Have you ever looked back upon a time in your life and thought is that me? It can’t be.
I’ve been daydreaming about my summers during university, when I worked part time and wrote sprawling essays and stories for my own amusement. I mean, really? I did that? I sat there in that kingdom of good fortune, airily turning out practice pieces about nothing much at all? It goes beyond privilege into the realm of make-believe. I look back in wonder at my laziness. I remember very sunny days in the library as I tried to teach myself Old Icelandic (I failed). Days spent reading anything, whatever. I was wrapped up in numb warm serenity. I was twenty-one, everything was beginning and nothing would ever end.
But, ah, life accelerates each year. It also seems to get very full. I long for that lost kingdom, those sunny empty summers. Things fall apart, to quote Yeats, although he was perhaps thinking of more serious things than my chill. The serenity didn’t hold. Now there’s a house to clean and food to buy, prep, freeze in batches. I budget. I have curtain issues. I’m trying to get my five a day. There are always plans. I don’t even have kids – I have no idea how a person might have kids and also brush their hair once in a while.
Ever feel like you’re working really hard just to stay in the same place? If I stop for even a sec, I’ll be whisked backwards off the treadmill and land flat on my face. There is no off switch.
I know I’m not the only one.
So this is not a pity post. I’m not asking for, like, people to just lower their expectations of me (as a certain Ivanka did recently).
I’m here to share the tactics and strategies that get me through each day. Life is for living, and I hope to win this war against tiny details and one day perhaps get back to that serene and golden kingdom of daydreams, if only for a day, now and then. We need to daydream, right? Please, take what you need of the advice below. I brought it here for you.
Take a year
I can’t find the exact entry, but recently on the Captain Awkward website, the Cap’n advised a reader who was stuck in a rut to simply take a year out. It sounds counter-intuitive (I know the internal voice is screaming WHAT you can’t AFFORD that) but she meant, take a year. A year to rehearse. It doesn’t matter what you achieve this year; that’s not the point of this year. This year is when you get to try things out, and if you mess up and it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t matter. You’re just practising. You could try learning something new. Dance nightly. Peruse some life options. Dealing with crushing feelings of failure? It’s cool, they’re actually postponed until this year is up. This year comes without expectations or attitude. This year could start for you tomorrow.
Again, perhaps this is counter-intuitive, but prioritizing frugality is a de-stress strategy. An example: I bought an IKEA dresser. A year later the dresser broke. I dreaded all the time and money and physical effort I would have to put into getting a new dresser. Even clicking a button on a website and organising delivery was stressing me out. After a few weeks of fretting, I realised I would save time and money by just living with the busted up dresser. I mean, who cares? It still vaguely does the job. I’ll put it in the recycling one fine, chilled-out morning. I have other places to store my clothes. I have other uses for my fretting skills. Frugality has a great deal in common with not giving a fuck. Enjoy that.
Make a plan and make it large and visible
I make myself an A2 wallchart whenever the going gets tough. I make it to suit whatever parameters I’m currently obsessing about (right now I’m rocking a quite fabulous ‘Aug Sept Oct and don’t fall apart’ themed chart, which is green and silver). It helps to just put it all up there so you can paw at it gently and murmur ‘these are the things, all the things’ while chewing the sleeve of your jumper in a self-soothing manner.
But more seriously, a wall-chart makes me feel instantly calmer. If you are a visual person who really likes to see the whole picture, this will be the way and the light for you.
Apply a meme
It’s the modern way. When scanning through to-do lists, I have taken to applying a meme to every entry:
If there is no satisfactory answer, the item gets binned.
Check in with the universe
There was this recent listicle on Buzzfeed, and it was about how nothing we think or do could ever really matter and we are an insignificant speck in a gargantuan and unfathomable mystery. Lol! It also really made me chill out about a lot of stuff. For this reason, I look for videos about space on YouTube when I need to get a bit of perspective. There’s a liberating, bitter-sweet calm in it. Apply this feeling to the minutiae of everyday life.
Check in with the Dude
My secret style icon du jour and a leader for the ages: The Dude from the motion picture The Big Lebowski. Sometimes you need to take a day and commit to Not Caring. For the anxious amongst us, you can agree with your to-do-lists that you’ll just take one day out to chill. There will be a start and finish point, so you can really relax. Take this day. Get yourself a good quality dressing gown and pour yourself a white Russian with plenty of ice (or whatever your chosen tipple may be – ice-cream sandwich, double espresso). This is what real self-care looks like.