(original post-date: May 12, 2010)
I’m the first to admit that I’m a person of many moods. I’m not like the “united states of Tara” or anything, I’m just… I don’t know, emotional. I feel what I feel, you know?
My ex-husband, who had a great sense of humor, used to deal with my moodiness by sharing an adage from his homestate. “It’s like we used to say about the weather in Michigan,” he’d tell me. “If you don’t like it, just wait ten minutes.”
Being old enough now to understand my rhythms, I appreciate that my ex was onto something. My mood (particularly if it is a negative one) is unlikely to last. My life just never sucks that much, and so I have no reason to drop into irretrievable doldrums. When I’m in a low mood, I pretty much only need a little pick-me-up. And because I’m in a low mood, I need for that pick-me-up to be provided by someone else.
As prescriptions go, this seems like a fabulously affordable solution. Don’t need to wait for 2014, when universal healthcare kicks in! Oh no, just give me one other person – one other contagiously cheerful person. That’s all I need.
But that also is the caveat. I am self-employed, you see. And so I spend a good part of my day at home alone. I spend a good part of my day sitting at my computer. If I have a co-worker at all, it’s the radio, and if my co-worker can be identified as a downer, it’s only because I’m hooked on NPR. (Let’s face it, the real news is not exactly uplifting these days.)
I’ve been self-employed now for ten years, but this is not the first go-round with independent work. I also took a stab at it from 96 to 97 or so. At the time of that first stab, I had no artistic outlets and so I was at risk of being particularly morose. The isolation did a number on me. A painful number. I remember once, running some errands in the middle of a weekday. I had gone into a store and I happened upon a conversation between a father and his small son. Hearing their dialogue made me smile, and when I smiled, I also made a mental note: “That felt good.”
Yup. Smiling felt good.
I don’t want to think how long it must have been since my last smile, but the fact that I felt it and appreciated how it changed the contours of my mood speaks volumes. The fact that I felt it indicates that, like a good stretch, it was a body maneuver that needed to happen and was long overdue.
These days, there’s more art in my life, and that brings me joy. There also are more friends with whom I share art. There are more friends who know the artist in me.
Still, though, there are days when the isolation gets heavy. When working alone threatens to turn me into Michigan’s worst cold front. But I know what to do in those moments. I just smile. And, cheesy as it sounds, I feel better instantly.