Depression Recovery: Home as Good Kindergarten and Mr. Rogers

An article about depression that includes kindergarten and Mr Rogers! Really?

Bear with me.

Have you noticed how a strong image or metaphor can be a container for all sorts of thoughts and ideas? That is why I am using good kindergarten and Mr. Rogers. As we scurry around each day we can have a vague awareness of frustration and discontent but can feel that we have to keep moving and keep setting aside that discontent. Good kindergarten and Mr. Rogers gives us a way to see more clearly what is off in our environment and how to proceed.    

Liza
Liza is scrambling to get out of the door on a Monday morning. She can’t remember where she left her coffee cup. Or her briefcase. Oh, yes, the living room last night; she was looking at a report. Some bills are due this week but which ones? She goes to the kitchen counter where there are several piles of papers: her children’s endless paperwork from school, mail, magazines and probably the bills that need to be paid.

Liza works with depression. Her mornings, mood wise, are still not great. It takes her time to feel awake and alert. She often feels anxious at the start of the day, especially Mondays, as she dives back into the world of work.

This morning she feels defeated. It is 6:40 and she is overwhelmed and frantic. Her world feels like a blur.
Environment Reflects Mind
In contemplative teachings it is suggested that “environment reflects mind.” There is a reciprocal relationship. So simply stated, it is one of the reasons we feel so darn good when we organize and tidy our environment. If you want to test this go clean up your kitchen. Aah.

In other posts and articles, we’ve explored Unifying Principles and schedule, i.e., working with space and time. Today we will explore environment and the theme is “Home as Good Kindergarten and Mr. Rogers.”

So think back to kindergarten. The glorious joy of being gently led through rhythmic activities in specific areas. Now it is art time, let’s put on our smocks and go to our easels and paint. Snack time: find your special seat for graham crackers and milk.
Story time: come sit in the circle and listen. Nap time: bring your blanket and mat and rest.

Yum. Take me back. Just thinking about it is soothing. And for those of you who are too young to remember, Mr. Rogers hosted a children’s television show that was unbelievably slow, methodical and gentle. Mr. Rogers would come indoors at the beginning of the show and carefully take off his jacket and shoes and put on his indoor shoes and cardigan. He exemplified how to transition from one space to another.

And setting up our homes in a similar way can be very helpful. I have developed a great affection for aprons. It is my being in the kitchen uniform much like a kindergartener’s paint smock.

Where to begin

You could begin by taking a walk through your house and simply seeing what you notice. I am a lover of sharpies and art supplies. When I took a walk through my home I noticed that I had art stuff in almost every room. Gathering it into the perfect basket was a delight. Having a specific art corner also reminds me that that is one of the ways I like to spend time in my home.

You can also take note of what locations have an aliveness and what feel like dead zones. I love to read and can get carried away with piling up books by my bedside. What was a happy curiosity becomes a stale burden. I regularly go through my reading pile and review.There is a precision in realizing 1) I cannot read everything 2) I really don’t want to read everything and 3) there is a great satisfaction in paring down and sharpening my choices. The culled reading material again becomes an alive invitation rather than a burden.

Creating home as good kindergarten can happen bit by bit or if you can create the time and energy, as a focused project. Here are two guiding principles for starting:

-Things that belong together stay together. So at Liza’s house, mail would have a place, school notices, too. She would keep her briefcase in a particular spot. Bills too.

-Defining space. Our need for clarity of space and our need to be nurtured by our environments has not diminished. Our brains love organization and categories. Liza could begin with: the kitchen is the kitchen and the desk is the desk.

Back to Liza
Liza chose the bit by bit approach and began with the papers on the counter. Her first step was sorting. A folder for the kids school papers. A more accessible recycle basket for junk mail and paper. A chronological file for bills so that she could know what bills were due when and find them easily. Her briefcase has a spot by the front door with a lovely ceramic bowl for her keys. And as a gift to herself and her family, the kitchen counter is home to a gorgeous bowl of fruit that Liza enjoys replenishing.

When our environments support us in “doing what we are doing,” the payoffs are satisfaction and joy and ease.