It’s hard to have unfaltering faith in everything, all the time. Things can be dark, or uninteresting, or impossible, or immovable—far away, or too close for comfort. Making your way through the darkness can be really tough, and unfortunately I’m not here to give you three easy steps to make the bad guys go away. You have to go through them and come out on the other side only through time, healing, and change. But I do know one way to make dark days a little brighter, and how to eventually put yourself on the yellow brick road to the Emerald City.
When I’m feeing the mean reds, I sit alone in my room, turn on an oldies radio station, get out my scrapbook, and start cutting and pasting.
This book, where I can write corny quotes, paste sentimental ephemera, re-create exchanges and experiences, and run my hands over faded movie stubs from weeks, months, or years ago, makes my feelings and memories tangible. It gives me perspective and helps me sort out my emotions in a safe, private place.
I think the key to keeping hope alive through a bout of the mean reds is not to withdraw from life, but to fiercely engage with it. Try to notice everything, and write down and/or draw it all. Collect shopping lists you find on the ground; maybe write autobiographies or draw portraits of the people you imagine might have made them. Look out the train window at passersby and imagine their whole future. Strike up conversations with elderly ladies on the bus. Play Sam Cooke as loud as your stereo will go. Sit on a park bench alone. Run. Walk. KEEP DOING.
Eventually a spark of inspiration or faith or enthusiasm will return, sometimes when you least expect it. Then it will creep up, maybe without you even noticing—your full-blown lust for life, revitalized and restored.
This gallery collects some pages from my 2012 scrapbook/journal, which I wrote/drew/pasted in an old book from the ’70s that I found at a thrift store.
As I look through them again I’m reminded of chilly nights on a fold-out couch intertwined with darling limbs and others spent cross-legged alone on my bed, reading Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.
The last page of that book goes like this:
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
I say, start small, with what’s right in front of you, using your brain and your hands.
Yours faithfully, Minna