acting, beauty, depression, humor., ice skating, Life in General, Nature: Hiking, Wildlife & More

Learning to Fall

 

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When life knocks you down, try to land somewhere soft.

Recently, one of my most talented and positive friends asked on Facebook, “How do you reset when you are blue and stressed?” Wow, great question and there were many wise and humorous suggestions posted, most of them featured nature, music, or watching other people make fools of themselves, but I couldn’t help wondering if the better question would be “How do I keep myself from becoming blue and stressed?”

Which shows both my naiveté and a severe drop of IQ, probably due to early drug abuse combined with late menopausal symptoms, because the glaring truth of course is that you can’t. Anxiety, sadness, stress and frustration are all quite normal parts of being human and alive both at once.

You can try a few things; blunting, transference, isolation and alienation, but that doesn’t feel like much fun either, and ultimately, all of those things will only make you feel worse not to mention pretty much universally despised, which will make you angrier and more afraid which will make you stressed and anxious and well, we’re right back where we started, only deeper. That hasn’t stopped me from trying them all!

It’s the carnival ride of the insane. Climbing on the dark carousel of avoidance is a morose and discordant experience where the only appropriate exclamation is a wheezing gasp of despair. Nobody, and I mean nobody shouts, “Wheee!” when that funride gets up to speed. But we all seem incapable of avoiding being sucked into the line along with the rest of the crowd every once in a while.

In fact, the only people who don’t have a ticket to that not-so-merry-go-round is a true psychopath, and frankly a life without compassion, empathy and remorse is not a life worth living, so be grateful when you can recognize that the ticket in your hand was paid for by the yearning for unconsciousness and go get it punched in another part of the park. Oh look, over there, I can crawl into a cage and be the attraction for a bit, or see the circus freaks by entering the house of mirrors. It might be hard to keep your eyes open but at least you got the hell off the round-about and are moving in some direction, it might be down, but eventually it will lead to up.

So now that we’ve established that shit happens, we have to face it. And that’s where falling comes in, and here’s my advice.

Tuck and roll.

You might not spring back to your feet, you might lay on the ground moaning for a while— a lateral move to self-pity can be quite liberating actually, I personally recommend blaming everyone else from a hot bath from a view through amber whiskey in cut crystal—you might scream for mercy or smash crockery in a rage, you may stare at a blank wall and confess that you are nothing, less than worthless and there’s no hope for a bit, but believe it or not, those are all good. Well…better than pretending that life is a fairyland of sprouting wildflowers and gentle summer days. Because baby, I’m here to tell you, rain will fall and your best option is to dance in it, cry in it, rail at it, but damn it, get soaking wet. It’s the only way back out.

Now, wallowing is fine for a while, still you wouldn’t want to live there.

I was a competitive ice skater and falling was something I did several hundred times a day. You can actually get good at it, and you’ll never improve if you don’t do it, so suck it up and get bruised every once in a while.

It’s fascinating to me that science and experience are now showing me that we learn our responses to stimuli, like, say…your mom’s disappointed face, or your classmates mocking you, or a scary man yelling at you. Our brain actually memorises a chemical pattern that cannot be broken with logic, reason, or even intense self-examination and realisation. When the lady at the store twists up her little puckered mouth in judgement, those chemicals remember your mom’s criticism and start an instant chain of chemicals firing that affect a physical sensation your body and brain have diligently rehearsed. There is a perfectly good physiological reason for this: self-protection. When we are in fear or danger, we have responses that are necessary to our survival, but the odds are that someone attacking your political views on facebook don’t immediately threaten your life. (Okay, idiots who defend automatic guns and greed-fueled health care systems actually do endanger us all in the long run, but I’m talking about right now.) None-the-less, the reaction is the same in us. Trouble is, we don’t have any use for all that adrenaline and fear response so we can’t express or expel it.

And so, our hands shake, our head hurts, our hearts race, our stomachs churn with acid, and we generally feel like crap.

Which is not fun but it is unavoidable. We can’t help it, it’s what our amazing bodies learned to do to protect us. And those things are there to help us when we really need them. We can’t stop them from happening, nor would we really want to if you think about it. Should you stick your hand in a fire? Probably not, your brain tells you. When a car swerves into you lane, your adrenaline fires, time slows down, and you respond without even thinking to brake and avoid a collision. These responses are good and they are our friends.

But what about when they aren’t wanted or necessary?

Tuck and roll baby, tuck and roll. The chemical hit (anxiety, palpitation, increased blood pressure and the inevitable come down, i.e. sadness and depression) will still come, and all we can do it take the punch, lick the wounds and learn to let it go more quickly.

Best thing you can do, I think, is recognize that it’s happening. Identify where in your body it’s affecting you, and then change it up when you can.

That’s why nature helps so much, why the calming energy soothes us, especially water for most people, because the brain releases serotonin when your eyes gaze out over the ripples of a lake. That’s why music switches on a different reaction the strain cause oxytocin levels to surge. That’s why dancing and laughing stir a healthy dose of dopamine into the mix, exercise releases endorphins and that counteracts the overdose of other nasty chemical excretions that we unwittingly shot up with when we were triggered by the fear of loss of even very real exposure.

Aren’t I smart? Aren’t I so very capable of understanding and dealing with all of life and it’s many challenges? Aren’t I a ball of calm and light?

Oh HELL no! (Just ask hubby, he’ll be glad to tell you when he stops laughing.) What I have gotten better at is explaining it all to myself, that doesn’t mean I don’t weep in the back of the closet or wrap myself in a shell of bitterness or occasionally declare that I need nobody and nothing and I’ll show them…!

Oh yeah, living hurts sometimes like going over the handlebars a mountain bike downhill in rough gravel, which, I have done, recently.

But it’s nice to know that no matter how depressed I get, if I put a stupid, forced smile on my face and march around like an idiot clown on bungy cord springs singing “La la la la” in a ridiculously high voice I can actually change my chemistry! Works every time, at least a little bit, and sometimes when I’m desperate and beat all to hell I’ll take whatever I can get.

Tuck and roll baby.

The best thing I’ve found to make a permanent change is tapping, a process that can actually break and retrain those memorised chemical pathways and thought patterns but that’s for another day. I do recommend you look it up. Go on youtube and try a led session. It works. They use it for PTSD patients.

Meanwhile, drag your falling ass up off the carpet and look out the window at anything green. Smell some lavender, listen to Mozart or rap or whatever lifts your heart, and for Goddess’ sake laugh. Even if it’s not funny, even if there’s nothing to laugh at, even if it’s more-fake-than-bad-acting laughing, laugh. It will change the lethal mix of excretions and thought patterns that bludgeon you into an emotional pulp on a daily basis. It will smooth the ride through the Waring blender of life.

And then…share it with someone else.

Because they are hurting too.

We all do.

That’s okay.

Tuck and roll, baby.

Tuck and roll.

 

Shari, from Ireland, August 15th, 2018

Entertainment, ice skating, italian men, kids, Life in General

My Many Talents.

 

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Oh, where to begin, when there are so many things at which I excel. I mean I don’t want to brag, but even a quick list would include such rarified skills as—loosing my keys, burning toast, saying the wrong thing at the right time, falling down, smacking into doors when I’m running with my reading glasses on, rendering myself legally blind and my familiar home nothing but a vibrating blur. Really the list goes on and on, I am truly, deeply, wonderously gifted at fucking up.

What can I say? I’m just blessed.

If they gave trophies for misplacing things, I’d need to build a room onto my house to keep them all. I’d have shelves full of little gold cups, one for each of the many times I locked my keys in the trunk. (I’d like to thank the Academy and triple A!) At both ends would be two big-ass gold figurines posed with both hands clutching an empty head which I would have received for those two, (yes two,) times I dropped my keys three miles back on a hike where I had stopped to do some stretches. (I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my agent, my lawyer, and my cat, Yaki!) But in pride of place would be a magnificent championship crystal bowl presented to me when I broke my key off in the ignition while I was driving, effectively rendering the car un-steerable. That last one would be engraved, “We thought it couldn’t be done.”

One of my best honed talents is finding the one single thing in any store, anywhere, in any country, that does not have a price on it. It can be at the Safeway in Sunland or the Vatican gift shop in Rome. Not only will I be drawn like a lemming to that one and only tag-less item among thousands, I will also find that there is a long line of people waiting to pay behind me who can be super annoyed when the checker picks up that intercom and announces to the general public—each and every one in a hurry—‘price check on four!’ I feel my face redden as I turn and smile weakly at the harassed mother next in line trying to contain three screaming toddlers. Behind her is the bank teller with five minutes to get back to his window holding nothing but a redbull and a pack of sushi. Rounding out the line nicely are four or five firefighters with a full cart of groceries wondering whether to ditch and run as their radios scream dispatches to emergencies. They look horrified, and these brave men and women don’t scare easily. Don’t I feel special.

The checker might as well have announced, “Stupid blonde with no consideration for anyone else with an unmarked item, aisle four!” if the glaring and snorting of the people around me is any indication. It’s usually at this time that I say something feeble to clear the static resentment from two dozen angry shoppers clinging thickly to me like dryer lint. I say, oh something like, “Don’t worry, it won’t take long to run my fifty-seven badly printed coupons and clear an out-of-state check. I’ll be out of your way in a half-hour or so.”

People seldom laugh, but at least it gives them the chance to see that things could get worse. I could have asked for a bulk discount.

At this point I always offer to simply not purchase the item, but this, apparently, is unacceptable in a country where the customer always comes first. I picked out that organic eggplant and damn it, they are going to sell it to me! There’s no turning back now baby! Never mind that three alarm fire at the day care center, the firemen can wait while some teenage-bagger with all the enthusiasm and perkiness of a dirt worm takes a round about, lingering saunter to the produce section to check the price, pausing to text a few friends while ordering a soy chai latte at the Starbuck’s counter before shuffling back to register four. By this time, I am watching carefully for other produce, specifically ripe tomatoes traveling through space in the general direction of my head.

“Really, please,” I whisper furiously, keeping my back tightly against the gum racks so no one can stick a plastic utensil from paper goods in it. “Just ring up the total without the eggplant, I don’t need it.” The desperate mom’s eyes cut to the checker, silently pleading with her to cut my lifeline, let the bitch go for the survival of the species, but to no avail. We can wait, the checker has decided, she doesn’t get off until five and she’s union, why should we be allowed to go on our merry way? There’s a profit at stake here! She will send me home with that purple vegetable, or I can damn well sleep on a cot in the frozen foods section until managers are notified, corporate offices are contacted, and a price per pound is fully negotiated with China or whatever scary place our food comes from these days.

So, there’s that. Another special skill I have perfected is leaving a sprinkler or a hose running. All night. Okay, it’s bad enough to waste all that water in a drought, but when the water for your home comes from a well, and there is a limited amount that can be pumped up into the holding tank per day, it’s a sliver more inconvenient. Once that tank is empty, it’s three days until it’s filled again. And during that time, we conserve like we have one canteen left to cross Death Valley. We don’t take proper showers, just quick rinses. We don’t wash clothes, or run the dishwasher. Dishes are cleaned with water bought by the gallon from a machine in front of Rite Aid, and there’s nothing much to do except sit around watching the lawn turn from golden brown to easy-lite kindling.

And falling, I’m really good at that. Part of this special talent is from my ice-skating days were I would fall countless times learning a new double jump or some other physical feat that humans aren’t supposed to do until eventually, on my six hundred and seventeenth try, I find myself still upright, moving backwards on one blade with a feeling of surprise. “I did it. Well, that wasn’t so hard,” my brain would say to my bruised butt and hips. “Those oven mitt-sized black, blue, yellow and green marks will go away in a few weeks. Of course, now it’s time to start learning the triple jump. I comfort myself by believing the lie that I look better in Technicolor.

One time in particular, at a big competition in Lake Placid, New York was super fun. Sometimes, when the seating of rinks are filled with twenty thousand people or so, the space warms up more than it should and the ice gets soft, leaving areas a few feet wide that are actually pools of melted ice water maybe a half inch deep. When you hit these at full speed, your blade sticks, your skate brakes hard, but your body, which was moving along so nicely,  enjoying the breeze, keeps right on going.

So I’m at the end of my routine, which is the equivalent of running a mile with tricks thrown in, and, breathing hard, I pick up speed for my big last jump. I turn, launch myself up and off, fly gracefully spinning through the air, land perfectly for one magnificent moment. Then my skate hits that soft patch and I fall flat on my back, sliding through the puddle, drenching my back with ice water that takes my breath away. The cold makes me sit up fast with both legs stuck straight out in front of me, I’m still sliding and turning, making little waves and ripples as I slide through the frigid pond, feeling the wet soak up through my outfit and tights, . It’s the end, you know, that part where I do a really fast spin and then strike a final pose and wait for the applause. But when the music crescendos in a furious conclusion, I’m on my ass, still sliding, still soaking wet, so I just threw my arms out and did the pose there in the frigid little swamp with the water lapping around my thighs and calves.

And twenty thousand people did applaud, but they laughed a lot louder.

And that’s the day I learned that I’m good at a few things I didn’t even have to work that hard on. I learned that being embarrassed doesn’t kill you. You don’t die. You wake up the next day and move on, slink back to the grocery store seeking unmarked items, spend three hours searching for your keys, and then trip over a single stair in Venice Italy, sprawling face first onto a palazzo filled with gracious, beautifully dressed Italians enjoying coffees and wine.

Those people have really nice shoes.

Go fall down, be silly, play the fool.Make ’em laugh.  It takes the pressure off of everyone else for a few minutes at least.

 

And that’s something worth being good at.

 

Shari, June 28th, 2016.