessons so far … both of which I learned several years ago but for some reason let slip away. First, the power of printing, which I think comes from the fact that it slows me down, eliminates excess words, and remains readable later.
And second, mind mapping … duh! It is now 28 years since my book Mindmapping was published! I used to mindmap everything. Then, something happened. I started using computer mindmapping tools and loved them so much, I seldom mindmapped on paper with colored pens. 😢 Something got lost along the way.
When I started using an antiquated journal again (read paper, pencil, glue, scissors, etc.), I felt something shift in my thinking. It’s hard to describe, but because I once wrote about this process at length, I recognize that it is opening my “right brain,” where concepts play with each other in a less rational, logical manner.
Now, as I sit with a fresh mindmap in front of me, sometimes there is just a void, a waiting, an acceptance of whatever wants to show up. And, because I’ve walked through this territory before, I know something will show up and my job will be to just play with it and allow it to attract whatever playmates it wants.
|Unfettered by Joyce Wycoff|
This morning was typical. I’ve been thinking about the word “unfettered,” stimulated by the image above, and started to map it.
First the definition and rational thinking ... what I used to call “cliche thinking” ... showed up as it almost always does. However, as I sat in that quiet, shady place with nothing in front of me except paper, pen … and a very good breakfast … other thoughts slowly climbed onto the page. When the words “no more fetters” showed up, it made me smile and started a small avalanche of thoughts.
By the time breakfast was finished, I knew I had been taken on a journey that would not have occurred had I stayed in my house, on my computer, doing what I thought I was supposed to do today. I don't know how much further this thought process will take me, but I expect to have things continue to show up.
After breakfast, I went to explore more of my new neighborhood and heard an odd, somewhat harsh, repetitive bird sound. I finally saw several egrets in a tall tree and found the source of the sound … a pair, apparently in mating mode. The opening picture shows the two egrets and a bit of the lime color that shows up on their faces during mating season. I hope I can continue to monitor the process of this couple.
And, finally, I wound up at the only air-conditioned coffee shop near me and studied my Spanish. I think I made a breakthrough on direct and indirect pronouns. Sounds pretty basic … and it is … but it has been giving me fits.
On the way home, I was thinking about what a great day this has turned out to be and wondered what rating I would give it. I was playing with 9.5 because, obviously, nothing is perfect, so it couldn’t be a 10.
All of a sudden, I was almost slapped in the face by a mass of yellow flowers as I walked under a small tree. It was almost like the Universe said, “Oh, yeah? Well try this on for perfect!”
I had to admit it was one of the most spectacularly beautiful small trees I’ve ever seen.** Which made me think, “Of course this moment can be a 10! Who says it’s not perfect?”
** Thanks to a friend, this tree was identified as: Golden-chain tree is a stunning, small tree noted for its long, pendulous clusters of flowers.