PARIS—How could T. S. Eliot have said “April is the cruellest month”? Surely it’s February.

But look at it this way: It’s almost over. The days are getting longer—six more minutes of sunshine today alone; Valentine’s Day may have been a festive celebration; the first robins of spring are tiptoeing (honestly, it looked as if they were) gingerly in the snow and scoping out nest placement for their beautiful azure eggs . . .

Okay, that’s not doing it for you. I get it. The world’s a mess; the media are in overdrive hammering home the horrible news from one side of the globe to the other; it’s an election year in France as well; and the candidates are getting more and more aggressive.

Bottom line: You’re feeling a tad blue, a little down; the blahs have set in, and they’re hard to shake. I know, I know.

Therefore, I’d like to offer you several everyday, scaled-down remedies for those mornings when you don’t feel like getting out of bed—remedies that don’t involve a doctor’s prescription, a pharmacist’s remedy, or a winning lottery ticket. Here, then, is my informal, nonscientific sampling of what Frenchwomen from 40 to 80 do to pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and start all over again and again and again.

Juliette: “I call a friend or friends, ask them to get all dressed up, and off we go to the Hemingway Bar at the Hotel Ritz for one cocktail.  It only takes one—they’re very expensive—when you are at the Ritz.”

Giselle: “I sit quietly and breathe deeply for as long as it takes . . .”

Anne-Françoise: “I call my son-in-law and ask him to write a prescription for me.”  (I intercede, re-explaining to my best French friend why this is NOT the answer we’re looking for here.)  “Okay,” she says. “In that case I’ll make a pot of tea, call you and tell you to come over immediately so we can gossip and say terrible things about everyone we know.” (There you go, that’s perfect.) “Then when you leave I’ll call Daniel for the prescription.”

Patricia: “I find a funny film playing someplace, get in my car—all by myself, that’s essential—and when I get to the theater I order a huge bucket of popcorn and laugh and cry in the dark while I eat every last piece of popcorn. So far it has always worked.”

Claudie: “I dig holes in my garden.  It gets out my anger, my misery, it’s hard work, and then I go out and buy little trees or plants and put them in the holes. I know it’s strange to dig the holes when I don’t know exactly what will go into them, but I always find just the right thing, and my garden is beautiful.”

Anne-Charlotte: “I sit on the floor with my two huge dogs. One lies down against my leg and the other one throws herself over my lap. As I pet them, they seem to sap the depression out of me; then as a reward for their therapy, I take them for a walk.”

Alexandra: “I walk deep into the forest, and, without making a sound, watch families of deer eating and strolling through the trees.  I have to be totally concentrated because they can hear the slightest movement.

Frances: “I go to an exposition. When I see over and over what beauty humans are capable of creating, it gives me a certain sense of peace in my turmoil.”

Chantal: “On a really bad day I combine two techniques. I get up early and ride my horse for two or three hours. I come home; take a shower; get quite dressed up; take special care with my hair and makeup; and drive into Paris for dinner with friends. Then I stay the night at my sister’s apartment. The next day when I go back to the country I’ve forgotten my problems.”

Marie-Claude: “I cry. I cry until all my tears are spent, and then I make a tarte.”

Annie: “I play the piano.”

Danielle: “I eat chocolate until I feel better. It never fails.”

Josiane: “I make an appointment for something—a facial, a manicure, a pedicure, anything just for me, to take my mind off whatever is bothering me.”

Marion: “I sleep.”

Photo: McBeth (flickr)

Elisabeth: “I go back to bed with cookies, a pot of tea and either fashion magazines or a book. It feels decadent—because I should be doing something—but I don’t care. It’s medicinal.”

Marie-Laure: “I bake. And I bake and I bake and I bake, particularly apple tarts. It takes some concentration, the kitchen smells wonderful, and my family appreciates the result.”

Elise: “I buy myself a huge bouquet of tulips. At night I put them in the cellar and bring them back up every morning. They usually last two weeks. That’s a lot of pleasure from one ephemeral purchase.”

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  • BigLittleWolf March 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    How did I miss this delightful piece?

    Well the good news is… it’s March!

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. February 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    The husband just brought me yellow tulips…so many that it looked like spring in the living room and dining room. So often it is the small things that give us joy. I had read your delightful post to him days ago and he said, “You don’t have to be French to love tulips!” You just never know what men will remember, yes?

    We can’t wait to hear from you again,

    Dr. Pat

  • Jennifer Cheyne February 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Wonderful post! I think if I had to choose one, I’d like to have Chantal’s life when blue. Parfait!

  • b. elliott February 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    What a party it must be when you gather these women together! Thank you for sharing them and their great blah-beaters.