How to Thrive through Downer Times

Black Dog imageLet’s be honest. We all have them. Winston Churchill called them his Black Dog. If Winnie could admit to experiencing the black-and-blue blues so can we.

I’ve heard a lot of folks owning up to exactly that over the past few months. Maybe it’s the failure of spring to arrive. Maybe it’s the refusal of unpleasant realities to stay away.

Whatever the motivation for a trip to Bummerville an escape strategy is needed. May I suggest three steps along that exit route.

First – Don’t Confide in Anybody but Your Journal.

The world runs on gossip. The writer world runs on storytelling gossip. We should be careful not to fuel that ride. I’m saying you shouldn’t trust anyone. I am saying you shouldn’t overestimate anyone.

People can talk without thinking. People repeat things without thinking about the damage they can do. Sometimes they even succumb to the temptation to use knowledge as currency. Especially juicy knowledge.

The more intimate the story the juicier its potential can be. And nothing is more intimate than the insider details of somebody’s emotional meltdown. The tidbit may be told with compassion. “So sorry for her hardship.” Or with bogus compassion. “Soooo sorry for her hardship.”

The result is the same. The subject of the tidbit is portrayed as down and out or on her way to getting there. An image that does her no good no way no time. Therefore Mum is the word.

Second – Smile While your Heart is Breaking.

Some call it behaving as if. Behave as if you’re fine. I know it’s fake. Worse yet I know it’s hard to do. I also know light attracts and darkness repels.

We don’t want to break down the good work we’ve already accomplished. We want to build it further. Maybe we don’t feel capable of that construction effort at the moment but we can manage to maintain a holding pattern if we try.

My brother Michael once gave me some sage advice. He suggested I take acting classes to learn more about creating story characters. I’ve come to understand the added value of making yourself into a story character when it serves your career purpose. As I said. Only your journal page requires full – or even partial – disclosure.

Third – Tell a Bright Tale Until it Comes True.

I believe in the power of professional pretense. That power has more to do with convincing yourself than it has to do with convincing others. You are the one feeling lousy – or lost – or left out somehow. You are the one who must find a way off the down escalator. The real purpose of spinning a positive less-than-total truthhood is to hear it yourself about yourself.

“The future’s so bright I’m gonna need shades.” That’s the prophecy you want to self-fulfill. Keep repeating it to yourself and everybody and one morning you’ll wake up to find those shiny lenses reflecting your vision of yourself come back to full and lovely life.

Alice Orr                  


A Wrong Way Home – Book 1 of Alice Orr’s Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series – is a FREE eBook at Amazon and other online retailers. All of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page

9 thoughts on “How to Thrive through Downer Times

  1. Correction of my response to Elizabeth Meyette’s comment. Lovely Lauren Bacall actually said re: whistling – “All you have to do is put your lips together and blow.” Blessings to you Betty. See Elizabeth? She shared a nickname with you. Plus – did I ever tell you my middle name is Elizabeth? Alice

  2. Hi Elizabeth Meyette. I also like #3 “Tell a Bright Tale Till It Comes True.” It reminds me of that old song “Whistle a Happy Tune.” I’ve noticed it can be difficult to just pucker up and blow – as lovely Lauren Bacall put it – when you’re also shedding buckets or even only pouting. But storytelling can take multiple forms. We know that all too well. Don’t we? Blessings. Alice

  3. Truer words were never written, Alice. I’ve done my share of whining about those black dog days. It never does any good, just makes everyone including myself feel bad. Putting on a happy face is far better for all concerned.

    BTW, Caroline Clemmons shared the link to your post with me and others. Many thanks to you both!

    1. Hi Lyn. In the interests of full disclosure I must admit to being a relentless whiner at times. I may even be known for it though I hope not. My husband would reply “No comment” of course if you asked him. But he’s my most private circle person so I guess that doesn’t count. If I ever whine in your hearing – please feel free to give me the smile sign. I will – as you say – feel better once I’ve taken that good advice. And thanks for commenting. It’s great to hear from you. Blessings. Alice

  4. Good morning Irene Peterson. I love the image. Behaving badly on the front page of the New York Times. Most of us would simply be thrilled to get there no matter how we might be comporting ourselves. Like you – and no doubt most of us – I’ve been too forthcoming at times. I am also learning to hold back after being slapped in the face with the lesson that I must do so. Maybe you can teach this dog some new tricks after all. I hope so. Blessings. Alice

  5. A wise woman once told me…”never put in writing something you would not want to see on the front page of the New York Times.”
    Works for me!

    There are people, like me, who tend to use information far too casually. I have learned to hold back. It has taken me a very long time to put this into practice.

  6. Hi there Caroline Clemmons. It’s good to hear from you again. Yes we’ve been around long enough to learn the ins and outs not to mention the ups and downs of life in the trenches. Most of the dogs we meet are actually fluffy puppies but occasionally a black mongrel comes along. At those times it’s better to lead with the common sense than the battered heart. But you know that already don’t you. Here’s hoping for a future filled with fluffy puppy days. Blessings. Alice

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