It was a rainy day and Monday combo yesterday and pretty much the same today, following a weekend of heart-breaking gloom for many of us. Like many of the people who were slaughtered in Paris this weekend, I was out enjoying myself on Friday night; eating, drinking and listening to music. Waking up to the news of the terror attacks reminded me of the fragility of life, how quickly we can be here and gone. And how little control we might have over how that happens.
I’m trying not to be fatalistic about it, but it’s real for me. My son’s grandmother lives there, and it’s a city that I have grown to know well and love. This coming winter will be the first new year in ten years that I don’t spend there, so there are things going on in my head that I know are personal emotions, completely irrelevant to the debate.
Except for that horrible backlash on the internet against caring: are we racist robots for being more disturbed by events that are closer to us in Europe, than the daily slaughter that takes place in the middle east? No, we are human. I am proud to say that most of the people I know (in real life and on social media) do care about what goes on in the world, but we are naturally more frightened and potentially affected by things that happen to our neighbours, than to those thousands of miles away.
Thankfully I am not personally affected by the weekend’s events, as my extended family are safe; but I am affected as a human being. Which is painful enough sometimes if you care about things. This is not a sensitivity contest: none of us should sit there thinking about how much of a nightmare the world is all the time, or you will go quietly mad and may be rendered unable to leave the house. The problems of local and world poverty, war, terror, all the –isms…it’s a smorgasbord of things that will cause anxiety and depression. If we let it defeat us.
I want to be clear – this is not a post about world politics or terror, just about dealing with the shizzle. Because, let’s face it, some of us (i.e. me & many I know) are dealing with tough times in real life. How crap the planet is doing on top of all that, is just the icing on the cake. Unless you count the sudden arrival of cold weather, floods and wind, then you might consider that the cherry on top of the icing. And I’m not sure I want to eat any of it.
When life is far from perfect, then sometimes the only thing that stops you from going face down in a pile of cushions/chocolate/wine/whisky/heroin/insert poison of choice, is thinking about the small things. Everything that’s wrong with the world is too big, so breaking it down is good. Of course, you or me, enjoying a flat white, ain’t gonna change the world. But everyone getting a bit more chilled and happy and then thinking about practical things they can do if they can help, well…that’s all good.
Therefore, in the spirit of positivity, here’s the things that saved me from utter gloom this weekend. Essentially they are about gratitude for the small things in life. And they are easily achievable for many of us when we are feeling like utter crap, whether the instigators of crappiness are internal or external. What I am saying is this: if you wake up one morning, feeling like the world completely sucks, you could try some of these.
- Go to a nice café for breakfast. If you are alone, take a good book. I was convinced I had to go to a local café on Saturday morning for garlic mushrooms on toast. Oh, in this café they are so good: hot, buttery, plentiful…even thinking about them now makes me salivate. This was to be my post hangover/discovery of terrorist attack-cheering me up breakfast. Instead it was closed for normal business – they had a free food thing celebrating asylum seekers and refugees with amazing food from around the world. The picture at the top is from the table I sat at, which happened to be covered with delicious sweet treats. In some ways I felt a bit uncomfortable – being given free food from people who may be much worse off than me. However, someone welcomed me in and I sat there and enjoyed the celebration of food with people. It reminded me that even when people have nothing, they will sit and share a meal with others – an important part of our humanity.
- Flowers. I bought myself a cheap bunch of orange roses from Lidl (£2!!) and they are still cheering me up whenever I walk into my kitchen. Who cares if no-one buys you flowers? Buy them yourself!
- Talking total crap. Sitting in a coffee shop, sharing rubbish jokes and laughing for no reason except that you need to be silly. And laugh. Here’s mine: Q: what do you call James Bond in the bath? A: Bubble 0h seven. Ahem. Don’t thank me, but some eight year old at the after school club ‘talent’ show last week.
- Children. You might not have any but you could borrow some and make a parent exceptionally grateful for the evening. On Saturday evening, my son was delighted with his twin cousins being invited for a sleepover. Sometimes late night children can be very annoying, but this weekend, the sound of kids creeping about the flat, stealing midnight feasts was a joy. To be honest I have no idea looking back what was happening in this picture of me but I do know that it caused much mirth at the time (NB I was wearing a tambourine on my head also, but you can’t see it). Also, children are VERY good at cuddles.
- Physical exercise. Yeah, yeah I know, but it works. I went to my first boxing class at the gym on Sunday morning and my arms still hurt a bit now, but in a good way. Boxing is tough – there are a lot of things to remember about where you put your feet and managing your left and right hands (seems easy until you are told what to do), but it is SO satisfying. As you know, I enjoy flinging heavy stuff about, but punching stuff may be even more enjoyable. I didn’t hit every target, but when I did, BAM. The sound of the glove whacking the pads on impact is like sweet music…I often get teased (especially by male colleagues) when I discuss these things at work, for being some kind of violent maniac. The truth is, that the more you release these feelings of anger in a controlled way, the less angry you are in life. Just ask Bruce Lee.
- Comforting movies. Watch your most favourite happy films. On Sunday, I watched The Railway children and When Harry Met Sally. After that, life seemed a lot funnier and much better.
- Talking to people you don’t know very well. This falls into two categories: firstly, making random conversations with strangers. Some people are naturals at this but personally I find this tricky, because I find most small talk difficult and dull, and often find that people who want to talk to you in Glasgow are drunk and scary. However, by deliberately making myself be more friendly to people, it’s lovely to have chats at train stations and in various queues in shops, especially with older people. Put that smartphone down and talk in the real world! The second category is being open to making new friends, by being open about the good and bad bits of life in conversation. This can be trickier than it sounds, especially when societal norms around stuff like gender can get in the way. But fuck it, who cares? If you like people because they are interesting, why worry about it? Life is short. Get open to new things and new people. Most of them are a lot better than the newspapers tell us they are.
- Get hugs. As many as you can. And don’t be afraid to ask. We never know when the hour is coming, so squeeze out what you can.
Until next time, peace.