How can we protect ourselves in this crazy world? I have absolutely no idea but am being paid to pretend I do! Here’s a soft-serve of my soul and all the ways I try to do better/feel better/try better/fail better.
Such is my despair at the escalating climate crisis that even the simplest of tasks have become existential undertakings. A grocery shop now finds me quivering in a supermarket aisle, terrified of picking up, guilted into putting down item after item while phrases like ‘single-use plastic’, ‘carbon footprint’, and ‘imported from Chile’ ring siren-like in my ears. Greta told me to act like my house is on fire but, in the incendiary blaze of my hysteria, it rather feels like my mind is on fire – trapped in a conflict between wanting to make a difference and not knowing how. Never is this feeling of helplessness stronger than when performing something as simple – as instinctive and unconscious – as brushing my teeth.
This time last year, I was incontrovertibly unemployed with absolutely no pathway out of this unemployment. An internship I had been praying would lead to my first real job and an escape from part-time work, did not end in a contract. I was stranded, lost, and out of my depth in an ocean in which everyone else I knew was bobbing along on flotation devices of varying levels of security. As I was signing on to the dole, my friends were signing mortgages for their first house. I was, essentially, Jack in that last scene in Titanic while all around me were rocking a more ‘Leo in The Wolf of Wall Street on one of his many luxurious yachts’ kind of vibe.
It is a truth universally acknowledged: we live in an over-stimulated, over-populated, perpetually connected world in which we are never truly “off” and no job is ever truly “done”.There is always someone outdoing us – and taunting us about it from the self-flagellating ether of social media. It is little wonder, then, that 30 per cent of Irish employees are overly stressed in work while 70 per cent of us suffer from the modern phenomenon of impostor syndrome with most of these, of course, being women.
Toxic positivity. It sounds incongruous, impossible even. How can something so synonymous with goodness, joy, happiness ever be equated with toxicity? Yet anyone reading this who has ever tried to express a problem to a friend and been met with well-meaning yelps of “look on the bright side”, “it could be worse”, “you just need to stay positive” knows that not only does toxic positivity exist, it is fast becoming omnipresent as it morphs from an inspirational Instagram post to a rigid mantra we feel we must embody in order to succeed or be accepted.
One of the hardest parts of a break up are the memories. You can block, mute, unfollow a person, you can throw away the paraphernalia that sanctified their existence and swap old photos for new but you cannot quite wipe away the echo of their presence. Every time we think – and know! – we are over ‘them’, a certain street, particular corner pub, or elusive shape of cloud triggers a potent memory, dragging us back to heartache’s imaginary starting line as we re-join the queue to the slip’n’slide spiral of mourning, hurt, pain. I say ‘we’. Of course, as ever, I mean me.
I have one favourite day in the calendar year. One day that, though I never know exactly when it will hit, always makes my breath catch, heart expand, pupils dilate, palms sweat with impatient excitement. It is a day – perpetually clear-skied, impossibly bright – when the sun is fat but only lazily warm. When there is always a cow somewhere in a field and there is always a breeze that pricks my still-bare skin that refuses to cower to the goosebumps, the chill and inevitable cold. It is the advent of autumn and the auspicious dawn when latent heat turns red to deep purple and green to burnished gold. It is the day the blackberries arrive.
The antidote to bad sex, late night texts to exes who don’t deserve you, and friendships that no longer serve you, Lizzo is an explosive remedy for almost every ailment of our daily lives – from body insecurity to impostor syndrome. Only she could make me write the term self-love and not immediately want to gag. I firmly believe Lizzo is the soundtrack to wellbeing and, in listening to her music, we can find the self-love we are told we don’t deserve, yet which we are all born innately worthy of.
Greta tells us she wants us to panic, to act like our house is on fire. Lord knows, I’m panicking. Battered by the overwhelming proof that life as we know it is on the brink of irrevocable and potentially cataclysmic change, my internal monologue is an opera of hopelessness, powerlessness, and helplessness that creates a binary reaction to Greta’s words: paralysis.
‘Yet’ – this seemingly insignificant, unobtrusive wisp of a word – might just be what you need to get back on that treadmill, apply for that promotion, sign up to that language course or attempt to make a vegan cake that’s not a rock of congealed porridge for the five millionth time.
Whoever said that holidays are a time to relax, unwind, and switch off from our usual merry-go-round of preoccupations, frustrations, and deadlines is a liar. Well, perhaps liar is too strong a term, but an exception and friend of hypocrisy, at the very least.
Is there anything more fortifying, comforting, heart-warmingly wonderful than walking into a coffee shop (generally sweating and frazzled in early-morning frenzy) and being greeted by a barista who knows your coffee order? For me, it’s akin to a form of homecoming.
Indulgence is too frequently equated with negativity and deprivation with achievement. A croissant is “bad”, and its consumption is akin to the one-night-stand you swore wouldn’t happen again: a brief moment of masochistic pleasure followed by shame, regret, self-loathing, and invariably, indigestion.
In a world of online shopping and single-use swaddling that has resulted in a disconnect between what we want and what we buy, massaging a bell pepper can offer our exhausted, post-work selves a happiness boost and a mindful reconnection to both nature and our bodies.