Good morning, my fellow living soul. I woke up this Monday feeling down, despite a good night’s sleep. I dragged myself out of bed, even though it was warm and I was still sleepy, and I forced myself to exercise and get to work. As I did, I lamented the low bank of clouds that often push over Seattle during this time of year. Clouds cover the sun and darken the sky, rain taps steadily, and the house is dark. Only lamps artificially light my way. I feel a little depressed and hopeless. Because I usually feel this way on dark days and today was a yucky Monday, I wondered how I could conquer the gloomy Monday blues.
An Inspiring Conversation
When I exercise, I sometimes like to watch YouTube. I’ll pop on an inspirational Ted Talk or interview with an interesting thinker. Today, I happened to find Marie Forleo’s chat with Mel Robbins, the author of The Five-Second Rule. Robbins invented The Five-Second Rule to help her overcome hesitation. It basically states that when you want to throw up your “emergency brake” on a situation you’re not sure about, count five seconds, and then plunge ahead. It’s a way to force yourself into listening to your positive gut instincts to progress positively in life. Robbins has a Ted Talk that outlines the idea, which is okay but not as thorough as her book.
Anyway, as I was watching, Robbins explained the concept behind her new book. It’s called The High 5 Habit. The High 5 Habit is a small gesture you do every day to get yourself motivated. It’s also a gesture that feels stupid and weird when you first do it. But as I listened to Robbin’s logic in doing it, I became convinced it could be effective.
Basically, the High 5 Habit means giving yourself a high-five every day in the mirror. Robbins created it right as the world was locking down from the Covid-19 pandemic. She felt exhausted, lost, old, and out of ideas. Also, she was super worried about her finances as the pandemic meant her husband, who was in the restaurant business, had to of course shut down for a while.
One day, Robbins saw herself in the bathroom mirror and realized that the woman staring back at her looked like crap and felt like crap. Without thinking, she high-fived herself. She laughed she said, feeling foolish. But the next day, she did it again, and when she did it again, she realized that the reason she’d done it was because she realized the woman in the mirror needed her support.
Being Our Own Best Friend
Robbins told how if any friend of hers felt down, she always could pump them back up with a pep talk. Help them see their good qualities, coach them back to feeling motivated, support their endeavors, and cheer on their dreams. But she said she hadn’t been doing that for herself. She realized there were actually two people in the bathroom with her every day, she and the mirrored image of herself. And that mirrored image, that woman she saw, kind of as her soul reflection, needed her support. So she started this habit of supporting that soul.
I felt inspired by Robbins’s simple but powerful gesture. Did I high-five myself today? Well, yeah, I did. And I felt dumb. Robbins says you have to high-five for five days before the silly feeling wears off. So I’ll stick with it. She also said that she’s found people who high-five themselves either laugh or cry. And the ones who cry are feeling some serious stuff. They’re realizing they haven’t ever supported themselves and oftentimes have dragged enormous baggage behind them through life: abuse, neglect, etc.
A Way to Start the Day
After I high-fived myself, I thought about how hard I am on that soul. How I always think I should get more done in the day than I do. How I waste time. And, if I miss a few little goals for myself, I beat myself up for it. That’s not helpful. As Mel Robbins said, just waking up and getting out of bed in the morning is an accomplishment. It means that despite whatever life threw at me in the past, I still decided to live on. So I’ve resolved to forgive myself for what I didn’t accomplish the previous day or how I failed or how I could have been more productive or a better person. Now, I see the soul of the woman in the mirror and think, “Life is tough and you’re doing a pretty decent job despite it all.”
When I thought in those terms, my disappointment with the weather evaporated. It no longer mattered. Rain or sun, I woke up. I got out of bed. I looked myself in the mirror and supported the soul who stared back, flaws and all. It was an accomplishment. The woman in the mirror would do what she could today. Hopefully, you too can high-five yourself in the mirror. Remember, wherever you are, this is a new day. That brings the wonderful gift of time to try and live life well again.
In my house, I have books in multiple rooms but my most favorite reading space is in a sitting room off the kitchen. It’s a simple area, a couple of bookcases and a chair. It’s not the one pictured above but if you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ve probably seen it. In winter, it’s cozy with a view of the garden and a lot of light. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how important a space like this is to the psyche.
What It Offers
It’s actually a snug area, about five by twelve feet, but the effect it has on me is enormous. This is because my favorite things are on the shelves. And first off, those are books. The fiction is handy to read for fun or inspiration or to learn the writing craft better. The poetry has sentimental value. There are travel books to remind me where I’ve been and gardening books to lose myself inside of.
Second, the physical newspapers and magazines in which I’ve been published are in a decorative box. Even though I don’t look at them often, I liked having a tiny reminder of small accomplishments. Third, I have a few small paintings on and near the shelves, always within sight. They remind me of my dear old dog and Paris and flowers. Lastly, a fake plant sits atop the case. It’s pretty impossible to grow anything up there so I’ve put a fake plant on display to remind me of the outside. And, if we’re getting technical, I have a live plant beside the window. Seeing green things makes me happy.
Why It Matters
For any book lover, this kind of space offers a refuge from real life. I create in the chair, I escape in my books. Seeing it reassures me. Just the view of it calms me down. It reminds me that I can always go there if I need to.
My reading space used to be a special place because it was an adult’s place that didn’t involve kids. There were no crayons or games or toys or craft supplies. It was solely for me and my interests.
But nowadays I think what feeds my soul the most is the idea of hundreds of other people on that shelf. Great or productive or creative minds created those books. And if you have a book, you’ll never be lonely. That they are my favorite books means, in a sense, my favorite minds are in the bookcase. The minds I prefer, the minds similar to mine. And thus, all of the authors are, in a sense, my friends.
Where to Sit
Beside the bookshelves is a comfy chair. Not particularly expensive, it’s a chair I got from a discount furniture store. I loved the color of it, green, and I liked its traditional but hip look. Also, it has a wide seat. I can sit crosslegged in it, which means I can balance a book or laptop easily on my legs.
My reading space is special. It’s different from the TV area, which is fun and empty-minded. It’s different from the living room, which is where our family visits and talks. Different of course from the kitchen or dining room or office. This is a space I created, decorated, made mine. It reflects me and my interests and offers a cozy respite from the hectic, complex world.
Photo by Michael Nunes