What Is Your Best Coping Tool?

Dave R. Farmer ~ WANA Commons

Photo by Dave R. Farmer ~ WANA Commons

Welcome to Thoughty Thursday! This is the day of the week that y’all get to be privy to whatever thoughts are kicking around in my brain.

This week, I’m thinking about coping. Seriously, I am. (Y’all know I save my deep thoughts for you on Thursdays.)

It all started with cleaning out my writing bin. (That’s the thing you have when you have a spouse like mine who’s all anal organized.)

He keeps bins for various things, so when he finds them spread all over the freaking place by his wife, he has a place to put them.

Hence, the writing bin.

So, I was going through this big green Rubbermaid container, getting sidetracked every three seconds (because that’s how I roll). This thing used to hold dog food, but now it holds my writing. Hmmmm….I hope that’s not a subliminal message from the universe.

Anyway, he’s got some groovy stuff in there. I had a serious creativity-fest inside the magic green bin of love. Plus, I could practically hear him roll his eyes across the room every time I said, “I wondered where this was!!”

It was a pretty damn exciting hour, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I came across an old poetry notebook of mine and realized how long it had been since I wrote poetry. It was some pretty schmaltzy poetry, but intriguing to me nonetheless.

I realized I used to use poetry to cope.

Bad breakup? Write some verse. Fight with my BFF? A long poem. Teenage angst? Rhyming couplets. Now the only time I do it is when someone dies. I have no idea why but a poem falls out of me every time someone passes away.

These days I have Rockstar Counselor Guy Jeff to unload my angst on each month, but there’s a key component that gets lost — Hubby and I don’t record our counseling sessions.

Side note: Can you just imagine how juicy those recordings would be?? i.e. Do you have anything to talk about? No. Do you have anything? Nope. What about last week when I snapped your head off? Oh yeah! *controlled free-for-all ensues*

When I wrote poetry, no matter how bad it was, it encapsulated a memory onto the page for me to visit with later. The only poem I’ve written in forever was to my girlfriend who was having a bad day:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
I am booty-licious,
and you are too!

That’s not really something that will transport me in the years to come when I read it.

As I browsed my poetry notebook, I was transported back to a younger me in a way that memory alone can’t compare to. The pages were a window into my feelings at the time.

I can’t believe I’m going to do this, but here’s a short example.

I wrote this after the breakup of a relationship that I knew wasn’t working. Quick summary: I fell, he didn’t. Hindsight puts me at about 25-ish:

DAMMIT

From here I stand,
To there I’ve been.
Rise…breathe…
Begin again.

So, here I sit…
Where do I go?
What comes next?
I don’t know.

Unknowing was nice.
Not knowing is hell.
Wish I’d caught on
before I fell.

I found a million things wrong with this, and none of it matters. This little bit of verse did it’s job. It took me right back to that memory. At the time it helped me cope.

Note: After a while, I realized that I didn’t really love that poor long-ago schmuck. But I wanted to. And what I really wanted at the time was for him to love ME. That poem was about wounded pride and angst at having to start dating again. It was about wondering where my soul mate was and when he would find me.

I’ve decided I have to get back to the poetry thing, even if I’m not stellar at it. It’s not about winning a prize, it’s about the memories.

It’s about coping with whatever life throws at me…in the privacy of my own notebook.

What is your best coping tool? Has it changed as you’ve gotten older? Did you write poetry (good, bad, or otherwise) at any time in your life? Enquiring minds always  want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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52 Responses to What Is Your Best Coping Tool?

  1. K.B. Owen says:

    Hi, Jenny! So glad you shared this with us. I used to write poetry as a coping mechanism, too, especially in my teens and twenties. My mother would say: “Why is your poetry so DARK? Can’t you write about happy things?”

    Um, no.

    In college, I was an English major, and worked on the literary magazine for years. We were all writing bad, angst-ridden poetry, LOL. I’ll have to see if I can dig some up so you all can have a good laugh.

    Now? Well, unrequited love makes for a cool poetic theme, but one’s frustration over the 11-yr-old taking 2 hrs to do a math page and forgetting his lunchbox and jacket at school for the umpteenth time does not. #OdeToACarelessDistractedBoyWhomILove

    Liked by 1 person

  2. MarinaSofia says:

    Yay! Welcome back to poetry!
    I had that kind of revelation too, earlier this year. I hadn’t written poetry since high school (and it was really unbearably pretentious back then, so I would NOT want to share it), but suddenly rediscovered it. Not for therapeutic purposes necessarily (although it certainly does help), but because it’s so portable. As a mother, wife, breadwinner and serial-attempter-at-running, I needed something that I could pick up and take along even if it’s just for a few minutes each day. You can scribble a few lines, jot down a powerful image anywhere. And still have some satisfaction from your writing day (even if it ain’t the novel!).

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      That’s it exactly, Marina! And it sounds like you and I have similar lives: “mother, wife, breadwinner and serial-attempter-at-running.” Except I’m not the only breadwinner (thank the Lord) and you’ll want to insert “excerciser” instead of “runner.” LOL.

      Like

  3. zkullis says:

    I’m not one of those types of people that can (or would if could) look at a poem and critique it for proper use of rhyme, meter, form and proper structure. I think poetry is what the soul’s tidal movements leave on the wet sand of our mind.

    That’s pretty cool that you would share that with us, Jenny. It was raw in its brevity and I liked it.

    Coping mechanisms…. I have a few, it depends on what kind of issue I’m coping with. One coping mechanism for me is the heavy sparring bag I use in our gym. When I’ve had to deal with something particularly ugly at work, I take an hour or so and beat the crap out of the bag. (I’ve been known to knock it off it’s chain)

    My second coping mechanism is my writing. It’s the ultimate form of escapism for me, and allows me to safely vent unproductive emotions and feelings.

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  4. Taking “nap” out of the coping inventory…

    [Because those are way too easy and solve nothing — even though they feel so damn nizzzzzzzzzzzzz.]

    I would have had nothing but ye olde Serenity Prayer to offer had you posted this uber thoughtful post a month ago. But, the cosmos knocked me on the noggin.

    Write about them, it whispered. I spend tons of time searching for fresh visceral descriptors and narrative about what a character might feel when angry, hurt, disappointed, fearful, angst-riddled, shocked…the list goes on.

    I now have a word doc on my desktop that contains a variety of emotive responses. My emotive responses, including what I’m feeling physically and emotionally.

    I close my eyes and focus on my physical response. (The bra suddenly feeling too tight around my rib cage — like a giant rubber band holding “me” together.) And, I write about the wonky thoughts running through my head — the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s, the yebbits, the “what if’s.” I record the sensory stimuli around me. Am I suddenly feeling too hot, or too cold? Is there a noise I’m focused on, ignoring all others? Who had tuna fish for lunch, and put stinky remnants in Starbucks’ indoor trash bin?

    By the time I finish, I find I’ve written myself out of the funk and (bonus!) have a real time emotive response I might be able to pluck and edit for character response.

    Recovery? That’s when I get my tweezers and extract the straw fellow SBUX customer Jack keeps cramming into a beautiful knot in the wood of my table just to annoy me.

    GREAT topic, Thoughty Jenny.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, thank you, Starbuck’s Straw Fighter.🙂 You keep getting after those visceral responses!

      Like

      • Greetings from Starbucks — where the straw crammer did his dirty deed before I arrived.

        FYI. I may have solved the problem on how to get him to stop. I don’t know why I didn’t notice that the knot in the wood could be compared to female genitalia (IYKWIM). I may bring that to his attention the next time I see him. “Hey, Jack! Take a close look at that knot in the wood. Remind you of anything? Do you have an undisclosed compulsion to cram small, white, flexible items into…”

        Look for pics on a blog in your neighborhood.

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  5. LauraDrake says:

    Wow, Jenny, I like your poem — took ME there, with you!
    I always wanted to write poetry, but I stink at it. I’d love someday to write song lyrics…if there’s time.
    Writing of any kind does it for me. It’s like my emotions are locked, swirling in my head, until I force them out onto paper (or pixels) and then they fall into place, and I understand what I’m feeling and why.

    Great post – thanks for sharing – I can’t imagine how hard that would be, to put an old poem out there for everyone to see!

    Like

  6. My best coping tool is music. More specifically, singing music. I’ve found over the years that there’s not a dang thing that music can’t say on my behalf. Hubby laughs and says he can always tell what mood I’m in based on what I’m singing.
    For example..feeling like the world is beating me down? Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “The Bug”. Sick and tired about hearing everyone else’s sob story? “My Give A Damn’s Busted” by Jo Dee Messina. Happy? Could be “My Favorite Things” from Sound Of Music or something equally warm and fuzzy. Like I said, there’s not many moods I can’t find the lyrics to convey…:-)

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  7. Ryan King says:

    I’m glad to hear you’re picking up poetry again. Poetry has been my one true friend in life when all the others have scattered to the winds. It’ll be there for you no matter what. You may find that it’ll rekindle something you’ve lost. Write it out Jenny. Write it out.🙂

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Ryan. I hadn’t reached down far enough yet to get that thought, but you are right. After all these years and many moons, all those poems are still there in my handy-dandy notebook.🙂

      Like

  8. Jane Sadek says:

    I’ve always written a lot – poetry and prose. My heart is in prose, but so far all I’ve gotten published is poetry. When I dig out the stuff from my high school and college days I’m amazed out how unconsciously competent I was, but most of it is so raw that I’ll never be able to show it to anyone. I had a great poetry teacher a few years ago when I returned to school as a adult. She took me though conscious incompetence and gave my work a maturity that added universality. Now, though my poetry is good enough to make it into the “serious” literary journals, it’s missing the magic of those early poems. As I continue to put my heart and soul into what I write, I hope I’ll learn to reinsert the emotional honesty of my early work, but in a way that allows others inside.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Cory Imhof says:

    I cook large extravagant meals or clean the crap out of my kitchen, sometimes both when I’m stressed. When I was in college I baked apple pies a lot. My roommates loved me, I was a freaking mess, it worked though.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Well, I’m learning how to make gluten-free pie crust for Thanksgiving. If you lived closer, I’d have you fill those pies up during your next stress attack.🙂

      Like

  10. I write poetry, and I am always surprised by the number of visitors that I get on those days, but how few comments. I feel like people don’t really know what to do with poetry in a blog. And yet. I’m still going to do it. Because it feels like a vacation for me. Riding horses is my escape, but I don’t get to do it as often as I would like. Off to post something now. As soon as I figure out how to make a widget about my Header Contest.

    Like

  11. I love poetry. Just picked up Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge after years of forgetting I owned it – I think I’ll start carrying a poetry notebook! What a terrific post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thank you, Christine! And I hadn’t seen that book, but it sounds very intriguing. These days I’m getting more poetry from Dr. Seuss than from any other source. I might be reading to the toddler, but that Dr. Seuss was a friggin’ genius nonetheless.🙂

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  12. Julie Glover says:

    Yes, I’ve written poems, but more often songs. I have kept many lyrics, and they are like a time capsule of my life. The cheesy ones are from around high school, but by my mid-20s they were much better. I still think about doing something with these songs someday. I still write a song now and then too…not just in sad times, but also happy ones like writing lullabies for my boys when they were babies.

    Enjoyed the poems, Jenny!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ooooh, songs… I love it, Julie. I had a college flame turn one of my poems into a song and I was so very touched. He was probably only doing it to get lucky but it was a magical thing to hear my words set to music.

      Like

  13. Emma says:

    Brave of you for sharing. I’m sure I have diaries filled with morbid poetry when I was teen. Embarrassing now🙂

    Like

  14. Stacy Green says:

    Poetry is something I never got the hang of but love to read. Well done on the poem, and thank you for sharing with us.

    Best coping tool? Easy. Chocolate. Lots of it!

    Like

  15. Jess Witkins says:

    Hmm, me thinks all my favorite bloggers teamed together today to write posts that would speak so intensely to me you all may as well hit me over the head with a frying pan to get the point across! After reading your post, Renee’s, and August’s, I’m left feeling…acknowledged? Accepted? Normal? I can’t think of the right word, but I just know that I’m in a rut right now, and it’s the words from each of you that remind me who I am. I also used to write poetry, and it very much helped me to cope. I told Renee I stopped journaling for awhile and only wrote poetry for a year. The poems in that book would look like crap I’m sure to anyone else reading them, but to me they saved my life. Everything I was feeling went into those words. I used to write so much I had scraps of poem lines stuffed in my pockets. Somewhere down the line, I decided poetry doesn’t sell so it was useless for me to write it anymore. And with that, I’ve barely worked on my WIP since the conference and haven’t journaled for over a month. There’s many things inside me that have no outlet right now. Thank you for reminding me I’ve got places I can go with that stored up emotion.

    For the record, I think your poem speaks volumes to the emotions you were going through. Who cares if it gets published by itself! Depending on what you write down the line, I do see it being used by a character in a book.

    There’s a movie I loved when I was in high school calling Stealing Beauty, and the lead character writes a poem after a friend of hers becomes terminally ill.

    “The die is cast,
    the dice are rolled.
    I feel like shit.
    You look like gold.”

    I don’t know why, but those little words stuck with me. The momentum of situations sometimes can only be described in the briefest of words I suppose. And each word is weighted.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I never saw that movie but I think I will now. That poem is special.🙂

      I sure hope you pick up your journal again – you deserve all the magic that your words will bring you. And being “a fave blogger” with those gals? Well, that just makes my week! Thanks, Jess!!!

      Like

  16. Patricia says:

    I like your break-up poem. Not a damn thing wrong with it. It’s you – your words – your feelings. Feelings are not wrong. Ever. Period.

    I’m glad you’ve decided to keep at it.

    My coping mechanism? Hmmmm. I give myself a lot of stupid pep talks. Things like “it’s NOT menopause, I just ate too much salty food and that’s why I’m overheating and bawling my eyes out.” “It’s not you, that agent is stupid.” “Your writing doesn’t suck, people just don’t understand how to read it.”

    See how cool that all sounds. Sometimes I have to resort to alcohol. That, when combined with the pep talk, works wonders.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ahhh, Patricia…you too with the bawling and overheating? Perimenopause is a venomous bitch. A half dose (10 mg/day) of Prozac did a lot to make her settle her ass down. I was going out of my mind with anxiety…it’s helped a lot. When I’m done with all this “change” business, I’ll throw the bottle away.

      Thanks for your kinds words – email me at jennyhansensmail (at) aol (dot) com if we need to trade remedies, or drink recipes.🙂

      Like

  17. oooh, I’ve never written poetry. Don’t read it either (except for you, my dear Jenny). my biggest coping mechanism is to talk things out. usually with 3 or 4 people. when I hear my voice I figure out what i’m supposed to do. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jenny: This post was so booty-licious! No, really it was.

    Ironic that you wrote about your coping tool – poetry. I also wrote about a similar topic on my blog a few days ago. The post is entitled “Poetic Moments.” Anyways, I talk about how poetry was an outlet – especially during my teen years. I stumbled upon my old poetry folder from high school – and like Jane mentioned – my poetry was so raw. I feel like as we evolve into adults with overwhelming responsibilities – our walls raise. We become more filtered. Not sure if that makes sense. I, too, have decided to break out into some booty-licious (just wanted to use that word one more time) poetry from the heart after 20 years. As always, wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Julie Farrar says:

    Thanks for sharing your younger poetry-writing self. Unfortunately my coping tool is more chocolate than writing. If I wrote a word for every calorie of chocolate I’ve swallowed I’d have an entire book series. However, thanks for reminding me that I haven’t written any poetry for awhile. I think I’ll take a spin again.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh-our inner emotions. The thoughts that creep into our minds and won’t let go until a pen helps us set them free. For me – it’s only after I’ve written the thoughts down that I can put a proper perspective on many happenings in my life. I’ve kept a journal for decades and am never far from it. I pour my heart onto those pages and years later – I’m amazed at what seemed like such a big deal at the time and further amazed at what I actually lived through at other times. Great post. TX.

    Liked by 1 person

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