Dienstag, 8. April 2014

Barefoot happiness - "Barfuß glücklich"

This was the title of a blog entry by Tobi Katze, done for a blog called "dasgegenteilvontraurig" - "theoppositeofsad", which he publishes as part of the German boulevard magazine Stern web site. The special quality of this blog is that Tobi Katze, who works as an author and satirist/comedian as well as a lecturer and workshop leader on the subjects of film and creative writing, suffers from depression and shares his thoughts with us from that perspective.

A Facebook friend of mine shared his posting from April 2 on my timeline, since it was centered around something I do for general wellness (and happiness) reasons: walking barefoot. And, it seems, it has the same effect on a person suffering from depression - it's making him happy.

Here's my translation of the original German text:

"If I could learn one thing from my depression, it was (Attention! Apparent paradox!) being happy!

Obviously, we can unlearn and forget that. It wasn't all that clear to me, but it works. Actually, it works quite well - if someone spends a life in the wake of a nice and snug mix of lethargy and diffuse self-contempt, just like I did.

Before therapy and medication truly kicked in, I lived as if switched to auto-pilot. Everyday life can be dealt with just fine, when you mechanize it. I avoid calling it "structurized", for it was quite often the opposite. A mechanical life was something safe and sound for me: following the same paths every day, the same procedures every day, appearing stable, no deviation, serving my function. It wasn't really easier to endure my depression that way, but it seemed that it had molded my life to that particular riverbed. My life ran the course of a pre-fabricated way of least resistance. This is not about ideals or similarly complex concepts of thought - it's simply about an unhealthy tendency to finding the most practical solution, which requires no real effort.

"Look, these bedclothes are non-iron!"
"Yeah... but they're ugly!"
"Right... they're ugly... but they're non-iron... practical, isn't it?"

Something like that... but something entirely different, as well. Depression occurs, when you stop asking yourself and discussing what makes you happy. If there is something that makes you happy loses its value as an argument... not all of a sudden, but it sneaks up on you, gradually. And bit by bit, doing the things that made me happy, seemed increasingly tedious to do... or even worse: I simply forgot doing them. I don't really know how it can be described. Perhaps like how I imagine amnesia to be: after serving twenty years in the French Foreign Legion, you suddenly run into your wife from days long past and you suddenly realize "Right! I'm married, she's my wife and I'm really a tax accountant... how could I forget that?"

And something like this happened to me today: I went shopping - barefoot. And there it was again: my bare feet touching the concrete, full contact with life, feeling every single bump, being totally on the ground of things. All of that felt alive. Dynamic.

I had forgotten how that feels - for we don shoes, for practical reasons, out there.

I had simply suppressed the fact, that I draw almost orgiastic joy from mastering my everyday life without footwear. Just like the fact - and now it's getting crazy - that I like wearing extremely bouncy sneakers when I'm at home, working at the computer. All of this provides me with a feeling of vitality and joy - or, in short: happiness. And I was so stupid to erase that from my consciousness, to cease doing it, because it took effort to do so. Like having good food does...

"Gently simmered salmon, with rosemary potatoes and a pinch of cilantro, together with broccoli, laced with lemon butter...? Or I just make some noodles... without anything."

Or take coffee, for instance. I like having my coffee in bed - that's nice, as well as practical. At least, it is to my taste. But sitting in the living room, in one particular armchair, bare feet propped up on the table, lit by the sun, and listening to the "Happy Hour" by the Housemartins at high volume, as if there were no tomorrow, that's beyond "nice"... that's happiness! If such a ritual requires effort, though, I still have a hard time doing it on a regular basis. We do many of these things making us happy quite automatically, and even take detours or make effort to do them. My depression kept me from doing so. And I'm afraid, I'm not alone with that. Ande that might be the most perfidious detail about depression: the loss of quality of life, since quality of life always requires effort - no matter how little. At first, I simply felt tired. Then I didn't know if the effort was worth it. Then I forgot. And after a while I simply wondered, why I felt so down and out.

And only by coincidence, I'm rediscovering things that used to pump happiness into my heart. I underestimated for a long time... I mean, come on... walking barefoot? That can't be important if you're happy with your life, can it? Those small things? Apparently, it can!"

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