From time to time, everyone gets the blues. We feel life is no good, or we’re no good, or that bad luck is the only luck there is. Following are some questions and ideas you can trot out that may help you find a silver lining behind the clouds.
1. Am I breathing? That’s a good way to begin each day. If the answer is “yes,” you’re on your way. Especially if you can say “I’m breathing easily.” Many people can’t say that.
They must struggle to breathe.
2. Do I have food to eat and water to drink, at least for today? The recent hurricanes robbed uncounted thousands of survivors from access to adequate food and water. And the electric power needed to preserve the food and pump the water.
3. Do I have substantial physical pain anywhere in my body? No? Then I’m lucky. If I meet 20 persons during my day, odds are that at least five of them (and maybe more) will be hurting badly somewhere between their scalp and their big toes.
4. Am I living in North Korea, Syria, Nigeria, Libya, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia or Russia? Am I a refugee from any nation I once called home? If not, I have cause for hope and gratitude.
5. Is there at least one person on earth who truly loves me, or cares whether I live or die? Or the reverse: Is there one person I genuinely love? Yes? Then that person is a light in the darkness. Reach out for it. Move toward it.
6. Am I able to read English or any other language? Millions of uplifting words and encouraging ideas are out there waiting to rescue me from the swamp into which I seem to have wandered. Poverty and disease are not to be feared one-tenth as much as illiteracy and other forms of ignorance.
7. Do I have 30 minutes or more of discretionary (spare) time at my command each day? Millions of people around the globe do not. They’re just trying to find food, raise their children and stay out of the line of fire. Time is a mighty gift. We should use it.
8. Is the “OFF/ON” switch to my TV broken, for at least a few days? If the answer is yes, I’m lucky. This will give me time to think clearly for a while.
9. Do I know anyone who is engulfed in darkness, who might welcome a word, a phone call or an email in which I stay silent about my own concerns while I ask about his or hers?
The saying “Misery loves company” is only partly true. A better version is “Misery begins to vanish when company walks in the door.”
10. Especially if the company is a dog, a cat, or other animal interloper. Or even a cow. Next time you reach the end of your rope, get in your car and go find a cow. I’ve never heard of a cow that committed suicide or had a nervous breakdown. Cows just stand there, serenely munching grass at one end and emitting methane from the other. If we try that for an hour or two our own worries may not vanish, but they’ll seem more manageable.
11. Instead of taking your car on the cow hunt, try walking while carrying your guitar. Walking is one of the best anti-depressants known. So is guitar music. If you can’t actually play the guitar, just sing. Warble “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” which describes the dream of a death-row inmate on his way to The Big Sleep. Once you’ve digested those lyrics, you’ll be glad to be alive in any condition.
12. Finally, try the Handel-Beethoven solution. Find a recording of George Handel’s “Messiah.” Even if you’re not religious, let the Hallelujah Chorus sweep over you and swallow you up.
Then turn to Beethoven’s immortal Ninth Symphony. As you know, he composed it while engulfed in total silence. He was deaf, and at times probably gripped by woes almost as deep as yours may be. Close your eyes. Completely surrender your senses and sensibilities to The Ode to Joy. As this masterwork ends and silence surrounds you, you may find that your blues have dissipated or even disappeared. They often do.