I love all the weird idioms which we all say like they’re totally normal. It’s fine to talk about something happening ‘once in a blue moon’. Also fine: ‘feeling blue’, ‘a prize idiot’ (what prize? The possibilities…), ‘swings and roundabouts’, ‘cutting to the chase’. As much fun as it is that we all talk in slightly off-kilter metaphors, there is one phrase which is not fun. ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. GGHHHRRRRAAAARRGHHHHH. Along with ‘It might never happen’, to which the obvious response is, ‘It already has’. If life gave me lemons, I’d think that life was taking a not unwelcome swerve into surreal territory.
Also, telling someone to cheer up is a minefield, fraught with potential disaster. Firstly, you never know what might be wrong. It could be terrible. Secondly, although the sentiment comes from a good place, you are essentially saying ‘I don’t like your sad face. Make it go away’. Which is not the same as ‘Do you want to talk about why life sucks right now, and do you need a Cornetto?’
This is not something that has happened to me recently. I’m extremely lucky to have loved ones in my life who have a great tolerance for listening to my miseries and offering much sympathy. In fact I can’t remember the last time I smacked someone on the back of the head and then ran away because they’d dared to tell me to cheer up (I’m delightful). However I have found myself sometimes sinking into the sticky mire of bad feelings, and not even Humphrey Bogart films have helped. It’s felt from time to time that the following dialogue is happening between me and life:
Life: ‘Oh, what are these? Your plans for the future? Well do you mind if I just hack them apart with a sledgehammer? …. Oh you do mind? Oh, ok. Well this is awkward now’.
Me: [Getting worried]: ‘What’s awkward?’
Life: [Sheepishly] ‘Nothing. It’s just that I already did. I… I hacked them apart. I don’t even know why. Sorry about that. I think these pieces are maybe what’s left?’
Me: [Pause] ‘Well I’m just going to lie face down on the sofa for a while and scream.’
One of the greatest things someone said to me was ‘remember everyone’s in the same boat’. A metaphor I love. It sounds cosy. Also, tis true. With this in mind, I would like to share my ways of cheering up. This is not because I want your sad face to go away. This is because life can be surprisingly mean and uncaring about your tired little soul sometimes, and if that’s the case (and you do not believe in a benevolent universe), then you might like to try these methods. I find them to be most good.
A recent innovation in the world of sugar-based remedies for feeling sad. I like to call this ‘The Cup of Caramel’, which can be eaten in bed in the middle of the night when the horrors are upon you with a series of pressing What Ifs. The recipe is a little vague as I was feeling maudlin and rebellious at the time, but essentially, you need a mix which is 50% golden syrup, 25% butter and 25% brown sugar. Go forth, Mathlete, and compute. You heat this in a saucepan over a low heat until it’s bubbling gently. Add a splash of milk. Let it bubble a bit more, and make sure all the grains of sugar have melted. Then pour into a cup and eat with a spoon. A word of warning: it will be hotter than the sun, so let it cool a little first.
Reading about Evil.
This may seem counter-intuitive, I know. I don’t mean reading about the evil things that humans have recently been doing to each other (I mean, if that’s what you’re after, pick up a paper, it will be awash with this kind of stuff). I mean trying to counter the feelings of hopelessness that can sometimes arise from, well, the actual news. I picked up a book in the Mitchell Library called ‘Evil and Human Agency’ by Arne Johan Vetlesen, not because that sexy title lured me in, but because I was wondering around the Big Important Sociology Section waiting for someone, and started perusing all the incomprehensible titles. Then I picked this up. Although the cover expertly makes it look like the least fascinating book ever written, it turned out to be one of the most fascinating. Here are all these people who care so much about the world that they are trying to figure out why bad stuff happens, and what the ‘evil-doers’ might be thinking. All to try and prevent terrible things from happening again. The magnitude of the task and the fact that it seems impossible only makes it even more admirable – heroic, even – that books like this are written. Go Sociologists.
Younicorn Al Pacino
You could younicorn yourself, or you could younicorn Al Pacino, with the Younicorn App. Or simply Younicorn EVERYONE YOU KNOW. This app offers priceless minutes of distraction. Or in my case, hours of distraction. Nay, weeks. This can also handily double-up as a cry for help: as one of my friends said, “When you sent me 15 pictures of yourself as a unicorn, I knew it was time to visit you”.
Give up and then Make Plans
Giving Up is a favourite past-time of mine. I do it spectacularly well. Giving up can involve any of the following activities: neglecting to get dressed on a Sunday, learning to love your pyjamas as day-wear and night-wear; not washing your hair, eating whatever you want to (jar of jam + spoon), sitting watching an old film you’ve seen a million times with the glassy gaze of someone traumatized by a recent unspecified disaster. This can all feel lovely. Don’t believe all the naysaysers who want you to get out of bed at a reasonable time, make coffee, go for a run, be a functioning adult. Trust me: their advice is baloney. You just settle in on the sofa, there.
Unfortunately, like all good things, the joy of giving up is but transitory. If you do this for too long (if you have a long-term bum imprint on your sofa, for example, and know the dialogue to that film so well that you could recreate every scene verbatim without so much as a flicker of effort) you will start to feel like crap. I don’t know why this is; I guess it’s just some mysterious natural law of science, or like, the universe or something. Slowly the feelings of comfort and recklessness meld into a general malaise, somehow more muddy and swamping then the bad feelings you were originally trying to alleviate.
When this happens, the next step is to Make Plans. Personally I find it tough to make that shift from Being A Lazy Asshole to Getting On With My Life. Perhaps one of the best ways to make that leap is to take a second to think about those naysayers you airily dismissed with a wave of your hand as you spread like melting ice-cream into the sofa. They were trying to help. They didn’t need to – they have their own lives and assorted shit to be dealing with. But they wanted you to get out of bed at a reasonable time and make coffee. Because they care. When others care about you, annoyingly, this means that you really have to care about yourself too. Thems the breaks. You have people in your life that love you, and for that reason alone, there cannot be endless gloom. C’mon now, take some responsibility. (I say to myself).
So now you need to do all your beloved people a favour and do the hard work for yourself, so they don’t have to anymore. Getting out of bed, getting dressed and functioning as an adult are the things you are now aiming for, and to do this, you need to Make Plans. I like to aim for something truly awesome, but quite far away, like a holiday that will be happening in about a year and a half. That gives you something that is unequivocably FLIPPING BRILLIANT to think about, but also, gives you plenty o’time to think about this wonderful thing. Think about it, take it out and fluff it up a little now and then. Examine it from all its wonderful angles. It’s great and it’s going to happen to you. Before you know it you’ll be getting out of bed and washing like it ain’t no big deal. You won’t even notice, but you’ll be sleeping at regular sleeping times, and eating things called ‘dinner’ at ‘dinner time’, and you may even be able to listen to what others are saying and not be such a selfish grump about everything, jeeeeez.
Plans work a treat. It’s not just for people who can afford a holiday either. You can set up a series of things, big and small, that you can look forward to. Buy so much pic’n’mix that you can fill a bathtub and just leave it there for your flatmate. Take daytrips, book tickets for exciting things, plan and execute a thrilling plot of seduction. Or just do what you can: plan a trip to the corner shop for scratch-cards and magazines. Yeah, you’ll be great. Plan to make a cup of tea. That’s the spirit.