Friday 22 November 2019

Out there - How to cope with life in the emotional jungle

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

January is off to the worst possible start. I wake on a wet, grey January morning with a quote from Beckett's The Unnameable in my head: "You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on."

To me, that sentence nicely sums up this misery-fest of a month. The bubbling glass of prosecco that I had in my paw for most of December has been whisked away, and in its place are quinoa, running off my cheese gut and terrified peeks at my current account balance.

To add to the horror, as a self-employed bumbler living in London, the tax deadline of January 31 looms. I am irrationally nervous of dealing with large institutions, or government bodies (I once started to shake so badly when trying to claim lost property in a police station in Cork that the guard asked if everything was OK at home) so the thought of doing my taxes is about as much fun as a lunch date with Hannibal Lecter.

Actually, since I earned only 30 buttons and four lengths of thread last year, doing my tax isn't as bad as I feared, until I make a mistake and have to ring the helpline. After holding for 48 minutes a hostile Scottish man tells me he doesn't know the answer to my question ('Will I go to jail if I include soup in my expenses?') and tells me it will be five working days before someone can call me back.

Later that day, my landlord/overlord (and older brother) berates me for leaving a lipstick mark on one of his glasses. I point out that it was my friend's lipstick, and it was New Year's Eve so he's lucky that's the only place she left it. He calls me a "middle-age woman incapable of washing a glass" and storms off. Downstairs, face buried in a pillow, I wonder, is 34 middle aged? And how long is the jail sentence for refusing to file your tax return due to PMS? I cry and take a nap.

I dream about starting a campaign to make January a 31-day bank holiday. There is a petition on social media, plastic 'Make January History' wristbands and a hashtag (#BanJan). I open my eyes, look out the window and it's back to Beckett.

Katy Harrington

I'm listing at the very thought of it all

Lists are the new way to go. I regularly go through a phase of lists. Sometimes, I add things that I've done to the list just to be able to tick them off.  'Buy coal' when I know it's in the boot of the car. And then I can draw a big line through it. I like drawing big lines though things. My ways of getting satisfaction are diminishing as the years go by. But I'm going to have to take control of my life. Bring it to a more orderly state.

I regularly go out to shop and forget the one thing I went out for and end up bringing home absolute rubbish. A rice-maker or a power-cleaner and then I go to put on a wash and realise I never got the washing tablets.

My father always made lists and every day he carried the ones he hadn't done over to a new page and started again. All very obsessive-compulsive stuff. People are always telling me to do reminder things on my phone. And it will bing to remind me. I would probably answer the phone on every bing.

The fact that I'm a complete Luddite has, thus far, prevented me from doing this. I prefer the little notebook in the bag. At least I can see it when I'm searching for my fags, lighter, phone…..I might actually remember that I made a list. Sometimes I make the dreaded list when I've had a few drinks. I tend to become energetic after a few drinks. A false sense of my own ability to take on the world. But then the next day I can't read my drunken scrawl and it's been a futile exercise.

'Baking ingredients' is a regular. That will be getting moved on to the next list every time. 'Tidy garage' and 'sort out summer clothes' will also be staying around for the foreseeable future. Maybe until the summer when I won't have to sort them any more. The garage will never happen. When I worked, I never bothered with lists. I knew I wouldn't get them done but now I have the chance to sit on my well-rounded ass all day, I feel guilty that I'm not doing more. I think I'll add 'stop feeling guilty about sitting on well-rounded ass' to the list.

Eleanor Goggin

When a solar system conspires against you

It was perihelion. At first, I thought it was jet lag, an absence of exercise and work-style brain usage or my cough medicine, even just my cough. I wondered if it was that arch nemesis of sound sleep, the full moon, which was indeed lurking, all shiny and innocent-looking, in the sky. But the insomnia brought on by any and all of those can be defeated with a good sharp punch from a sleeping tablet. But this was different. Where half a tablet can usually deliver six unconscious hours, a full tablet was delivering just one measly out-of-it hour. A coma from one to two am followed for the next five hours by some combination of reading, sighing, husband-pestering, Candy Crush, a sammich, vodka and more sighing. Then a coma at some useful hour like 7.30am.

It was still holiday time, so none of us had to be up but, in an effort to break the freakish cycle of sleeplessness, I'd set the alarm for 9.15, then spend the next hour and half hitting 'snooze', switching it off definitively at 10.45 with every intention of getting up before waking in bafflement at 12.30. Which although day-wastingly late, is still not a lot of quality sleep. I was confused, wearing a lot of concealer and getting sadder as the number of wakeful dawns increased. Insomnia is a swift route to madness.

Obviously it called for some thorough Googling. (I seriously do not know what quality of life I had at all at all before I had the internet to answer my every question, fan the flames of my every suspicion and provide me with memes for every occasion.) And the WWW gave me perihelion, the point where the earth is closest to the sun. It happens in the first few days of January every year, and is thought to affect the very magma in the earth's core.

Admittedly there was nothing about it affecting sleep, even with the full moon, but you know, someone has to come up with the theory. My brain was not the only one refusing to go into sleep mode. So, there you go. It was perihelion.

Aine O'Connor


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