There are multitudes of ways to cope when life presents challenges. I'm pretty sure I know someone of every preference: the depression napper, the overeater, the social media addict, the workaholic. You might think, "wow, that's judgy," but it's not coming from a place of judgment at all. I have used all of those coping mechanisms in the last year, and probably before the pandemic, too. I just didn't realize it.
Perhaps a year ago I would have criticized myself for the Twitter doomscrolling, the movie marathons, and the previous day's afternoon cocktails soaked up with salami, Gouda, and crackers followed by a food coma nap. Today, not so.
We're taught from a very young age that too much of anything, even a good thing, is bad news. You can overexercise! Over-socialize! (Whoever thinks that too many spa days is harmful truly doesn't understand the joy of luxury.) I accepted that theory for most of my childhood, and into adulthood. Now, I'm here to undo it.
I can mark the day things changed: 15 March, 2020. This was the day Chicago shut down and I lost my job. I went from 5 nights a week of gigs surrounded by money and partiers who were happy to throw it around...
To time and silence. My brain and I have never been good friends. I have been reliant on my job (and the sound that comes with it) to quiet the nit-picky and critical voices that constantly tell me I will never be enough.
Initially, I turned to strict scheduling and an aggressive creative workload to keep myself at bay. This is because I read an opinion piece from an astronaut that swore the secret to staying sane in space was to have routine. Fortunately, that's worked for me. I've been productive this past year: One book completed, another on the way, 40-some new original songs, self-education on a lot of technology, and building my virtual piano studio to 20 students, among other things.
But there is another component for my anxiety and PTSD-riddled brain that is equally responsible for keeping me alive. (Remember? I just figured out I wanted to do that.)
And the award for "best supporting coping mechanism" goes to my vices: the social media dives, the Netflix nights, my inability to control my wallet around book sales, and my frustrating love of all things boozy. I am, in my heart, an epicurean. I have been trying to quash that through vigorous personal training sessions, spreadsheets on spending, and calorie trackers for years, but nothing seems to really shrink my proclivity for pleasure. The cards I was dealt in this life haven't been the easiest. Maybe that's why I'm on the hunt for things that make me feel good now.
All of that being said, my vices have never gotten in the way of the completion of my daily to-do lists. Maybe that's the balancing point, sort of like the old 'work hard, play hard' slogan. I am not advocating behavior that is life-debilitating or life threatening, I am merely suggesting that we seek a different ratio of responsibility/work and things that make us feel good.
I would kindly ask you, reader, to suspend any negative feelings, now more than ever (but always, actually, please) when you see someone acting in a manner that doesn't live up to your standards. Maybe a Rom-Com and a pint of ice cream is the antidote needed to coax someone with depression a few steps further away from the edge of the mental cliff. Perhaps an afternoon spent going through old Facebook photos, reminiscing about all the trouble you got into and laughing about it is the levity you need to get out of bed a few minutes earlier the next day. Do you see what I'm saying? It's heavy, but worth considering. Little things like this, things I would have previously deemed "time-wasters" may actually be key to survival.
Take it easy on yourselves, and others.
That all being said, it's noon on a Tuesday and I am going to have a (single) glass of wine because the sun is shining and dammit, I like wine!
Cheers to the vices!