One of the few perks of working a job with ungodly hours is the fact that there are times where I have a little bit of time during the week to do my own thing. Last week, in the spirit of my goal of traveling a lot more this year (as always) I made a quick trip back to the South to do some laundry and get my hair done by someone halfway competent. I don’t normally go halfway across the continent to do laundry and chill for all of one day but the flight was free and the checked bags were free and it certainly beat a trip to the laundromat contemplating the intricacies of my life while waiting for my clothes to dry and wasting an afternoon. But I digress. Other than the unseasonably bitter cold that happened to be the current climate at the time, I had an interesting experience right fresh off the plane. I went with the other passengers in the mad rush to the baggage claim only to stand around for about a half out before the bags were put on the conveyor belt. Since the biggest goal of my trip was doing laundry, I didn’t really pack a lot. I just dumped my dirty clothes hamper into the biggest suitcase I had and lugged it with me. Wonderful strategy. So my bag finally appears on the belt and at that point I was just ready to grab it and go. Mind you, it’s a pretty good sized suitcase but not so big that I can’t pick it up. It’s just bulky. So as I’m reaching for my bag I see a hand in my peripheral vision but ignoring its relevance to my situation I just ignore it and heft the bag over the belt onto the ground and come eye to eye with a man who looks pissed off. He immediately starts to chastise me for not allowing him to get my bag off the belt. He vehemently reminds me that I’m now in the South and that there’s no excuse for me not to allow a man to get my bed because chivalry is still alive and well. I was pleasantly amused by the experience and it was a nice reminder that there are some really good qualities about Southern culture. It’s funny how much you can miss those little things when you don’t live in that environment anymore but it’s also interesting how you learn to adapt and go without them because they aren’t even an option. If anything like that happened where I live it would be a big deal because it is SO rare. Even the nice gesture of having doors opened surprises me every time that it happens because it is not a common occurrence. Definitely a contrast to the societal norms of the South.
If hiring a room full of strangers to clap for you for five minutes straight doesn’t make your day, then you’re pretty much a lost cause. Or you don’t have a good sense of humor.
After working several consecutive night shifts, it’s safe to say that my sense of humor is similar to the one in this article. I know a lot of people right now who could really use some of the health benefits in the article by taking a break. Working in a windowless office can sometimes feel so confining and restrictive and despite the fact that the article is satire, there’s also a huge amount of truth to it. I wonder how many people would have better health if they weren’t so stressed out about their jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I love making money but I don’t always like the time and effort associated with acquiring it. There are definitely some times where there would be a legitimate therapeutic benefit of throwing my ID badge as far as I could and never looking back. However, that impulse is quickly counteracted by the rational thought that a replacement badge costs 20 bucks. Being in a field of work that is notorious for burnout makes you realize how important it is to take breaks. I’m in the process of figuring out the details on some trips I want to take this year and while it won’t be the equivalent of walking out my office and never returning, it will still be a break from it all.
I should make the disclaimer that I didn’t research this and I can’t claim that it came from empirical evidence. However, it’s been my personal experience as someone who has to address feelings pretty often.
1. Take a step back- So many times we act on emotion and we let the anger or the sadness or the loneliness dictate our behaviors. Learn to take a step back and evaluate the thought and feeling.
2. Get to the bottom of it- Are you mad at the world because you didn’t eat breakfast and feel cranky? Are the feelings coming from a perceived lack of adequacy for the challenge? Are you projecting your feelings from an unrelated situation?
3. Differentiate between rational and irrational- It’s easy to get yourself worked up because of an imaginary “what if” situation. Evaluate if your feelings are a result of fear for some event that might happen in the future. Wallowing in feelings of anger or sadness over what may occur is not the best use of emotional energy and will leave you drained.
4. Talk to someone- Granted, this is an option that is probably the most popular but talking to another rational and reasonably emotionally healthy human being can help you evaluate the relevance of your feelings. Remember that feelings are valid but sometimes they just aren’t relevant and you have to make hard decisions based on facts despite how you feel.
5. Distract yourself -I call it chewing gum for your mind. Take a break and do something else. Even if it’s as mundane as taking a nap or watching a reality tv show. There are plenty of things available that are somewhat productive that can take your mind off of it. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes you just need to feel while recognizing that it won’t be a feeling forever and will pass.
Independence and doing your own thing is something that is valued in many different circles. Single people are told and advised to stay single for as long as humanly possible and enjoy their “season of freedom.” Not too long ago I went on a date where the guy told me numerous times how I was weird and how badly he wanted my life because I travel a lot. Not the greatest thing but I digress. The world is still geared towards couples. From tax breaks to more respect and credibility for others, it’s a good time to be in a relationship. Even travel packages cost you almost twice as much when you travel by yourself. It’s an inconvenient expense that could easily be remedied. Millions of dollars worth of books, CD’s, and DVD’s have been bought giving remedies and steps on how to be a happy and whole single person. The mantra that you have to be ok with yourself before being with someone else is debate-able. I’m not against working out personal issues but it can also be done within a relationship. It’s going to be hard either way. I’m not downing the single life because it definitely has it’s perks at times but there’s something to be said about being able to take advantage of the tax breaks, two for one deals and travel packages that comes along with having a significant other. While these things can be done with friends, it’s still a different dynamic. Must I carry all my groceries up three flights of stairs all the time? Small insignificant but also significant details make you realize how life experiences could change with the presence of a consistent significant other.
I have a theory that many people who have experienced financial hardship at some point in their lives have found a struggle meal. Now, a struggle meal is a meal that you would not normally eat if you had a decent looking bank account. It can be as simple as ordering off the dollar menu at a fast food store or even buying store brand butter and sugar to make sandwiches. While I haven’t known the poverty that comes from not knowing where my next meal is coming from, I do know the uncomfortable feeling of an overdrawn bank account and a week or two before the next payday. Not a great thing. Ironically my “struggle food” is lentils with vegetables and rice. It’s also probably my lazy food as well when I don’t feel like preparing anything for a few days. My point is that when you are working towards a goal you make the necessary sacrifices because you want a good end result. You forgo always splurging because you’re saving up for something. The sacrifices now pave the way for the rewards down the line. Then you can have a commemorative struggle meal instead of a real one.
I ran across this article pretty recently and it quickly caught my interest. I’ve included a link here . I’ve seen seminars, books, webinars, and programs all addressing this topic. So many people (both men and women) claim to have the magic formula and list their own love story as the proof that their way works. This article was specifically addressing a Black women as a group. Between the interpersonal cues, relationship coaching, speed dating, and other means of “catching” a significant other. The article challenges that thought behind the idea that a woman’s life should be defined by her relationship status. But let’s face it, unmarried women who don’t have kids aren’t typically looked upon with the same level of respect as career women who are married and raising their kids and balancing it all in a (seemingly) effortless manner. The article highlights the fact that shame is often a part of the internal narrative of black women and explored how one’s relationship status can contribute to levels of shame. That thought made me wonder how many products and advertisements are targeted to someone’s level of shame. Products that are marketed in a way that make you feel inadequate unless you become a consumer of the product. Very thought provoking read.