35 Ways to Deal With LifePosted: March 13, 2011
I’m depressed. I was officially diagnosed about fifteen years ago. I’ve refused “meds” because I don’t want to depend on an unnatural chemical intervention to make me OK. Life is what it is. For me, it’s usually petty, stressful and full of obligations. I’ve come to realize that dealing successfully with life has become a simple mathematical equation. Let’s say life is 80% bad and I get to spend 20% of my time recovering from the bad. I need to value that twenty percent, which means that I can’t only spend it lounging under blankets and stuffing cereal into my mouth straight from the box. Not much of a life when the other eighty percent involves me working long hours at a stressful job.
That twenty percent of “good life” needs to be full of things I really love, things that make life worth living. The more good stuff you add to a bad life, the more balanced life will appear. You can trick yourself into dealing. Depending on your situation, you might not need “meds”. You just have to identify what you love and do it like crazy. Like your life depends on it.
I’m sharing the below list because it might help you. It’s packed with over thirty things that I’ve found make life worth living. (I’ll post numbers 17-35 later this week.) Maybe you’ll learn a new self-soothing technique. Maybe you’ll be reminded to love something you forgot about. Maybe you’ll reconsider loving something.
1. Eat a Big Bowl of Pasta
It’s not the most nutritious thing in the world, but good pasta and good jar sauce is one of the most comforting fast suppers in the world. DeCecco pasta is the best, but Barilla isn’t bad either. Trader Joe’s Arrabbiata or Four Cheese sauces rock. Paul Newman makes an okay jar sauce too. Boil up your pasta and while it’s draining, dump the sauce into the same pot on the still-hot burner. When it gets hot, toss in the hot pasta and you’ve got a nommy one-pot dinner in about 15 minutes. Comfort after a twelve-hour workday.
Some of my happiest moments happened while on silent retreat. Going under the cloak of silence for seven days is a little anxiety-producing at first, but once you release the tight fist of grasping, it becomes divine. You don’t have to go on retreat but you can’t practice silence at a workaday job either. Try silence for a weekend. No computers or television, no cell phones, no talking. If you can stand it, try to cut out music and reading too. Don’t drown yourself out with media and others. Give yourself time to be with yourself. If it’s uncomfortable, don’t give up. Slowly train yourself to sit with what’s uncomfortable. Practice self-inquiry.
3. Sit in Front of a Fireplace
I have achieved one of my lifelong dreams in getting a home with a fireplace and in the cold weather, I use it all the time. I love letting the heat from the fire warm my hamstrings and back before a yoga practice. I loved noticing its happy flickers during the hub-bub of Christmas day. I love turning out the lights and sitting in front of it, just staring. Watching its activity, its energy. Humans have done this for eons for good reason. Let the fire do its thing.
4. Take a Bath
Baths are the best. Especially with Epsom salt and lavender oil. They’re good for your skin. They soothe sore muscles and ease you to sleep. Join me in taking the waters weekly.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve realized what a treat it is to go to the opera. I’m lucky to live within driving distance of the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. After a couple of shows, I was hooked. I can actually feel the endorphins flooding my body during an aria sung by a doomed heroine. The opera has it all – rare talents of people at the top of their field mixed with often-surreal, otherworldly scenery, set to the finest music and the poetry of clever librettos. It’s a supreme art form; one of the most beautiful ever created. And it needs your support.
6. Collect Things
I collect Edward Gorey’s books – the originals, many with their jackets. I’d like to start collecting rare books. At the top of my wishlist is a first (or second) printing of L’Histoire de Babar. I also collect tea, butterflies, cardigans, ephemera, and mean bosses.
7. Have a Crutch
Some people get off on power, perfectionism, wine or weed. You got a crutch? Use it. I’m not advocating anything dangerous or unhealthy. We’re just talking about getting through life here. If a glass of red wine gets you to sleep after a stressful day at work, I’m right there with you.
Meditation is a challenge worth exploring. I admit that I don’t keep a consistent practice, but I can vouch for its effectiveness when I’m on retreat or as part of my yoga practice. I’ve sat blissfully for as long as thirty minutes, and I’ve given up after twenty seconds of fidgeting. The key is training yourself to watch yourself. If you have a thought, acknowledge it, then send it on its way like a leaf in a stream. And breathe.
9. Crochet or Knit
I’m no good at it, but it’s a relaxing, productive way to expend anxious feelings.
10. Make Art
I don’t make nearly as much work as much as I think about making it. Making art’s not for everybody because there can be fear when you’re staring down the blank canvas. Or just scribble. Put your new perspectives to use in a journal. If the US experiences a nation-wide, natural (or unnatural) disaster, we’ll be the first ones to start drawing in the dirt.
11. Cook Your Own Food
Food from out is rarely as good as the food from my own kitchen. If you don’t already know how, learn to cook well for yourself. Cheaper, healthier and usually more delicious because it’s exactly what you want; it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
12. Eat a Cupcake
‘Nuff said. The best ones come from friends.
13. Practice Yoga
I don’t schedule late meetings on Tuesdays. That’s my yoga night and I try hard to maintain that work-life boundary. Yoga makes life worth living. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how strong you are. If you already have a practice, explore trip-hop for your playlist. Bands like Portishead and Massive Attack were practically made for yoga. Also, try the mixes from the Costes brothers’ hotels. (Etage 3 is my favorite.)
14. Buy New Underwear
A reasonable purchase to ease the pain of life.
15. Read David Sedaris
He’s right about everything. I guarantee you will actually laugh out loud.
16. Get to Know Those Less Fortunate
Spending my career at nonprofit organizations has taught me a lot. The most important obstacle for all of them is that not enough people want to learn about the suffering of others. It’s like why people refuse to give up eating meat – they don’t want to know the truth because if they did, they’d have to do something about it. What do you care about? Go and stand with the people who are working to do something about it. The first step is to educate yourself. Then volunteer. Then donate – it doesn’t have to be money. Grassroots nonprofits need your professional skills, if you’re willing to donate them. Are you an accountant, or an HR executive? Are you an IT professional? Nonprofits need your help. Offer it.
Please keep in mind that these are merely offerings – just things that help me deal with living in an imperfect world. I’ll post numbers 17-35 later this week. If you try any of these suggestions, please let me know how it goes.