You know how I know how there’s no God? Comfort Eating. What a bullshit concept. There’s very little comfort in it, if you ask me.
(Or: Why life seems so much better with sad songs in it)
Are you one of those people who listens to upbeat, happy tunes whenever they feel down in the dumps? Or do you dive headfirst into a heart-rending ballad, wallowing in the sadness, letting the melancholy melody wash over you in a wave of blissful catharsis?
Well in case you haven’t guessed from the description above, I’m a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the latter. I live for this shit. I need it – to quote Bon Jovi (yup, you read that right) – like a poet needs the pain. At the ripe oldage of 37, I’m still a moody, grungy overemotional teenager at heart. In some sick, twisted way, it makes me feel light years better to hear all those churning, dark, magnetic, gut-wrenching feelings from a position of ‘once removed’; like if Eddie Vedder can perfectly describe how I felt about a particular breakup or a jaunt down the one-way street of unrequited love, then it saves me the work.
Many an hour would be passed in secondary school by me simply writing out lyrics pertinent to my emotional situation. From a wide assortment of artists, I would fill page after page with the works of the great masters such as Hetfield, Di Franco, Morrison, Dylan, Amos et al. I was, and still am, a bit of a Rain Man when it comes to retaining song lyrics, so I could go on unchecked for tens of pages at a time, depending on how boring I found the lesson. Pity the auld Leaving Cert was never presented in song form; I’d have been a 600-pointer for sure.
I’m quoting Nick Hornby a lot while discussing this topic, but he’s got the best take on it in his book High Fidelity:
No contest for me, I was of the former. I was a clinically depressed, miserable, tormented, stereotypical teenage child of an ugly divorce, so much so that while my parents were in the middle of taking a verbal sledgehammer to the crumbling walls of their marriage, I stuck Pearl Jam’s Ten album on at full blast to drown out the anger outside my bedroom walls and give me a dose of the anger I felt within. To this day, I can’t listen to the song ‘Once’ without being transported back to the blood-red walls of my teenage bedroom and feeling the sky fall down around me.
My music gave me a lovely soft place to fall. I didn’t have to make sense of or verbalise what I felt, or try to ignore it – I just needed to (apologies to all the young folk out there) stick on the right cassette. It was like having your favourite musician as your own personal well-being advocate. Imagine Axl Rose sitting your feuding parental units down and roaring at them, telling them to get their shit together and stop fucking with your head or else he’ll fuck their telly out the window. How fun.
Some folk find it worrying that someone could be so immersed in sad melancholy music – to them, I say ‘CHILL’. Better that it’s out there rather than being buried deep down, only to resurface when you least expect it. Your brain is a dickhead for that sort of thing. Trust me.
I suppose it depends on how each of us uses music. Some use it to help transform their mood; others like me use it to express & enhance the mood I’m already in. To each his own.
I wonder why it’s so much easier to become attracted to dark, depressing music and poetry? Along with those aforementioned musicians, all of the great classical poets that have etched their initials on the tough, bark-like exterior of my heart were all a bunch of miserable, Emo, navel-gazing bastards. And oh, how I loved them for it. Dickinson, Plath, Woolf, Shelley, Poe – I’d sit them all at my fantasy Dead or Alive Dinner Party any day. Hopkins and Wordsworth with their daffodils and fawning over nature’s glory can fuck off back to Disneyland. There’s no room at my dinner table for Shiny Happy bastards.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a rollicking good peppy-as-fuck tune on occasion. Show me ‘Footloose’ in the club, and I’ll show you dance moves that would make Kevin Bacon vomit with jealousy. Happy tunes have their place in the world, obviously. However, there’s something far more visceral, dark and delicious about a deep sad song that pulls you in for a slow, languid embrace, telling you it’ll all be okay. It tells you they’ve been there where you are, they feel it too, and they’re going to save you the trouble of having to put words on something, the description of which evades you. They have it worked out already through the medium of song – and it’s utterly perfect.
Go on, press play again. Let it wash over you once more.
Someone pass me a tissue…..
SIX SONGS SO SAD THEY’LL GIVE YOU AN EMO-BONER
(click on the song title to give your ears a tearful hug)
1: Bon Iver – re: Stacks
2: Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat
3: Pearl Jam – Black
4: Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were
5: Tori Amos – Silent All These Years
6: Ani Di Franco – Both Hands
About a year ago, I bumped into a very dear friend one Saturday in the Milk Market (Hi Una). Now, for us and many other friends of mine, if you’re in the Milk Market in Limerick City of a Saturday morn, you’re winning at Life. It means that no matter what state you were in the night before, you had the foresight to set your alarm for a weekend morning to get down there to sample all of the lovely food & hot bevvies to soothe your weary soul. AND YOU MADE IT DOWN THERE. High fives all round.
But, all that aside, after we’d shouted, embraced and congratulated with each other, we got to chatting about how it’s the little things like going to a gorgeous market like this that make life a little more bearable. Gods love us, we’re a bunch of deep-thinking bastards.
It was during this conversation when Una said “You know what else is brilliant? Making your bed.” I stopped, blinded by the lightbulb moment that flashed in my brain. Una is right. And a genius. She was bang on the money. When it comes to taking stock of the little things that help keep you sane and give your mental health a wee boost, getting up and out of the bed on a morning when you don’t feel like you have any reason to is a pretty big fucking step.
It’s the first proactive thing you’ll do all day, and even if it’s the only proactive thing, then so be it. But – if you have the clarity of thought to baby-step the day ahead, you could do a lot worse than turn around and simply make your bed.
It’s like putting a full stop at the end of a nighttime sentence. It signifies so much, when you really think about it (and I do a lot, this is the joy of my brain). Making your bed tells your brain to wake up for the day, so don’t even THINK of rustling up that duvet or flattening that pillow. On the flipside, it lets you know that you love yourself enough to feel that you deserve a nice, warm, inviting, freshly-made bed yo dive into at the end of a long day of dealing with – well, simply just living. It’s your little reward to yourself for surviving another 24 hours.
I’d been thinking about that a lot lately, which brought me back to one of my favourite blogs from back in the day, called 1000 Awesome Things (click on title to check it out), which I’d found after watching this TED talk:
Both the blog and the talk are almost magical in the feelings they can conjure up from deep within. The blog is all about seeking out the little regular ordinary things in life that can bring you even the teeniest glimmer of light in an otherwise dull day. Nothing grandiose or out-of-reach; just incidental stuff that would normally slip by unnoticed while we’re too busy getting on with the business of living & dealing with our daily worries and problems. Taking stock of small things that go well helps keep us in the moment, and out of the dark cavern of self-doubt and anxiety into which some of us can tend to get sucked in. Who wouldn’t want a respite, however brief, from their daily inner beat-down?
Nowadays, the blog has waaaay more than its original 1000 awesome things for you to take a look at, but I’m going to give my own list a go this week. If you want a nice cheerful exercise, try it out with friends next time you’re sitting around having a coffee. You’d be surprised at how contagious those little bursts of joy can be. By stopping to take note of something nice that has happened or something I’ve noticed in my day, I find it easier to be grateful for where I am and how far I’ve come. Look, I’m no Pollyanna when it comes to seeing the bright side of things – my default mode is cynicism and crippling self-hatred the vast majority of the time. I tend to tell the world to go and fuck itself on a regular basis so I’m no self-help guru, that’s for damn sure. But I just thought I’d share some bits and bobs I’ve come across online that give me pause for thought, in the hope that someone else might find it useful. Must have a think tonight and jot some of my own ‘awesome things’ down.
But first – I’ve got to go make my flippin’ bed. Any minute now…
I hate exercise. HATE IT. Yeah I get it, it’s good for you, Nature’s anti-depressant, blah blah blah, you won’t know yourself…fuck the fuck off! I just DON’T. LIKE. MOVING. Unless it’s to turn arse-cheeks and reset the butt-groove in the couch after a two-hour marathon. And don’t tell me that’s not an effort. You’re also not taking into effect the amount of times you’ve to lunge forward to click the ‘Continue Playing’ button, lest you end up staring gee-eyed and a paused screen for the remainder of the night until sunrise (or your bladder, whichever comes first) alerts you to the fact that you may have to vacate your trusty cosy haven of sloth, otherwise you’ll end up with some serious stain issues on the couch. Take it any further, and firefighters will have to crane-lift you and your new furniture-shaped adult diaper to the hospital so the doctors can try and separate your bloated flesh from the leather settee it appears to have fused itself to. I’m not even joking; it’s a thing. I saw it on Nip / Tuck.
It’s all well and good lauding exercise as Nature’s Anti-Depressant, but that just means that in my opinion, Nature is really shit at making anti-depressants. Gimme hard chemicals any day. Nice little pills wrapped in foil, like tiny promises of mental peace & quiet for anyone who opens them. They’re fantastic. They have the ability to stop me running, crying and terrified, into the arms of complete strangers on the footpath because I’m too afraid to walk a few blocks down the road to Dunnes. You know what else comes wrapped in foil and makes me feel better, Nature? Chocolate. Chinese Food. A kebab at 3.30am after a night of delicious gin (which doesn’t come wrapped in foil, but it sure as shit makes me feel better).
Some would say heroin and meth also come with a foil accompaniment, and to those I say shut up; this is my blog where I’m ranting without fear of logic or consequence jumping in. I’m venting. You want calmly presented facts and all that shite? Go look up some medical journals and feel smug while the rest of us enjoy a good mental blowout. We’ll all behave again tomorrow. If you’re going to keep reading; suspend all realities and known benefits of exercise, and join me in my Circle of Hate.
You know what else is utterly cock-rotten about exercise? It interrupts my day. I’ve become quite used to spending up to twelve hours a day worrying incessantly about nothing and everything, while trying to write some coherent thoughts as a thousand voices roar behind me into my ears that I’m complete shit. I’m an expert at Anxiety Management; well, to be more accurate, Anxiety is an expert on J-Ro Management. It gives me full-time hours and expects me to work weekends and nights at a moment’s notice, and if I could turn in some reports on why I should never leave the house and socialise with mates again, that’d be great. It’s the mental health equivalent of that douche-bucket manager in Office Space.
Also can we take a moment to call bullshit on all those exercise videos with women who don’t sweat? They can kiss my fine white Irish plus-size arse. There they are, sighing gently through The Insanity workout with only a little ‘eeek’ or ‘oooh’ emanating from their perfectly over-glossed lips in between the kind of fitness regime that I’m pretty sure was previously rejected by Navy SEALS or fucking Black Ops for being ‘A tad harsh’. All of these skinny bitches in the background behind their slave driver / trainer grinning widely and yipping in between sets as they’re tortured are the best living example of Stockholm Syndrome I’ve witnessed since Patty Hearst. Sweat? NOT ONE DROP. Oh no, not these gals. Sure, they’re lightly misty across the face, but they just look glowy and dew-fresh, like a Stephanie Meyer vampire walking around in the sunshine. In the meantime, just getting in the main door of the gym makes me look like this:
Anyway, I joined Zumba. I know it’s not the ‘in’ thing to do in the face of all things TRX and Crossfit and TR-fit and Cross-X (or whatever the fuck they’re called – are they the same thing? I bet they are the sneaky bastards), but as I mentioned in my previous post “Life As A Living Before Picture“, my lung capacity is in dire straits, and I’m tired of breaking a sweat and needing my inhaler every time I so much as open a book, so I decided to jump in at the deep end and really give them something to give out about. It seems to be working. I’m pretty sure I left half of one on the floor at my very first class. Must check with reception to see if anyone handed it in.
I would never submit you to an actual video of me trundling my sweaty way through a Zumba routine, so to get a fair idea, please watch this clip of a cartoon potato giving it socks to a dance choon.
The girls in the class are all lovely, mad eejits…and you kind of have to be. To engage in a ferocious cardiac workout like Zumba is (despite what others think, it’s fucking INSANELY tough) for a full sixty minutes in front of a full-length mirror, stuck in a body that you hate, wishing the inches away as you pound the floor, and still have a laugh with those next to you, tells me that my fellow Zumba hostages are a decent bunch of lasses. Added to which our instructor Sarah is a legend of a woman, part insanely happy Energiser Bunny, part Drill Sergeant. The best way to be when you’ve someone like me in your group.
So onwards I waddle, trying to get myself together. Some friends have told me that I’ll eventually get past the seething hatred I have for moving, and be all super-psyched about the prospect of getting up and out to burn away the calories in time. To them I say “I love you, but take a look at who you’re talking to, and revise that statement.” I’ve been on this planet a good while now at this stage, and I have NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, liked ‘activities’ that involved leaving a couch or a bed or the house when there is no discernible threat to my person from fire, flood or famine. It doesn’t mean I won’t do it, sure anyone with a toast crumb-sized piece of common sense knows that it’s the only thing that’ll shift pounds and make you feel better while you get your eating habits in order. So it’s a necessary evil in my world. Doesn’t mean I’ll be a fitness fanatic any time soon. I’ll leave that to all my fabulous fit friends who enjoy a couple of 5K runs of a weekend while I slave over a hot laptop trying to make a name for myself writing shit like this.
So to all those who love a good calorie burning session in whatever form takes their fancy; rock on, you mad, jammy fit, well-toned bastards. I’ll stick to flipping the bird at my workout gear and undressing my couch and fleecy blankets with my eyes. In the meantime, I’ll still continue to venture out to Zumba on a regular basis to engage in a fat-threatening habit that may, if I stick with it and remain consistent, actually be responsible for me needing to invest in smaller jeans and taking longer to use up my inhaler, as opposed to taking longer to, you know, GET UP A FLIGHT OF STAIRS.
Better keep at it, so.
There’s something very sinister going on within the internet, and I’m here to expose it. It’s time for us to fight back. First, it gives the impression that women who are on the brink of giving birth to a child should be strapped into dungarees and made paint an entire house by themselves (and flippin’ well smile while doing it). NOW it appears that no pretty young lady in any stock photo of a bathroom is safe.
I’m talking, of course, about the fact that women are apparently not allowed sit in baths without being flanked by as many open flames as possible. It’s hardly HER idea – I mean, think of the logistics. You don’t fool me, Internet. SO MANY QUESTIONS…..
1: Are they lit before she gets in?
Why would she do that to herself?? She’ll be trying not to burn her fanny off while getting a naked leg over these open flames and the rim of a bath, stepping barefoot into what is essentially a home-made hot skating rink.
2: How the fuck does she get out afterwards?
I have no answer to this. I find it hard enough, what with being on the petite side. It’s like trying to scale The Wall from Game of Thrones.
3: Does she sit in the bath and try with all her might to blow out a few hundred candles all around her?
Not at all. Sure, she’s only a woman. She’d be all dizzy and faint from all the relaxing pretty smelly things she douses herself in after a hard day trying to drink water without spilling it all over her face or while trying to eat a salad alone without laughing. Also, and this is the most important thing:
4: WHO THE FUCK IS TAKING THE PICTURES AND WHY AREN’T THEY SAVING THESE POOR DAMP GIRLS??
So many victims; unnamed, unsaved, their skin wrinkling like raisins while they sit stewing in their own filth waiting for those bastard candles to burn themselves out. Rumour has it they survive on a diet of suds, face flannels and the slimy skins from those old Musk bath beads lying around the edge of the bath behind the taps from gift baskets that their granny gave them when they got all those points in their Leaving Cert in 1997.
This is a gallery dedicated to all those poor souls, fates unknown, whose suffering is now emblazoned across the realm of the cyber-world for all eternity. Vaya Con Dios, pretty ladies.