Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Helpful Hints for Hard Times : What You Can Do

I am getting tired of hearing myself freak out. Yes, my beloved Otis is in his last weeks / days, but nothing I do or say can change this. He's got more love than he knows what to do with and a thousand different food items to try and tempt him to eat again. Still, most of the time he's resting - not really asleep and I need something to do besides worry. Writing poetry is not an option for me at the moment. It's hard to keep still.

Here are some things I've learned that seem to help; if you are in a similar lose-lose situation maybe one of these can be of some use.

1. Take baths. Bubble baths make everything better. They change the whole gestalt of the body. They are practically free (minus bubbles and water bills).

2. Escape into novels. Yes, The More I Owe You by Michael Sledge was superb! I escaped into Brazil, into the love life of Elizabeth Bishop and felt transported. A safe drug.

3. Window boxes or: fixing things that are in your control to fix. For the last two years I've wanted to have window boxes on my writing studio but the task seemed onerous. What kind of boxes? What type of shelves? And the flowers! In one day I made it all happen --- and so it seems I do have a modicum of control over my life.

4. Feel good movies. Last night I went to see a true chick flick, "Eat, Pray, Love." I am a film snob and would usually have given this a pass. Instead, I sat in an air-conditioned theater, a bag of popcorn for dinner, and sobbed in the dark. It was a superb evening. 

5. Be kind to others. I've made it a point to be as gentle as possible with the people I encounter in my day. The world is a rough place; everyone needs to be treated with love. In some messed up way, I believe that the energy I put into the world might allow for a better day for Otis.


  1. I am so sad about Otis (what a gorgeous photo of him), and I'm thankful for this post...I especially love #5, as a reminder that we never know what others might be going through on any given day -- and how a smile always, always helps. And how the kindness you put out there always comes back, often when you need it most.

    Hang in there; you're both in my thoughts.

  2. Hi Susan

    I also like number 5. I find though that I do #3 when in situations like this. After rose was hurt in the triathlon, I csme home and completely unpacked the van, aired out our tent, organized our camping supplies, then cleaned the house and did laundry. I felt that while I had no control with most of life and what happens, I could Create a sense of calmness by cleaning and organizing

    So very sorry about Otis. I keep both of you in my thoughts & prayers daily

  3. Thank you, Midge and thank you Kelli ~ Writing this list helped -- as does Otis's daily photo shot. He's a reluctant model, but the camera still loves him. I'm blessed to have friends as wonderful as the two of you.

  4. Dear Susan,
    I have been following what you are going through with Otis. I also feel sad about him. Hang on in there. I hope he is not in pain or suffering during his last weeks. Our pets become family with all the feelings involved...

    Thank you for the list of strategies. I liked the one about escaping into novels. Having lost five cats in the last twenty years, I have done a hefty amount of reading! On the other hand, I realize, a good strategy might also have been to put all this into words, like you are doing now, sharing your sadness with us.

  5. Beautiful picture. Thanks so much for this post. I'm all about #4. My husband doesn't understand why I find comfort in movies that cause me to cry. #5 is a great reminder for every day life. Please let Otis know I'm sending him warm thoughts.

  6. #5 is a big one. When I was teaching during hard times, I sometimes baked cookies and brought them in for my department colleagues. Some years ago I came across a book entitled something like "What Would You Be Doing If You Were Happy?" The premise was that you would think about the things you loved to do, the things that ordinarily made you happy, and then you would do those things (not all at once, of course). I'm also big on "Fake it till you make it." It helps. But then there are days when a good cry and isolation is all we're up to.

  7. Beautiful, wise list. It's not possible (or necessary) to stay "emotionally present" for every second of hard times. Having healthy/safe ways to take a break or focus outward (your #5) is so important, and I'm so glad to see you taking such compassionate care of yourself, Susan. As I've said before, Otis is very lucky to have you as his human. Sending hugs--