I posted this the other day on the weblog, but I think it's important enough to post it here again:
To be quite frank and not only that but possibly boring and repetitive as well, the way you get through the year is you do it one day at a time. One day at a time you get up in the morning and one day at a time you go to bed at night. If you are a person of faith you call on that faith every day. Every day, if there's a prayer that you know, you say it. If your doctor says you're depressed, every day you take your medicine. Every day, if there's a posture that you assume, you assume it. Every day you write the book. Every day you notice the minute shifting of light as the earth quietly surrounds the sun. Every day you take note of the precise quality of the miracle of life. Every day you write down your check numbers. Every day you count your change before leaving the counter. Every day you press the button for your floor.
And never do you let the coming year rise up like a monstrous wave and crush you with unimaginable tedium. Never do you let the dread sink in until you feel cold and dead inside; if you find yourself staring into the abyss you switch seats and think of ice cream.
This is advice from Salon.com's advice columnist, Cary Tennis, in an article entitled Must I have a grand calling in life? Mr. Tennis seems, to me, to have a very down-to-earth outlook, a way of saying what you need to do to get through things, to do what you have to do and get on with your life.
I don't know whether I know myself very well or not; I try to. One thing I've noticed over the past few months is that I can allow myself to spiral downward into depression if I don't catch myself. Sometimes that seems almost seductive. I'm not sure I understand that, but maybe it's kind of a self-indulgent thing, a wish to crawl back into the womb or something, a wanting to curl up under the covers and not come out. It's easy to wallow in misery, to worry, to start thinking about every bad thing, everything that might go wrong, every problem, every stressful event. It's easy for life to turn into 3:00 a.m. 24 hours a day.
I don't think this is a new thing for me, but my recognition of it and my conscious effort to stop the spiral is. When I recognize it happening, I try to stop the thoughts, try to think of something else. Easy to say, not so easy to do, but I try. I try to read things that I enjoy, and that can take me out of myself. I listen to an audio book in the car instead of listening to the news, most days. I feel guilty about that, because at some level I feel that bearing witness is important, but I also realize that I do what I can do -- I send what I can afford to help the relief effort, I donate some canned goods -- and it isn't going to do anyone any good if by immersing myself in other people's misery I become miserable myself.
There is always more that I could do, but I try not to feel guilty about it. I've got enough to feel guilty about.
I light a candle, and I hold a cat, and I listen to some music, and write. I put one foot in front of the other, and I take deep breaths. Every day I write the book.