I discovered at some point as a teenager that people feel comfortable confiding in me about their problems. Sometimes people I barely knew would message me to hash out whatever happened to be troubling them. And still today, whenever someone tells me, “I haven’t told anyone that before” I feel slightly astonished that suddenly I’ve been picked to be on the receiving end of such intimate knowledge. I sat next to a lady on an airplane who told me about how she’s felt alone her entire life. My friend and I were checking out at a gas station really late at night and the cashier just started telling us about her failing marriage. I was reading alone on a park bench once and someone I had gone to school with came up and went on to tell me a really messed up life story that I won’t repeat here. I can’t tell you why this happens. A friend once said, “You just have one of those faces that makes people feel like they can word vomit on you, and you’ll still be smiling.”
Don’t get me wrong. I will still smile if you vomit on me, metaphorically…or literally for that matter. I do genuinely care about people…even random flight buddies and gas station strangers. I do genuinely enjoy listening. I’m happy that my face potentially has some sort of invitation stamped on it. BUT this also means that from time to time I hear information that I didn’t want or need to know. There are no precautionary measures I can take. Words get said and then they’re out there. There’s no going back. They just float in word space for a few moments before they make themselves at home in my brain. And this is what happens every time: I keep cool as a cucumber in the moment. But after a few minutes/hours/days of trying to be really okay, mature, handling it like a champ, etc…I.freak.out.
This sort of happened recently. I called my sister. This conversation ensued:
Me: “X was telling me about Z and I thought I was fine. I really did. But then it just totally threw me off my game and I’ve been in a funk lately. I can’t figure out why! I don’t want to do anything with anyone. I sleep all the time. I slept for thirteen hours yesterday. THIRTEEN. I want it to be fine. It’s so annoying. Gaaaahhhhh.”
Sister: “What do you mean you can’t figure out why? It’s because you’re a human with feelings. You’re not a rock.”
Right. She’s such a cheeky little voice of reason.
So, for anyone else out there who finds themselves in the same place: HEY. Shit happens. It’s going to affect you. Let it. But then maybe you can think of some things that make you feel fierce and do them. Here’s my list:
One. Stress cleaning! (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this) Clean out the fridge. Refold everything in your dresser. Organize that drawer you put everything that doesn’t have a home in.
Two. Cook. Ordering take out when you’re bumming is oh-so-tempting. But cooking forces you to focus on what’s in front of you. Whip up a favourite or try something new. Take some satisfaction in making something with your own hands. Plus, call me crazy, but I find chopping vegetables kind of therapeutic.
Three. Get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Hike. Bike. Walk. Run. Swim. Downward dog. Just go stand and breathe somewhere else.
Four. Feel the rhythm of the night. One night last week I was walking to a friend’s flat, had my headphones in, and was listening to a song that pretty much demanded dance moves. So, as I approached this street lined with empty bars, I unashamedly danced past the bouncers, who were thoroughly entertained by my mad skills. I also rediscovered this gem thanks to Spotify, which took me back to 2009 when I drove around in a giant metallic blue pick up truck and practiced my Lil Jon voice. Its just so unnecessarily aggressive. I die of giggles every time.
Five. Pray. Praying tends to stop the me, me, me and I start meditating on something far greater. I focus on people I love or causes I care about. And I listen, but it’s the kind of listening that doesn’t deplete me in any way.
Six. Do one thing you’re passionate about. I hadn’t painted in forever. I couldn’t bring my paints with me. I don’t have money to buy new ones. But I was talking about this to an invigilator at the City Art Centre and he told me there’s an art room that’s technically for children, but I could use it any time I wanted. So, I did! And it felt sooooo good.
Seven. Force yourself to do something social. I think pretty much everything we look for in life can be found in knowing and loving other people. In a world that shouts at us about being independent, the reality is that we need community. I’m all for taking time to be alone. Sometimes I need it to reenergise. But when I get stuck in a rut, I find that ususally all it takes to shake it off is being in good company.
PS- on a completely pointless and unrelated note…did you guys know that Brad Pitt’s brother looks exactly like the lovechild of Zach Braff and John Travolta?