I’m living the cliché. It’s a perfectly awful Monday morning, and I’m grumpy about it. I got out of bed with plans that have, one by one, been foiled. It’s been an exercise in frustration that I shared with my husband over the phone while he was driving. I was rude and loud.
If I’m good at nothing else, I excel at taking frustration and turning it into a perfect funk, full of blame and anger. It turns out, according to Randy J. Paterson, my mad skills might actually help me become better.
Paterson’s little book, “How to be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use” is a treasure. He is the director of Changeways Clinics in Vancouver and has worked with clinically depressed clients for many years. When faced with a group of chronically depressed folks, he realized that the tried and true strategies weren’t working.
You can tell people how to be happier, help them think differently and reframe their realities, infuse the positive into their lives, but depression clings like saran wrap to some of us. So, Paterson approached his support group and asked them to think about ways to be more miserable.
At this moment you’re miserable, but how can you be more miserable? What would make things worse? How can you tell others about how to become miserable?
The group spilled over with suggestions and laughter. If you fail at something, don’t stop there, ruminate on it, criticize yourself, replay the failure over and over. Each of these will amp up the misery.
Paterson’s point—in addition to bringing lightness to depressed people—is that knowing how to be more miserable is on the same continuum as knowing how to be less miserable. But for those of us who struggle with depression, thinking of how to be better seems self-defeating. We can always return hopelessness for positive thinking.
I’m amazed, really, at how this little book has served as a positive trigger for me. As I fumed and muttered, it occurred to me that this was in my bag of tricks called “how to be more miserable.” And, it was like a little thump on the head to remind me to stop living in a cliché.
So, here is one example of how to be more miserable on a Monday morning:
When you can’t get the spray nozzle off the hose, blame your husband not only for screwing it on too tight, but also for intentionally trying to sabotage your life. And, then, share your thoughts with him.
All I wanted to do was get the sprinkler going so that our new grass and our newly planted flowers could survive the heat of the day. I didn’t want to have to stand there with a spray nozzle and take precious time from my day watering by hand.
That spray nozzle isn’t coming off, and so I amped up my frustration and misery with reflections about how men make life more difficult with their macho tightening of spray nozzles. I moved those reflections to the specific, and ruminated on how my husband must be—of course—intentionally trying to sabotage my day.
And, then, just to spread the misery, I shared those thoughts with him while he was commuting to work and completely unable to respond.
It worked like a charm.
All I can say is that my misery triggered a reflection about how I made a frustrating situation about ten times worse than it had to be. When flashes of emotion come along, just tend them and nurture them and they’ll start to control you.
Getting into that frame of mind has helped a lot today. I headed out around 10 a.m. to find a new coffee shop, The White Street Cafe in Frankfort, about 30 minutes from my house. It’s closed on Mondays. So, I headed to the Richton Perk. Also closed on Mondays.
I am now at a Starbucks, which isn’t really a part of the Coffee Shop Project plan. Since I’d already made my day a little more miserable than it had to be, I decided to roll with this. The goal of this project is primarily to give me incentive to keep up with my blogging. I also want to discover new coffee shops, and I now know where two of them are and what days they’re open.
I’ve spent about an hour driving here and there, which means I’ve lost even more time that I needed to get work done.
If I wanted to be more miserable, I could think about how much work I didn’t get done. I could have refused to stop at Starbucks and refused to get any writing done. If anyone knows how to be miserable, it’s me.
Instead, I decided to write where and when I could. And, I’ve decided to call my husband and apologize for being a jerk to him today.
This is the sixth blog I’ve written for my coffee shop project. My goal is to explore my community, discover new coffee shops, and blog while I’m doing it. I went to two coffee shops that were closed, but look forward to returning when they’re open. Today I’m at the Starbucks in Matteson.
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