It’s nice when there’s a good day. Wake up and I got what I call “energy.” That’s the feeling of bounce, like imagine an old elastic band, okay, and you stretch it but it’s gone. You see the rips starting and get worried; an average day for me. Get a new one and there’s bounce. Energy. You flex the band and you think okay, today is going to hold. This is a good day.
When I have the energy I can do things. I don’t run marathons, I run the distance between the bed and my closet, where my things are piled high and maybe the shirts aren’t the cleanest. When I have the energy I count the things I can do easy, like maybe today I pick up the receipts off my bedroom floor. I congratulate myself for going the extra mile. I count the things because I got this app I use called MoodTrack which helps me observe and detail the things I do, which can become a good day.
If you don’t know MoodTrack it’s this journal you do on your smartphone. It’s a community too. What you do is rate your mood according to five colors: red is worst, purple is not that great, blue is alright, green is more alright and yellow is happy. When you rate your mood you see this line graph of colors, your valleys and your peaks and a mountain ridge of days. Some people are like the Savannah, level. Other people. . . Well, other people are like me. I am not diagnosed with anything but I know I get the lows a lot. But I’m here to tell you about a good day, and the app that has helped.
Today was my first in a while. I woke up and I was in the “green.” This means I woke up more than alright and nearing happy. Today I did dishes. And I had done laundry the other day and today I got them down. And when I did I decided to donate a shirt which didn’t make me feel good when I wore it, it was baggy here like hidden worries, and large. Significant for me because I hold on to things. I thought yeah, I’m going to trade this shirt for something fitting. I’m going to cut down the fabric and get to me.
Sizing down holds true for what I want for my self-perception too. I have this tendency to exaggerate on the one hand, such as small problems into large ordeals, and then to underestimate, such as how things hurt and how I am allowed to feel sad when I do. My closet, therefore, is a mix of the large and tight and the almost there. I grew up wearing hand-me-downs and I guess it takes me a while to feel the pleasure of space.
What’s wonderful about MoodTrack is the space. The ease of time to say what I want, the feeling of always being allowed to say things with exactitude. I am conscious of not being friends enough with people to say things. I can be unsure of what friends are for, whether I have them so they can click “like” or click “heart.” One time a member of the MoodTrack community commented with a purple heart icon, like a badge. I found the commemorative spirit uplifting.
When I am depressed, I am like an elastic band without elastic. My substance is all worn away. My body is something I war with, I punish it like a bad dog whenever it’s exhausted. But over the months I have found the dire need for affection and soothing I have, that without liking myself or being proud of my small life, how I tire and begin to grow brittle like old elastic.
Over the months I have had to lower standards close to perfectionism and expect less and be happier. I have had to consciously brighten cynical tendencies. I have had to look towards other people interacting healthily and happily and copy their skill sets. The end result is the chance of a smile.
As I navigate my hilly moods, I feel a strengthening. When I reach a low and I click “red,” I understand that every low is a process of descent, and that with documentation I can begin to track any downturns and add their effects together. I also understand that every good mood is the result of many walks into a single direction.
On a good day I feel the luxury of the full expanse of my lungs, and with these winds in my sail, an effortlessness. I can go anywhere.
Today I was trying to get to the other side of the street. I was walking with a lady, we had the walk sign when a big truck started to make a turn. I had my cue to “hurry up” but the lady, this middle-aged woman with a top knot and a key lanyard, she stopped. She gave the driver a long stare. Then she cursed him out. “You can’t let us walk? Why are you so impatient!!” she yelled. I was stunned. Was the driver being impatient? Could I curse too? These are the kinds of things I learn on a daily basis, that I too can demand space.
When you document your moods you become aware of the space and the time it takes to deal with strong emotions such as depression. With experience, I have begun to estimate a time span of at least half a day for a lift. Within four hours I can begin to notice an upturn. I am not as terrified of deep descents as I used to be, because I know my feet.
What I used to be terrified of was feeling rage. After many months of using MoodTrack I noticed a natural scaffolding effect, where after I dealt with certain issues I would begin to deal with deeper and deeper ones. I think that it is my habit to try to deal with the worst things first, but my nature to build up to resilience and strength. Finding this out has resulted in a trust for myself which hasn’t come easy. As I begin to trust myself I begin to trust I can be aggressive in healthy ways, such as the lady in the crosswalk. I thought she was cool.
These days I keep better tabs on how I expend energy, being careful to not sweat the small stuff or, being pragmatic, not worry about hurrying for jerks. I try to work with my habits now, letting stronger habits have their run while I do other things I can. I try to set limits with people. Such as, this is the standard upon which we are going to interact. I know that my heart and my soul needs kindness, and if things get too out of whack in either direction I lose the air in my lungs, I cannot function for long. But when I do it’s like my arms can stretch around the world. And that is the best day.
Mary Archer is now a University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa graduate with a BA in English. In Spring 2015, her essay and narrative fiction piece appeared in Kapi‘olani Community College’s student periodical Ka Hue Anahā: Journal of Academic & Research Writing. Last year her poetry suite “Drafts of Robert McHenry” appeared in anthology Ms. Aligned: Women Writing About Men, and this year her writing “Death of Blossom Girl” appeared in Ms. Aligned 2. She is a New York native and current Hawai‘i local.