Don’t Forget To Cope

Context is everything.

I love a good laugh. The genuine, in your belly, can’t breathe, can’t stop laughing episodes. Few and far between at this point in time, you might assume, what with all the fun having been sucked out of our lives. But if you’re like me, where you tend to get the giggles at funerals or fall in a heap of chuckles when you’re utterly exhausted, well, chances are life is a ball of laughs at the moment.

The mad kind.

I was reminded of this human tendency to raucous laughter in times of desperation while reading my book today; “My shoulders shook. At first I thought I was going to cry, but then I burst out laughing. All of a sudden, everyone was laughing. Giggles and roars and oceanic tears at the absurdity of it all.” (taken from Suleika Jaouad’s Between Two Kingdoms).

It’s not just me then, I thought. I’m not crazy! Except that I probably am. But is it not fair to say that if you haven’t gone a little crazy by now, you’re probably insane?

It’s weird being in the middle of a pandemic. A lot of the time I feel like Fr. Dougal holding the scalding hot teapot looking for the opportunity to politely interject about being ‘in severe pain Ted’. We’re expected to hold it all together. Wash your hands, wear a facemask – oh, and don’t forget to cope. But isn’t trauma bad for you? As in physically, mentally, emotionally toxic? So I like to let it all out, when it wells up. Having three small children prohibits me from taking to the bed, so I take to the bath and stew it out.

Every so often I’ll wave my little (metaphorical) red flag at Alan, who, overall, is having a whale of a time without a commute or all that extra travel and has adjusted relatively seamlessly to having his three clingy children (plus clingy wife) right outside his office door. (Often, delightfully, even pawing said door.) He sees me on the cusp of cracking at least once a week. When we were all awaiting the Government’s most recent Covid lockdown update (which coincided with an oncoming full moon, I might add) I described to him how my thoughts were like a swirling riptide. His thoughts, we concluded, had more in common with a fast flowing river – they’re there, he deals with them in the moment and they float off downstream to the ocean of never-to-be-seen-again. End of. Probing for any sign of a fracturing mental state last week, I asked him to show me his panic face – so I could be on alert. To my horror, he revealed that it is exactly the same as his ‘I’ll put on the kettle’ face. He’s an engineer you see, long-renowned for their fact-focussed, problem solving approach to life. I, on the other hand, am an Arts graduate and so dramatically wonder if it is not ever so slightly my duty to fall off the sanity wagon at several points in all of this. Is the point of being human not to feel all the feels and register every emotion, every high and low?

Others you’ll meet will seem fine too. I messaged a friend about going a bit la la any time I get a whiff of a the Government sub-committe on Covid making an announcement and they told me they ‘choose not to let it effect (them)’. Just like that. Fantastic at coping? Or sociopath?

Then there’s the old reliable ‘sure it could be worse’ brigade. Cheers Brendan. I realise my head isn’t on fire, but we’re in the middle of a once-in-a-hundred-year-global-pandemic and I can’t see my friends or family. You can’t deny that things aren’t ever so slightly shite.

Obviously, I don’t believe in becoming all-consumed in the doom and gloom of it all or wallowing in self-pity for prolonged periods. I’m not going to tie myself to an anvil of sadness and throw myself off the deck. But it can’t be any harm to panic just a little bit every now and again. In actual fact it can only be quite cathartic. For those of us prone to panic at any rate.

So I love when I meet the other crazy people. Friends that message me to say they think their heads are about to explode or they feel sad or they don’t know how they feel – they’re just having a crappy day. I want to be among the people that divulge they cried in the cereal aisle at the supermarket or have taken to lying down a lot or talk to the cat a little more than one might think healthy. As the writer Glennon Doyle would say “Those are my people”.

If nothing else we can crazy-laugh together.

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