Tag Archives: anger

5 Things It’s Actually Ok to Do

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Hello, and welcome to Thursday!  Do come in.  Don’t worry about taking your shoes off or anything.

We live, as I’m sure you already know, in a society that is almost entirely based on rules and regulations: please stand on the right, do not feed the pigeons, and don’t mention the war.  I have come to the conclusion that there are certain behaviours which we shun theoretically, but which in practice are actually completely ok to do.  Here are a few things that society might frown upon, but we as individuals should embrace:

1) It’s ok to be the mad people laughing on a train

Last night, my house mate and I found ourselves travelling home via the Northern Line, and a slightly bizarre conversation took place:

Train announcement: “This train terminates at High Barnet.”
Ash (turning to me): “YOU terminate at High Barnet!”
Me: “It’s true.  I do.”
Ash: “Every day!”
Me: “I know.”
Ash: “Always terminating at High Barnet!”
Me: “Except for that one time when I terminated at Edgware.  That was weird.”

As you can tell, Ash and I are not prone to sensible discussion.  This silly little interchange had us laughing like drains for much longer than was decent or necessary, and we were unquestionably the crazy (and I dare say annoying) people in our tube carriage.

2) It’s ok to stay in on a Saturday night

There’s always something to go to, isn’t there?  Friends’ birthdays, colleagues’ leaving drinks, pub quizzes, house-warming parties etc. all claim our time and livers, weekend after weekend.  But we are allowed to say “no”.  We are allowed to stay home, get into our pyjamas at 7pm and watch rubbish television until bedtime.  We’ve earned it.  I’m not suggesting that we become hermits, but I think that a quiet night in every so often can do us the world of good.

3) It’s ok to talk about stuff you find fascinating

I am, as I’m sure my friends will tell you, full of absolutely useless information.  I am also prone to “geeking out” (i.e. rambling) about topics that intrigue me, and I tend to enjoy spending time with people who are similarly verbose about their interests.  Even if we might sometimes get carried away, or not find an audience who share our keen enthusiasm, it is absolutely alright to talk about stuff that you are interested in.  After all, your interests a massive part of who you are, and people LOVE who you are.

4) It’s ok to be angry with someone

Again, I’m not condoning socially unacceptable behaviour: throwing stuff and yelling is probably stretching this one a bit far.  What I mean is, it’s alright to go through the feeling of anger about a person or a situation.  Stuff happens and people hurt us sometimes.  That sucks.  But if we repress the perfectly natural reaction (i.e. anger), then we are dismissing an emotion that has a valid place in our psyches.  Let’s be realistic: find a friend, have a rant, eat a lot of cheese and wait for your anger to subside.

5) It’s ok to not get current trends

What the hell is with the backwards cap coming back into fashion?  Why do people like Wagamama so much?  What is the big deal about Game of Thrones?  It’s totally ok not to be engaged with things that are apparently sweeping the world/nation/your social group.  You’re an individual, and if you don’t like something that’s popular with your peers, it doesn’t say anything negative about you.  You’ve just got your own style.

I decided to compile this list because I think we worry far too much about what other people think of us, especially strangers whom we pass in public, or friends who know us well enough to love us regardless of our idiosyncrasies.  The whole point of life (surely) is to enjoy it and do our best in it, and if we are spending time worrying about the opinions of others, that is time we are wasting.  We could be spending that time singing at the top of our lungs even though we can’t hold a tune, or watching terrible 90s sitcoms because we’re feeling a bit nostalgic.

Bearing that in mind, go and have a brilliant Thursday.  If anyone needs me, I will probably be boring one of my colleagues with Spaced trivia.

Are You What You Want to Be?

Hello!  How are you this morning?  Yeah, me too.  Nearly the weekend, though.

Today I would like to ask you a question: are you what you want to be?  There are three possible ways to think about this question.

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Firstly, in physical terms: are you fit and healthy?  Do you like your hair colour?  Are you happy with your height and weight?  If you can honestly say that you are what you want to be in terms of your physical appearance, then good for you.  I think your pants might be on fire, though.
No one is ever totally happy with how they look, which is a massive shame (and almost entirely a result of the Western media), but I have good news regarding this.  Firstly, there are things we can change if we really want to: we can dye our hair, we can take up exercise and we can drink more water.  The second piece of good news is that how you look does not make you who you are, so let’s not worry about that.

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The next way to think about my question is in terms of achievement: are you in the right job for you?  Is your career progressing the way you hoped it would?  Do you feel that you’ve achieved significant things?
This one is tricky because it’s something that we decide by comparing ourselves to our peers, and that only ever ends in smugness or despair.  Once we leave school, the structure that kept us all on the same trajectory as our class mates is non-existent, and what happens to one of you no longer necessarily happens to everyone else.  Don’t waste time being jealous of other people’s success, or feeling superior about your own: just get on with what you want to be achieving.
This one is slightly more important than the physical one, but it’s still not the key way to answer my question.

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So, the third and most important way to answer my question: are you what you want to be in terms of personal attributes?  Are you kind, are you patient, are you polite?  Would your mother be proud of you?  What do your friends say about you?
I am not suggesting that the way other people see us is more important than how we see ourselves, but after all, the people who love us aren’t sticking around because of how we look or what our job is, are they?  (They’d better not be, anyway.)
This one is the hardest of all to change if we don’t like what we’ve got, but it can be done.  If you want to be less prone to losing your temper you have to practise staying calm under pressure; if you want to be more assertive then you have to speak up when you’re intimidated.  The best thing about this one is that it tends to be the one that your friends and loved ones are most willing to help you with, so you’re not alone with it.

Have a truly cracking Friday.  Definitely treat yourself to a muffin today.

P.S. The title of this blog is a reference to this song by Foster the People.  Good, ain’t it?

Why Would an Elephant Want to Tap Dance?

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Hello and a very merry Monday to you, you lovely reader!  How was your weekend?  I hope you got some decent rest.

A lot of my weekend was taken up with a film project for my theatre company, Empty Photo.  We were filming a bunch of actor types doing monologues, and I must say they were all bloody marvellous.  The cameraman was my friend Paul, who is an excellent photographer, keen fan of coffee and all-round digital genius.

On the second day of filming he got pretty irate, because some people elsewhere in the studio building were being incredibly noisy.  I mean, elephants-having-a-tap-dancing-lesson kind of noisy, and it was affecting our recordings. This was a real shame, especially when the actors’ performances were so flipping good.  C’est la shared studio space.  I’m sure we’ll find a way to sort the sound out.

The reason I brought that up is because Paul got so cross that he expressed a desire to go upstairs and physically assault the unknown person or persons who were responsible for making such a racket.  While I completely understood and shared his feelings, I realised that people tend to be a lot more vocal and expressive about their anger when it’s directed at strangers.  Isn’t that odd?

We all get cross from time to time, and with people whom we might never meet: noisy neighbours, the person who pulled the emergency brake on your train and made you late for work, whoever it was that used up the loo roll in a public toilet.  These are all people whom we mentally direct venom, anger and disbelief towards: “how could anyone DO such a thing?!” we think.  Well, the awkward thing is that we’ve probably done some of those things ourselves, perhaps without even realising it.  After all, you’re a wonderful human being, but you’re not perfect.

Let’s look at this from the other side: how upset would you be if a stranger came up to you in the street, pointed an accusing finger at you and yelled, “YOU!  You’re the pratface who accidentally knocked my ankles with a pushchair in a shopping centre four months ago!  How do you sleep at night??”  You’d be mortified, wouldn’t you?  First of all, you didn’t mean to spoil this person’s day, but also you’re a complex person who says, does and thinks all sorts of things.  How can someone judge you for having made one mistake when there’s so much more to you?

That’s how I’m trying to think about the noisy people in the other studio yesterday.  I will only ever see them (or hear them, I suppose) as pachyderms with a Billy Elliot complex, but I’m sure that they are many-layered people who have hopes, dreams, sandwich preferences and allergies.

Have the kind of Monday that should be in a movie montage.

You and Your (not) Stupid Fear

There is a very specific tendency among my generation to find parallels in the events of our lives with episodes of Friends.  Many times I have been explaining a situation to a friend, whether it be a work issue or a love life conundrum, and as soon as I say the magic words “It’s like that bit in Friends when…” the other person immediately understands exactly what I mean.  It’s a bit bizarre to use a sitcom as a semiotic conversational feature, but there’s no denying that it definitely works (with people who are currently aged between 20 and 30, anyway).

My current situation is no exception: I am now unemployed.  I am excited by the possibilities that my new freedom holds, but also very scared.  It’s like that bit in Friends (told you) when Chandler convinces Rachel to give up her job, and when she starts to panic about her decision and he tells her not to give in to ‘the fear’, she cries “You and your stupid fear!”  That’s how I feel at the moment.

I think that fear is a double-edged sword (quick side note – where on earth did that phrase come from? Surely ALL swords are double-edged; a single-edged sword is a butter knife!  Anyway): it can be an excellent source of motivation, but it can also demobilise you.  If you can be afraid of something and use that negative response to fuel an active stand against it, that’s wonderful.  But how many situations in life do we really and truly respond to with that kind of maturity?  For starters, it’s a lot harder than it looks.

The writer and lecturer Marianne Williamson said “Love is what we were born with.  Fear is what we learned here.”  I agree with that idea in principle, i.e. that being afraid is definitely a response that human beings develop over time, but surely as a species we have evolved to have fairly appropriate responses to circumstances by now?  The fight or flight response still applies to a lot of occasions in modern day life.  The original “Oh-God-it’s-a-sabre-tooth-tiger-should-I-run-away-or-should-I-throw-my-spear-at-it?” issue is not so likely to be the stimulus these days; in modern times it could be the split second before a car accident, or the moment you realise that a shady character is following you home late at night.   But the actual response, regardless of the stimulus, is pretty much the same as it was when we first wandered out of the caves and started making kitchen utensils out of rocks. If the response has endured, is that because we need it?

Lots of people (including me) endorse pro-active responses to all kinds of negative emotions: anger, hatred, fear and even regret (which I wrote a blog post about for Empty Photo not that long ago – you can read it here if you fancy) can be used for the greater good in your life.  But the aspect of fear that separates it from the other typical negative motivators is that it deals with the unknown: if you are angry, you know why; if you regret something, you know what you regret; if you feel hatred, it is definitely towards a specific thing or person.  Fear, on the other hand, can be as vague and wishy-washy as it pleases.  And it can be very difficult to be firmly and confidently pro-active in the face of something that’s so flipping nebulous.

So fear is a learned behaviour that we probably do need as a motivator, but actually motivating yourself with it is a tad tricky.  I’m sure that everyone has different ways of dealing with fear and approaching its possible solutions, and I count myself very lucky to know so many freelancers (in the ARTS, no less!) who I’m sure will have very inspirational and encouraging tales to tell.  That’s not to say that they are all perfectly fine and dandy all of the time, thank you very much, but I know that they are all braver, stronger and more ambitious people because of their experiences with employment uncertainty.  I hope that they will share their wisdom with me, and that even if we never entirely rid ourselves of it, that we can all learn to use our fear.

Have a marvellous Wednesday!