Lately, I’ve been having trouble keeping my emotional balance. I’ve felt as if at the ripe old age of Pushing Sixty, PMS has come roaring back in all its cranky, anxious, snarky, restless, un-beautiful glory. This is a function of dealing with a parent in hospice, coming up on the first anniversary of my mom’s death, traveling, looming tax season, and of course, our current political dramas. (Why must they be so plural and so endless?!)
I refuse to malinger in this uncomfortable state.
My first prescription to settle my nerves is beauty. I want pleasures for my eyes, ears, nose, and tummy to soothe and reassure me. I’ve bought myself flowers, ordered a few more Paddywax candles (jasmine, gardenia, and tuberose), donned my All Scotland cashmere scarf, and tuned in to some Brandenburg Concerti.
It helps. I can’t control the Big World, but I can decorate my little corner of it, and fortify myself accordingly.
My next step in the direction of keeping my emotional balance will be to play. As a foster care attorney, I’ve come across the little known fact that predicting which foster kids will succeed and which kids will fail isn’t complicated. Two things earmark the likely successes, and they aren’t brains, race, religion, grades, physical health, height, gender, or any of the usual suspects.
The first characteristic of kids who can succeed after early trauma is that somebody modeled for them a healthy definition of love. This person didn’t have to be under the same roof as the child, but they had to be a regular, reliable, benevolent presence in the child’s life.
The other indicator found in children who are likely to soar after a rough start is… the ability to play, to have a fun time without getting in trouble. As a society, we don’t make play a priority. We have one of the longest work-years in the developed world, with the fewest holidays. We are not the most productive workers, either. The French, who have a shorter work day, work week, and work year, are among the countries who out-produce us. This would be the same French who just passed a law that employers can’t pester employees with emails outside of business hours.
In the foster care system, there is no money for recreation, no such thing as a budget for play, though for very young children, there are play therapists. Experienced foster parents know to listen for laughter, though, because when a child can honestly, joyfully laugh, they are on the road to overcoming their challenges.
So I’m keeping an eye peeled for what it looks and feels like when I play. I suspect horses are involved or maybe a piano. Heck, I might even have to join a book club!
What are you doing to stay on an even keel these days? When was the last time you laughed out loud? To one commenter, I’ll send a Paddywax “Jane Austen” candle.