Tag Archives: sympathy

Really Odd Compliments

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Hello, you lovely creature.  How’s everything going with you?

In case you haven’t seen it already, the Daily Odd Compliment account on Tumblr is one of the greatest things that the internet has to offer.  It expresses genuine emotion through very weird ideas which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is often the most accurate way to do so.  Love is many things, but socially acceptable is not one of them.

In honour of this bizarre but brilliant concept, and as a sort-of sequel to this post about awesome attributes we all have, I would like to add a few of my own weird compliments.  Trust me, at least one of these applies to you.  Yes, you with the face.  These compliments will be things that your friends and loved ones definitely think about you, and hopefully things that you think about them, too.

  • You are the first person I call when I’ve embarrassed myself in public, partly because I know that you’ll make me feel better about it, but mainly because I like to make you laugh.
  • You are my first choice of wingman for crazy adventures.  I could call you and say “let’s go swing dancing!” and your response would probably be “Cool.  Flats or heels?”  I don’t know why you go along with my ridiculous schemes, but I’m glad that you do.
  • You are really witty on Facebook.
  • Your ability to text while walking baffles me, but it’s also pretty impressive.
  • You are way too good at coping with hangovers.  Seriously, I don’t understand how you didn’t get a letter from Hogwarts with a magical ability like that.
  • Your ability to psychically know when I need junk food has saved us both a lot of time over the years.
  • When the zombie apocalypse hits, I will let you be in charge of the plan.  Even if the plan involves holing up at the Winchester with your mum and your ex.
  • You remember my stupidly complex coffee order, and you don’t mock me for it.
  • The worst thing I can imagine is you not liking me anymore.  I genuinely feel a bit sick just thinking about it.
  • You being as weird as I am makes us both look more normal to other people.  That’s a huge source of validation.
  • I start missing you about ten minutes before you leave.
  • Whenever you’re sad, I get a really strong impulse to go and hunt down your favourite celebrity and get them to give you a hug.  One day I want to be able to call you and say “hey, cheer up, Benedict Cumberbatch is on his way over for a cuddle”.
  • You wear pyjamas with panache.  That is not easy to do, and I respect that.
  • You are very sympathetic when I get upset about spelling errors.  I know that you don’t get why it’s such a big deal to me, but you’re very nice about it nonetheless.
  • You make tea correctly.

“I’m Not Crying, It’s Just Been Raining On My Face”

Good morning, you stunning human being!  Did you have a good weekend?

Despite our best intentions and keenest hopes, we often find that life is more like an extreme sport than a walk in the park.  We can have a perfectly logical daily routine, an absolutely sensible diet and sleeping pattern, an eminently sensible wardrobe and a fairly rational outlook.  It doesn’t mean diddly: life is just going to do whatever the heck it feels like.

Inevitably, this leads to some great highs and some debilitating lows.  When the lows hit, sometimes we need to cry.  A lot of us dislike crying because it feels like a failure to cope (or even just an aesthetically displeasing transformation of our features), but it’s a necessary part of life.  Some of us cry more often than others, but it does happen to all of us, and that’s absolutely fine.  Here are a few ways to accept our inevitable face-leaks:

Separate the Symptoms
Sometimes we cry because of one specifically sad thing, but a lot of the time it’s because there are several contributory factors.  For example, I freely admit that when I’m overtired I tend to cry at the drop of a hat (or cafetière, most likely).  If you feel the need to have a bit of a sniffle, think about why that might be: did you drink a lot of alcohol last night?  Have you been sleeping properly?  When was the last time you ate something?  The purpose behind this is not to undermine your own feelings, but to recognise that the impulse to cry can be alleviated a bit by identifying and resolving the physical factors, which are often much easier to fix than emotional ones.

Forget Where You’re From
I don’t mean to stereotype, but I think one of the reasons that a lot of us struggle with crying is because we think it contradicts who we are: if we’re British, for example, we’re supposed to have a stiff upper lip.  Quite a few guys I know don’t like crying because they think it makes them seem unmanly, and several of my friends (male and female) think that by crying in front of people we are undermining years of establishing ourselves as “strong” or “good at coping”.  Sod that.  You’re a human being and you have tear glands.  Give yourself a break.

Choose Wisely
Crying can be embarrassing, impractical and downright irritating (especially if you don’t have any tissues to hand).  One thing that we can control is our audience.  If you’re the kind of person who needs to be by themselves to cry, so be it.  As long as you actually do make time to have a good wail, then go for your life.  But if you know that you’d be better off with a friend by your side, don’t feel bad about that.  It might not feel like your finest moment, but letting your friends look after you when you’re sad is actually a really lovely thing to do.  They don’t want you to be upset, obviously – but if you are going to be upset, it’s a privilege and a sign of how much you trust them when you let loved ones help you.

Join the Greats
Everyone you love, respect and admire has cried at some point.  Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Mother Teresa all cried.  Heck, even the amazing Liam Neeson has been known to shed a tear.  Don’t feel bad about being a crier – you’re in excellent company.

Find Something Funny
Even though it sounds unlikely, there are all sorts of ways to make yourself laugh when you want to cry.  For example, my siblings and I tend to pull out this classic Friends line:

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This song is also excellent for making someone giggle when they’re crying.  Making yourself (or someone you love) laugh whilst weeping is brilliant.  It may not solve the underlying problem, but it’s good to remind yourself that stuff is still funny.

Have a gorgeous Monday.

Smells Like Team Spirit

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Hello, lovely reader!  How’s your week progressing?  Getting through your to do list at a pleasing pace, I hope?

“Team work” is one of those phrases that fills us with dread and fear.  This is because we secretly think that “team work” means “unable to think for yourself”, “willing to let others do your work” or, horror of horrors, “always up for those God-awful trust exercises that supposedly break the ice, but actually make everyone feel cripplingly embarrassed”.

What you discover very quickly in working world (particularly when you work in the arts) is that when it actually happens, team work is flipping brilliant.  Of course we should all have independent approaches, unique ideas and confidence in what we bring to the job as individuals, but we should also enjoy the many advantages that proper team work offers.

As you might remember from previous posts, I am currently working in a front of house team on a large-scale kids’ show in London.  The job is difficult and the show is not really aimed at my demographic, but the experience is ace.  As they say in The Lego Movie song, everything is cool when you’re part of a team.  Here are a few lovely things about team work that might dispel some of those trust exercise (shudder) memories:

In jokes – weeks, months and even years after the event, in jokes can help a team to feel connected to one another.  In jokes are also a good way to just have a bit of fun at work when the chips are down.

People understand why you’re stressed – if you turn to a colleague and go “aaaargh” (or something slightly more articulate), nine times out of ten they will get what you’re on about.  Not having to explain your stress and still managing to get sympathy is pretty darn efficient.

The play’s the thing – working with a whole bunch of people who care about the same project you do is brilliant, because you are constantly reminded that you are all working towards something bigger than any of you.  This can be scary and inspirational in equal measure, but it is always a motivator.

Down time – it is so nice to unwind in the company of people whose day you’ve shared.  There’s a sense of mutual achievement and good humour when my colleagues and I get the train home from work together, even though most of us have at least an hour’s commute ahead of us.  Stopping at the amazing frozen yoghurt place on our way from work to the station helps, too.

Going crazy – work can sometimes take over our lives a bit, and when it does it’s nice to know that the people you work with are going crazy at exactly the same rate, in pretty much the same way and for precisely the same reason.  For instance, the kids’ show I’m working includes some very distinctive music.  Surprisingly, it’s actually very cheering to hear my colleagues humming it all day long, because it means that I’m not alone.  The one time that it’s good to crazy is when you’re in great company.

Have a delightful Friday.

Jeremy Bentham Could Do With A Hug

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Hello and welcome to this year’s gazillionth bank holiday Monday!  I hope that you’ve got some lovely activities planned.

Altruism is a very tricky business, and lots of people don’t really believe that it exists.  The philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued that humans exist to maximise their own pleasure and minimise their own pain, and that supposedly selfless acts are nothing more than our attempts to feel good via other people’s gratitude, social status, smugness, etc.  (Does anyone else get the feeling that poor Jeremy hasn’t had a lot of love?  Someone give him a cuddle.)

Bentham’s bleak assertion may not sit well with some of us, but it actually taps into something that we’ve all experienced in some way.  We all know the phrase “nice guys finish last”, and that’s a pretty fair summary of how we feel about unrewarded kindness: it’s not fair, and if it’s not fair, why should we bother?

Firstly, life is not fair, and we already know that.  We’re working within an unfair system where hard work is not always rewarded with promotion, love is not always requited and people don’t always say thank you when you hold a door open for them.  Therefore, choosing how to treat others based on what’s ‘fair’ is arbitrary and a bit useless, and deciding whether or not to perform a selfless act based on the injustice of the world is ridiculous.  “I will not help that small child get safely out of the path of that speeding car, because last week a child just like him bashed into my knees at the supermarket.  Fair’s fair.”  Fair is stupid, so forget about it.

Secondly, if you’re that fussed about getting rewarded in the first place, then you’re not being altruistic.  That’s not a criticism of you personally, by the way: after all, who doesn’t like to be rewarded?  Altruism is essentially being kind, generous etc. without any notion of reward: a truly altruistic act is performed by someone who does not even think about the pay off, let alone seek it.  This is sometimes difficult to imagine, and it can get very complicated when we have the best of intentions: making some we love feel better when they’re sad isn’t even altruistic, because their happiness makes us feel happy, because we love them.  Aren’t we selfish gits?

So it may not be real selflessness, and it may be that altruism doesn’t exist at all, but being kind and generous without requiring anything in return is very important.  This is partly because we all have systems of morals, and the one thing that just about every religion in the world can agree on is that being kind to people is important, but also because it means that we can be proud of who we are and how we behave.

Let’s be honest: showing someone love, kindness, sympathy and support can be very demanding, and if the gesture is either refused or ignored we end up feeling foolish.  I don’t know about you, but one thing I hate is being made to feel like an idiot (largely because I can do it just fine by myself without any help from others, thank you).  But showing someone love does not make you an idiot: it makes them the idiot if they don’t appreciate it.  And why would you want gratitude from an idiot?

If you’re still feeling a bit under-appreciated, I could always make you some biscuits.  How’s that?

Have a spectacular Monday.

What Do You Need?

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Good morning, lovely reader.  Can you believe it’s Wednesday already?  I know.  Where does the time go?

My flat mate and I get a lot of stick from our friends because apparently the northern end of the Piccadilly line doesn’t count as “really” living in London.  (It definitely does, by the way.  Zone 4 is still a zone.)  That having been said, we have a lot of house guests from all four corners of the capital city, and we both love having our friends round for cheese, diet coke and ridiculous conversations.

One of our friends came over yesterday for a rehearsal, and she ended up staying late into the evening, which was lovely.  When she left she sent us both a message thanking us for the day, and she said some very sweet things about how spending time with us makes her feel better about life in general.  As two very maternal girls of Irish descent who pride themselves on looking after people, this was the greatest compliment we could have received.

When someone needs a break from reality, a good laugh or just access to an excessive cheese board, they know to come to our flat.  I absolutely love that.  As a friend, the best feeling in the world is knowing that something about you is helpful to the people you love.

We all need different things from different people, and that’s fine.  It’s good to have a friend who is good at distracting you from your problems, a friend who is an excellent listener and a friend who will always be up for blowing off some steam.  It’s also totally fine to sometimes need a good cry, sometimes need a big night out and occasionally just need a massive rant with no input beyond a few sympathetic noises.

Different times call for different measures, and you are absolutely allowed to need people when life throws something weird at you.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, a chat, or just a cuddle.  Your friends want to be there for you just as much as you want to feel better.  Even if talking about a problem isn’t necessarily going to make it go away, it’s important to let the people who love you try to help.  In fact, the most important time to reach out to people is when you feel totally lost and helpless.  It’s the difference between standing alone on a battlefield saying “This is shit.  What am I going to do?” and standing beside someone who loves you, who will turn to you and say, “Yes, this is shit.  What can I do to help?”

Don’t just have a Wednesday.  Have a Marks and Spencer’s Wednesday.

Time is of the (Vanilla) Essence

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Good morning, you lovely thing!  How’s your week going so far?

If you’ve read my blog post about deadlines you will already know that I think working towards deadlines can be very good for us, but that we should have faith in the idea that opportunities don’t just come around once.  This post was similarly positive in tone, and dealt with the idea that we can afford to wait for the opportune moment.  Having made these fairly optimistic assertions, I would now like to talk about the slightly more frustrating side of things: the best laid plans of mice, men and mortgage brokers can be utterly scuppered by bad timing.  Good timing is like a ticket to your dream gig: you know some people have managed to get hold of it, but your best endeavours haven’t got you anywhere.  Sadly, there is no eBay equivalent for those of us who can’t seem to time things correctly.

In many cases, timing is problematic because it isn’t something we can entirely control.  Your best friend’s birthday party inevitably falls the night before your big job interview, and the season finale of your favourite television show is always showing when you’ve got a hefty essay due in.  In my house, we tend realise that we’ve run out of vanilla essence three minutes after Asda closes on the evening before some kind of cake-centred event.  (For the record, almost all of mine and Ash’s social interactions revolve around cake, and we are not ashamed.)

Currently, timing is just being a bit inconsiderate: I somehow managed to get ill just before today’s recording of Pointless.  This is an absolute pain in the sinuses, but I have two very good reasons not to let this bother me:

1) I have an incredibly compassionate flat mate who is very good at taking care of sickies, and who is unfailingly sympathetic when all I can muster by way of conversation is a feeble “uuuuuurgh my face hurts”.  Everyone should have an Ash in their lives, especially one who always has Olbas oil and vapour rub.

2) Pretty much everyone I know is ill at the moment, and we all know that lurgy loves company.

That’s the main point, isn’t it?  The worst feeling in the world is not necessarily going through something difficult, but feeling that you’re going through it alone.  Bad things don’t necessarily come in threes, but they definitely come in large numbers.  Sometimes it seems that we have stumbled across a school trip of bad news, and the little gits have taken over our mental landscapes with their lunch boxes of doom.  It isn’t necessarily encouraging per se that all of our friends get ill at the same time, that lots of couples break up within a few weeks of each other and that everyone seems to be in a bad mood on the same day, but our problems are so much easier to deal with when we realise that our loved ones understand them.  In many cases, their experiences of your situation will qualify them to offer you good advice, lots of empathy and, where necessary, decongestants.

Have a truly marvellous Thursday.  You deserve it.

Autobiography is Irrelevant

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Hello, lovely reader!  How’s everything going with you?  Did you get that essay/presentation/murder trial sorted out in the end?  Oh good, glad to hear it.

Last night I went to the Etcetera Theatre in Camden to see a play called Leaves of Glass.  While it was hardly light-hearted mid-week viewing, it was a very powerful and incredibly well-written play.  The story featured disturbingly empathetic ideas of dishonesty within families in order to keep the peace, and papering over bad memories in order to enjoy the present.  It was so riveting that I didn’t notice almost two hours slip by without an interval (and an audience always notices stuff like that).  I love it when you see a play, or film, or read a book that completely takes over your head space for a few days.  Even if it’s because it’s disturbed your inner well-being a bit, it’s good to really digest stuff like that.  It means it was good.

One of the first comments I heard when I left the theatre was a woman walking in front of us who turned to someone and said “God, d’you think it was autobiographical?”  Strap yourselves in, kids, I’m going in for a rant:

1) If it were autobiographical, would that make any difference to the quality of the play?  Would you enjoy a well-written, energetically performed and cleverly directed play any less because you found out that these things did or didn’t happen in real life?  Theatre is ABOUT life: the whole point of theatre is to show us something that could actually happen.  That’s why we have political plays.

2) It’s really none of your business.  If the playwright has been through any of the things that the characters have then s/he should not have to go into detail about it to gratify your morbid curiosity.  Also, you just watched a whole bloody play about it; how much more detail do you really want?  Wise up, as my friend Carly would say.

(I’m not really cross, by the way.  I know I sound it, but I’ve actually got a very nice day planned, so I’m pretty chipper.  Sorry for ranting.)

I love it when people see elements of themselves in my plays, because it means that I’ve managed to write characters who are sympathetic (and more importantly, empathetic).  But that’s about having a good experience as an audience member and relating to the piece, not trying to look behind the curtain and undermine the story.

Playwrights get very annoyed when people try to detect people they know (or themselves) in their work, because it implies that we don’t have the imagination to come up with our own characters.  Sure, we take inspiration from our real lives and the people in it, but we’re not writing Made in Chelsea here.  Give us a break.   If you switch your brain off to stop worrying about whether your friend’s play is about you or someone you know, you’ll probably enjoy it more.

By the way, I know that in my blogs and articles I talk directly about my friends and family all the time.  I’ve named Carly in this one, for example.  Oh look at that, I did it again.  (Hi Carly!)  But this is real life, not a story I made up.  I don’t have to use my imagination to tell you about annoying my vegetarian friend on an Underground train.  (Sorry – read this blog if that reference baffled you.)

Have an amazing day.  Go to that slightly posh place near the office for lunch; you deserve a mid-week treat.