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Thinking Makes It So: If you can't stand the Fritos ...

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By Kelly LeVan

I’d rather describe my mood today inaccurately: happy, excited, filled with wonder, satisfied but still eager. These adjectives make more sense. They describe how I should feel. I mean, there’s nothing wrong. I’ve had problems in the past – enough to know I have none right now.But regardless of the world going on around me, every so often my head just takes over, and my head is a dark, stinky place, like the interior of an overripe avocado. My ancient avocado discolors everything I’m pleased about – adds the word “so” before every sentence: “So the weather’s beautiful.” “So I’m going to China this week.” “So I’m rowdily in love with a merciful man.” Everything that used to be and, honestly, still is perfect somehow also isn’t.I know this feeling well by now. I recognize it as easily as I do my dog, who is also, coincidentally, dark and stinky. Because I know it, I also know it will not stay with me forever. It might not even last throughout the writing of this column. I think of it like I do a migraine: what I have no choice but to bear until it stops.Bearing something is 1,000 trillion times better than sinking into it, and I have a list of buoyancy techniques:1. Taking my odious dog for a walk. This seems to please both of us. He gets to pee in exotic places, and I get to move around, out of my chair or bed, in someplace a little healthier than my Frito-filled kitchen.A walk also forces me to at least acknowledge the world. Indoors, my depression commandeers everything. My computer falls prey, transforming into a sign that I will never write the great American anything. My plants appear extra brown. The clutter of clothes, books, magazines and random objects I think I will one day use for art sickens me. My home becomes bad art, an homage to the dullest, laziest parts of me.But on a nature trail, I see trees, playgrounds, clouds, other people – nothing particularly “me” at all. I can’t help but let some of it in.My dog gets a lot of exercise.2. Hocus pocus. OK, since I don’t mean chants and cast-iron pots but rather a much simpler spell – a book – I should use the quotes and capitalization: “Hocus Pocus.” Really, I mean any book, but Kurt Vonnegut’s “Hocus Pocus” happens to be the one I just read.Reading, of course, works a lot like drugs to pull a person away from a reality he or she doesn’t want. Those with modest paychecks especially like reading, because libraries do not lend out free crystal meth. This probably seems unfair to a lot of people, but there it is. And in fact, most of society prefers book users to users of illegal, mind-altering substances.But remember: “Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the universe,” as Vonnegut writes in his conclusion.Luckily, most readers would rather conquer something smaller, like a trilogy.3. Doing anything I really enjoy doing. For some reason, when I turn glum, I don’t want to go to ballet class, write, play tennis, call my friends or do any of the activities that, most of the time, I love to do.Instead, I’ll watch the bleakest movie I own (“The Rules of Attraction”), eat cookies until I feel sick (peanut butter) or try on all my clothes (especially the too-tight ones), telling myself the whole time how ugly I look. Many days, the gorging precedes the extended torture in front of the mirror. Unsurprisingly, I remain inconsolable under these conditions.Even a happy person who watched the afore-mentioned movie, overate and then stared at her stomach for an hour might start to slip.But happy people do what keeps them happy. If they like to ride their bikes, they ride their bikes. If they like to bake, they do it – and they eat some of their sweets but not all of them.I like writing “Thinking Makes It So.” Fortunately, I have to write it, 52 times a year, regardless of the belly berating it interrupts. While the column tends toward the introspective – with all its overcast possibilities – it also obliges me to think about someone other than myself: a reader, who is, by definition, exultantly distracted from his or her problems, and most likely not on crystal meth.And once I imagine this smiling person, I feel 1,000 trillion times more capable. I want to write, and I want to write something positive to keep him or her smiling. In order to do so, I can’t stay listless, because while I might not mind miring in my own mental filth, I couldn’t bear contaminating anyone else.E-mail great dog-walk routes to Kelly at laeditor@lamonitor.com.