The Importance of a Strategic Retreat
This week has been a pretty effing tough one.
I could go into details, I could bemoan every single aspect that has made me miserable on and off this week, but I’d rather not. Suffice it to say that today, I felt broken. I think it showed a bit. I was asked by friends and coworkers a couple times today if I was OK.
I lied, of course.
I’m not good at feelings and it’s WAY harder to handle feelings if someone else can see me having them.
I am, at heart, an introvert and when I’m upset, I need seclusion.
As any student of history or any tactician will tell you, a retreat is not always a sign of defeat. Sometimes it’s the best strategic move.
Maybe it’s because I’m a largely logical minded person, maybe it’s because I’m uptight, but I like to try to evaluate what I need to get past whatever I’m feeling and then treat the problem. Experience (and counselling) has taught me a few lessons that I think maybe someone else could benefit from, so I thought I’d share the way I manage my crap days in the hopes that somebody else who might be feeling broken gets something useful from it.
When I got home this evening I knew that I needed three things to feel better: An Escape, Something I Can Control, and Something Cathartic.
The first thing I did was start heating up supper and take a look through Netflix for a movie.
Movies are one of my favourite Escapes.
They’re designed to capture our attention and get us wrapped up in the plot so we can forget about our own lives for a little while. That’s part of the reason that films became really popular during the 1920s. Sure, part of the rise in popularity was that the technology for movies was possible and everyone loves the new and exciting thing, but there’s more to it than that. In the 20’s, the horror of WWI was still pretty fresh in the minds of most. Movies provided a magical escape. In fact, if you watch movies from the past, you can get a feel for what the world was afraid of or dreaming for. When was the Golden Age of Hollywood? The 1930s-1940s. What was the world going through in those decades? The Great Depression and another World War that people hadn’t truly believed would ever happen.
So, when I need to get away from reality, I turn to films.
I curled up on my couch, turned off the light, and ate my dinner in the comforting glow of a world where everything has a reason behind it and there’s always a resolution (unless you’re watching a movie where there ISN’T a resolution in which case, but why you’d do that when you already feel crap, I don’t know. Maybe you’re a masochist?).
After I’d been sufficiently distracted from my problems, I poured myself into a project. Very little makes me feel better than doing something that shows me an immediate and tangible result. In this case, it was putting some things together in my kitchen, tidying, and making a grocery list.
DOING something always makes me feel like I have a bit more agency and that helps me relax. Even something as simple as doing the dishes, you have a pile of dirty dishes, you change them through your actions, and then they’re gone. There’s something really satisfying about that.
If you feel crap, you need to let it out somehow. Because if you don’t, you’ll either end up hurting yourself or being an asshat to other people. Neither option is great.
For me, most of the time, catharsis comes in the form of music.
Whether I’m playing or singing or just dancing along to something, I let the music express what I don’t know how to. I used to just listen to sad music when I was sad or angry music when I was angry, but I found that made things worse. These days, I will start out listening to music that expresses however I’m feeling and then listen to similar styles that express a happier emotion.
Tonight, I decided to go for some classic music. No one can take me from angry to relaxed like Frank Sinatra. “That’s Life” is a pretty great song for that exact purpose. It’s a little angry, a little optimistic, and you can listen to it on repeat without getting tired of it too quickly. Then, once I was in a better mood, it was straight to Jimmy Durante.
Man, if you EVER want to feel better about humanity, listen to Jimmy Durante or watch him in one of his movie or television performances. Actually, even if you don’t know him, you probably already have. He’s the narrator and singer from the animated Christmas classic “Frosty the Snowman”. His songs are heartwarming, his comedic timing is great, and the man routinely raised money for children in need so often that if heaven is real, I’m pretty sure he’s running the place.
I’m sure that everything I’ve said about trying to feel better when you’re down seems pretty obvious, but I think maybe it’s obvious enough that we miss it sometimes. I know I’m guilty of overthinking and over-analyzing why I feel the way I feel and what I should do about it and I’ve seen others do the same.
Talking your problems to death isn’t possible or healthy. You can talk your problems out, but at the end of the day, you still need to put some ACTION into your situation or you’ll be exactly where you’ve always been and sometimes the best action you can take is to step back from the world.
Are the things I was upset about this week still problematic? Yes. Do I know what to do about them? Well, for the most part there isn’t anything I can do about them other than stop being upset about the things I don’t have the power to change. So, I took a step back. I’ve spent the evening productive enough to relax and gather the pieces of myself back together and after a good night’s sleep, I’ll be able to handle tomorrow.
Part of me wonders if I shouldn’t have skipped the blog this weak or if I should have maybe talked about something else but part of the reason I started this was to put the things in my head outside of my head and who knows, maybe someone who needs to see this will see it. Maybe it will help someone. Maybe, it can help make just one person happy.