She's little and feisty and cranky and very very wise. So when she told me to make my bed, I went home and made my bed. It was the best piece of advice I've ever gotten.
It was a rainy winter day. The topic at the High Nooners meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous was "What do I do every morning that helps me get through the day?". People shared about praying every morning, about reading The Big Book, about exercising, or calling a certain person every day. Then Patti spoke up. The one thing that this wonderful little old lady does every single morning is to make her bed. And then she told us why.
Patti D, like many recovering alcoholics had struggled with depression. Many years ago she went to a meeting of alcoholics anonymous with an ultimatum in mind. If she came away from that meeting and didn't feel a whole lot better, she planned on taking the pile of sleeping pills lying on her bedside table and ending it all. Patti was going to commit suicide after that meeting, and there wasn't much that could stop her. She shared how she felt at that meeting, expecting an outpouring of sympathy and reassurances. Those things did come...however the one woman that Patti really admired told her to quit feeling sorry for herself and go home and make her bed. Patti went home to kill herself. As she sat on her unmade bed to swallow the pills, she thought about how embarrassing it would be to be found dead in a messy bed. (Yes, people who are planning on killing themselves actually think like this). So she made her bed. The neat bed made her realize that her bedroom was also rather messy, so she straightened it up, which led her to cleaning her living room and her bathroom, and before she knew it evening was there and Patti had forgotten to swallow the pills and she felt better. Since that day (which was 30 years ago), Patti has gotten up every morning and made her bed...NO MATTER WHAT.
I went home from that meeting feeling just as down as I had when I went. I was suffering from the worst depression of my life at that time, and while I wasn't contemplating suicide, I felt none of the joy of life. I started to crawl into my bed, but remembered Patti's advice and made my bed before I got into it. The next morning, I remembered her words again, and I made my bed before dragging off to work. Coming home that night, my neat tidy bed was an island of order in my messy, cluttered life and house. I discovered that if I made my bed every morning, I was less likely to go back to bed and spend the day sleeping. I found that if I made my bed I was more likely to continue and take care of other things in my life that needed attention. I began going to the library and checking out books to read on my bed. I learned that the simple act of making my bed divided the night and the day, lifted my spirits and gave me a sense of accomplishment. In a time in my life when shame was the overwhelming emotion that I felt, my neat tidy bed became a symbol to me that I could do something right, that I had some smidgen of normalcy in me.
"Make your bed" the old lady said, so I did. I'm glad.