Three Nice Things

Back about thirty-five years ago, when many of my friends were young mothers, I knew a Japanese woman with two children who had just been left by her husband. We rallied around and she was appreciative. But she felt she shouldn’t lean too much on us. She told us, “I no longer have a husband. Soon I must do everything for myself. I will start by doing three nice things each day. One for the house, one for my children, and one for myself.”

They weren’t expensive or elaborate things. One corner of the house usually got a little extra cleaning or a handful of wildflowers. She read to the children or played a simple game with them, like statues. I don’t know what she did for herself – maybe throw darts at her husband’s photo? Probably more likely a bubble bath.

I tucked that little trick in the back of my mind, and I pull it out frequently now. One nice thing for the house, one nice thing for the survivor community, one nice thing for myself. It makes me feel good and it often gets me moving.

I can imagine all sorts of ways it could be adapted to people’s needs. Like writing down your alters’ names and putting them into a pretty box. Then everyday you could take out three slips of paper and think of something nice to do for them. The littles would be easy of course, but the self-sufficient executive ones or the hostile alters might be more of a problem. What do you get somebody who needs nothing? How about a thank you note? And for the hostile ones? No weapons. No mean words. No sicky sweet Hallmark cards. Something that side-steps the good/bad dichotomy, something value-neutral. How about a walk in a park or an ice cream cone?

You could do nice things for different parts of your body. Or different parts of your house. You could pick three living things: plants, animals, people. If you chose people, you could put as much effort into thinking up three senseless acts of kindness as you usually do beating up on yourself.

The sad thing is that happy, non-abused people would never think of doing something like this. They do things that make themselves and others feel good without thinking. It’s as natural as breathing. But for us, it’s a learned skill. We have to conduct research to find out what might feel good. Then we have to tentatively try it out.

Probably there will be a weird reaction, perhaps a new memory or a full-fledged flashback. Not necessarily because the thing we chose to do involves a trigger, but because all unfamiliar behavior can in itself be a trigger. Then, after working the initial reaction through, we have to practice and practice in order to get used to it. Happy people were taught all this by their parents before they entered school.

How much catching up we have to do! And how proud we should be of our accomplishments!

6 thoughts on “Three Nice Things

  1. It is odd and so sad that we have to learn how to be happy, how not to be driven, how to relax and enjoy life and how to do the myriad of other things that we were never taught how to do. It is not that we were not taught anything…it is just that what we were taught was how to make other happy and how to take care of them and not ourselves.

    I love your writing and insights, Jeannie.


  2. I have an odd similarity. I choose my friends based on their having one of three things: kids, pets or plants. In my life I have found those who have none of these aren’t usually my sort of people. The items have in common the inability to express their needs clearly, especially when young. So we have to listen differently.

    I like your Japanese friend’s determination, how realistic and manageable it could be—just three things. Thanks


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