Let's Smell The Flowers of Cognitive Spring Cleaning

The Georgia Chronicle

No, not your average spring cleaning— cognitive spring cleaning

A woman sits amongst a pile of laundry in a modified lotus position with her eyes closed and smiling softlyImage by Adobe Creative Cloud

I know we’re just into May; Mother’s Day, graduations, and quite a lot of weddings are right around the corner. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Most people refer to it as time for ‘spring cleaning.’True, there’s a good possibility we need to do that too — but cleaning out closets and refreshing our homes and wardrobes is often more than just a way to get our houses clean.

Many people report feeling a kind of euphoric delight when doing spring cleaning

Almost like a purge of whatever darkness had permeated their lives over the winter and since the holidays.

Indeed, this time of year brings with it a very strong emotional rebirth for many people. We begin to see the blooming of a brightly vibrant, and aromatic wonderland of nature. A world that had been dormant for at least several months.

For many people, this rebirth is invigorating. It injects them with new passions for life (theirs and others around them — human, animal, and vegetable).

Then there are yet others who look to these wonders of renewal and are forced to see the blooming of a new year that will be spent without a special someone. it is these people I have in mind as I write this.

During my second year at Columbia University, I was getting close to having to declare a major, and I was terrified

One day, while walking to a class on the other side of the campus and enjoying the lushly manicured floral arrangements that adorned the school grounds, I encountered a girl who appeared seriously depressed.

The previous year, this same girl had been extremely boisterous and outgoing. But that day, she was quite literally, a shell of her former self. Sullen, withdrawn, and aloof, I couldn’t immediately tell if I needed to be worried (in the early 90s collegiate suicide rates were hideously high), but I decided to remain silent and observant.

When her elevated level of melancholy didn’t improve over the next several days, I decided to be proactive and I approached her. As it happens, her mother, who had been battling a severe illness for several years, had finally succumbed to it only a few days after Christmas of the previous year.

“These are the first spring flowers I have ever seen without my mom. And somehow, they just don’t seem as full of hope and love as they once were.”

Two things occurred to me just then

I knew that I had to spend as much time as necessary talking to that young lady to help her climb out of her funk. I also knew at that very moment that I would declare my major to be Clinical Psychology.

For the next few weeks, that girl and I met every weekday for lunch. I did my best to help her see how bright her future was and how much her mother would live on within her, re-blooming every so often, just like a flower within her heart. In the process, she helped me to see that calculus and other forms of applied mathematics weren’t as pointless as I had thought.

Two years later, we both graduated early. I with my shiny new M.S. in Clinical Psychology; and one year after that, my M.A. in English and Journalism. She earned her M.S. in Biology and is now a world-class cardiologist. We are still, and always will be, the best of friends.

This is my most heartfelt desire for everyone this year

That we focus the microscope of our criticisms introspectively and dedicate ourselves to tilling, watering, and fertilizing the seeds of hope, compassion, and empathy that once thrived within us.

After two of the most psychologically tumultuous years in human history, and with the new life of spring blooming up all around us, something needs to change within each of us-- to blossom into what was once before.

So this spring, let’s work to take the time and help each other “spring clean” our conscious minds and release them from the burdens and depressions we’ve been holding on to. If we do that, we, as a society, can step back, stop, and smell the flowers that will bloom around us —once again.

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