Things I Do to Calm Myself Down

I have been told by countless people during my life that I am “calm.” Friends, co-workers, even complete strangers — e.g. Cliff Drysdale, the voice of tennis after only five minutes of observation: “Christine you are very calm, I want to see you get angry with that overhead” — will comment that I am calm. And to that I will say, not necessarily and certainly not always. That said, an avid thumb sucker from birth until the ripe old age of seven, I learned quickly the benefits of being able to calm myself by the best available means.

I don’t know what got me thinking about this now, but who knows, maybe an examination of my calming techniques might prove useful to someone out there in Russia, which, according to Google Analytics, is where the majority of my blog readers reside.

Most of these calming methods have both their merits and their limitations. Cooking, cartooning, painting, and as noted, playing piano can trigger great frustration at times if too many mistakes are made. As for music, I have a strong preference for J.S. Bach to take the edge off, but it’s not guaranteed. English Suite No. 2 in A Minor – VII. Gigue, for example, is so devoid of rests, it actually causes my heart to race.

Bird watching too can be instantly ruined by a flock of marauding grackles or worse, a lone and hungry sharp-shinned hawk – beautiful, but not exactly calming when it swoops in to nab a beloved cardinal. Sitting with our dog Ivy is always effective, but we no longer allow her on the couch and she often smells like, well, a dog. Sometimes I’m just too lazy to weed, clean, or take a walk, and wine comes with calories and other unwanted baggage that must be considered.

Twirling a curl is the most primitive of my personal calming techniques and perhaps most like thumb-sucking – an absent minded response to whatever’s bothering me, but also hopelessly short-lived in its benefits.

So that leaves us with the mother-of-all-calming-devices, especially now that 221 full episodes are available on YouTube: The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. It’s not just his voice, or his goofy remarks, but the clacking of palette knife on glass mixing pigments, the methodical swishing of the “liquid white” paint — something completely foreign to me despite majoring in painting in college – back and forth over the canvas with the 2” inch brush, the soft scritching of a fan brush dabbing spruce trees to life. All I can say is it works like magic every time, unless that is, he starts painting a lopsided, hokey-looking cabin at the last minute. Now that makes me crazy.

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