Sometimes You Think and Sometimes You Act

When I was a child and I would go to my mother and say, “I’m unhappy.” She would say, “Clean your room.” I always felt this was a tremendously unhelpful answer, and self-serving since it was just helping her clean up. So I would grumble and stall and argue, but eventually, I would give up and go in and clean my room. Once I got the music going and got into the spirit of it, it turned out she was always right. There is nothing like mucking out your bedroom to give you a new outlook on life.

I remember dumping all the clothes out of my drawers and rearranging them. Or taking everything off the desk and reorganizing it. Some days I would move my furniture. Since I was probably 8 or 10 years old at the time, I would have to move my dresser by sitting down on the floor next to it and pushing it with my feet: not unlike the leg press I have done at the gym. But wow, what a great feeling.

I never felt like cleaning my room. I don’t know if I could have made myself do it. But It never, ever failed to make me feel better. It worked better than toys or games or movies or encouraging quotations. Even now, I rarely think of it, but when I remember, “first clean the space around you,” it still always works.

I thought about why it works. I guess in a way you are taking care of yourself because it is a way of making your own space nice. It gives you a reflection that you value yourself. And it gives you a sense of effectiveness. It is something you can do and you can control, even if you are only 8. You can immediately see the results of your efforts and it makes your life better and easier right away.

We do need to be reflective about our lives. We need to do the larger tasks and we need to make the important decisions. But sometimes we need to take action. Large action or even small action. Sometimes when people feel discouraged, they lose energy and have trouble making any effort at all. There are lots of ways to get yourself going. The main thing is the action. First the reflection, then the action. Even a very very small action. It sets us in motion. Sometimes there is just no way around it. You have to do something to make your life better. Even if it is just cleaning your room.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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