just play dead

dried red flowers
Photo by Akshar Dave on Pexels.com

Still like a possum

Scared as the humans pass by

With no harm in mind

I had training with the other English teachers today and there was a point where we were reading through some resources and the tutor just cold called on me, asking if I had any thoughts. I’d zoned out a bit and I had nothing so I just stayed quiet.

The thing was that I had my camera on so she could see that I was there and she just kept calling my name and I just kept ignoring her. It was painful.

I have written about the way that I freeze when I’m put under pressure. I don’t run away or fight, I just stand very still. So I know that that is a pretty typical reaction from me. However, it’s really showing how quickly I revert into my old ways when something goes badly.

My next goal in life is therefore to be able to say the words ‘I don’t know’. I don’t want to risk sounding ridiculous so playing dead feels safer. But really it’s probably safer to admit I’m not sure. The way I handled it means my tutor just thinks I’m rude, or stupid.

Thankfully, if COVID has brought us one good thing, it is the fact that we can blame our own stupidity on tech issues so if I want to continue lying, I can just tell her I couldn’t unmute myself. Sorted.

Much Love

Rachel xx

how to be uncool

It’s a difficult thing, to be uncool.

At least that’s what I think as I walk through this world

Watching the hot shots and players, moving in packs.

You might think it’s harder to make it to cool,

It’s a status we all wish for, that is for sure.

But isn’t it harder to let that guard slip?

Isn’t it tougher to show your soft centre,

Your flaws and your fears?

Running in packs is easy to do,

But bounding along on your own special course,

There is danger in that and it lurks in wait.

It hides in the grasses waiting to pounce,

The moment your uncoolness opens you up

To all of the ridicule coming your way.

Better to change the stripes that you wear

To something more spotty and fierce.

You don’t want to be the next casualty

On this animal plain.

So get in your box and pretend to be cool,

The alternative choice is far less attractive,

It’s the well worn choice of every known fool.

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

Lester Bangs, Almost Famous

It’s like the Serengeti out there if you think about it. There are the cool kids out on the playground and they are the Cheetahs of the world. And then there are the ones like me who bound around in a world of their own. They’re not cool, but they’re having fun just being themselves.

It only takes a chink in your armour and the big cats can attack though. And they will drag you down as hard as they can because that’s how they maintain their place at the top.

You may argue that it’s really hard to become one of those cool kids, but actually it’s harder to be uncool. Because being uncool means showing all of yourself, even the really embarrassing or negative parts of yourself. There is a vulnerability in it and that takes strength.

So, you might think you want to be one of the popular kids in your workplace or church or community, but really you should be aspiring to be one of the uncool ones. That’s where the real you lies and where you will find the deepest connections with others. And that’s a wonderful place to be if you have the strength to allow yourself there.

Much Love

Rachel xx

What I should have known when I was 20 (a poem)

There are probably a shit tonne of essays and books and blog posts (and maybe a poem or two) about what people wish they had known when they were 20. Looking back, we all wish we could go back and impart our acquired knowledge upon our younger self.

But I was a little bit broken and it was the reason that I ended up not having the career that my friends enjoyed or the relationships or the posh holidays and fancy cars. While they all grew up, I remained a sixteen year old who downed shots, even on a Tuesday.

Now that I have put my drinking days to bed and decided to make a real effort at getting my brain sorted out I feel like I can piece together something similar to all of those other lists on the internet. But mine isn’t what I wish I’d known; mine is what I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. It’s the stuff I really should have picked up if I wasn’t drunk, or high, or wandering around somewhere dangerous in Africa.

So here’s a little poem with some of the obvious stuff and also some of the things that are only applicable to wonky people like me.

When I was young and left my home,

There was a big, exciting world to roam.

But I did not know how to look

After the girl whose world was shook

When she found that drink was nice,

It’s just she didn’t know the price.

I wish that she had understood,

That letting go was what she should

Be doing when those heavy woes

Pushed her deep into her lows.

Let go of all that she resents,

All it does is swiftly robs and then prevents,

The happiness that could be hers,

But anger seems to be what she prefers.

I wish she knew that money, houses and a car

Aren’t the answer, not by far.

They’ll scratch the itch that plagues her so

But they won’t help her fly or grow.

The joy that they will make her feel

Is transient; it isn’t even real.

I wish that I could tell her to

Try the thing that scares her through

To her core; the thing that sets her heart on fire,

A passion of which she’ll never tire.

Don’t do what they all think you should,

Don’t think you need it to be good,

You’re good enough just as you are

Just don’t let them eclipse your star.

How to deal with the ups and downs of life (a couple of helpful tips)

I sometimes feel like I’m living more downs than ups and that can be a really difficult thing to deal with. But we’re all feeling this way and that is why life is so bloody confusing. It’s the fact that we watch everyone else and wonder how the fuck they are making it look so easy when they are looking right back at us and thinking the same thing. It’s laughable really, but it’s a truth that needs to be learned and accepted if we are to do anything great while we are here on earth.

There was a time when I was genuinely convinced that there was some kind of class that I had missed where everybody had a life manual dished out to them. I seriously believed that they all had this book that gave them a comprehensive set of instructions on how to do it right.

Of course, drinking to the excess that I did, didn’t make my understanding of life any easier, but I knew that if I could just get hold of that book, then I’d know where I was going wrong. I would know how to navigate life’s ups and downs without making the complete mess of it that I always did.

Now I know that this manual doesn’t exist and I have had to develop a set of my own rules. I see the rules a little bit like a seat belt that I can use on this rollercoaster that used to throw me all over the place, sometimes nearly leaving me on my deathbed. The rules don’t stop the rollercoaster from moving but they do stop me from flying out of my seat. (Crap metaphor, I know, but it fits with the ferocity of the feelings that I used to have back in those days).

So here are a few little ways in which I try to keep myself safe when I’m on that up and down journey and my knuckles are white with the effort from hanging on for dear life.

  • Repeat the words LET GO AND LET GOD. Handing everything over to a power greater than myself is always a comfort. It’s the loss of control that is scary so hand it over to something bigger than yourself.
  • Remember that another person’s opinion of you cannot harm you. I often find I’m so emotionally hurt by what somebody says that I forget it can’t do any physical damage. It cannot kill me and it only has the power that I allow it to have over me.
  • Somebody else’s opinion is often a reflection of their own insecurities. If they are being horrible to me it’s because something in their own past has been dredged up in them. That has nothing to do with me.
  • Knowing that THIS TOO SHALL PASS. There are not many things in life that last forever. A bad feeling, or a crappy situation will normally pass. I often try to think if I will remember what is happening in five years. If the answer is no then it’s probably not worth wasting too much energy on.
  • See life as a story or novel. You can’t have a good novel without there being a chapter or two where the main character goes through some shit. Without this the novel is going to be a little bit boring! So if you find yourself going through some difficult days or weeks or months, then think of it as only a chapter or two of your life and look forward to the upward curve when you will get your happily ever after.

I hope that some of these are useful to you. I know that shitty times in life are hard to get through when everyone around you appears to be doing so well. But know that they will be dealing with their own problems in their own times and you just need to stay in your own lane, get your head down and look forward to the brighter times that are already on the horizon.

You are loved and you are special and you just need to relax and breathe and smile like you have it all under control, because that’s all that those other people around you are doing.

Much love

Rachel xx

Self worth: How you should be talking to yourself (plus poem)

Before I started really working on myself and understanding that there was work to be done my self worth was incredibly low. I used to talk to myself like crap. I think that a lot of us do it and, worse still, we sometimes don’t even realise how badly we are doing it.

I remember when I was slowly reaching my ‘rock bottom’ (I really hope it was my rock bottom because nobody wants to go there again!) I would say the most dreadful things to myself. I recall saying over and over in my head that I was useless and I even went as far as to call myself evil. I would find myself crying and wishing that I was dead as this voice just rang out over and over again. “You’re evil, you’re evil, you’re evil. The world would be a better place without you in it.” It brings chills to my body to even write that because it really does bring back that awful time with such intensity.

However, through a lot of hard work and therapy and going to meetings for my alcoholism, I have managed to (almost) swing it around. There are still days when I am stressed or tired and I find myself slipping back into my old patterns but, on the whole, I am so much better.

If you are struggling with the crippling effects of talking to yourself like you don’t matter, here are a couple of ways to try and put a stop to it:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep and try to avoid stress. As I mentioned, these are two things that are bound to set me off.
  • Read some self help books or watch something uplifting on Youtube. You may think it’s a load of old woowoo but hopefully the uplifting message will give you a bit of a kick.
  • Meditation, because this is bound to quieten the voices in your head. It takes some practice but the benefits once you’ve gotten the hang of it are not to be sniffed at.
  • Be creative because this is taking your mind off the words that are tumbling through your mind. And if you make something nice, you feel as though you’ve accomplished something. Useless people wouldn’t be able to do that!
  • Talk to a friend. Again distraction and connection with other humans are so useful. It’ll help to remind you that there are people out there who love you and value you.
  • Talk to yourself as though you were talking to your four year old self. You wouldn’t tell that little girl or boy that they were pathetic and vile. So don’t tell your grown up self that!

How to love a sucky job (and maybe get a promotion too)

I have a child and that means that I have had to work part time and evenings for nearly all of my twenties and early thirties. I’m looking forward to the day when I can waltz into a normal office job, but for the time being I’m stuck with the sucky jobs that very few people actually like. I’m talking the retail and the hospitality jobs that are low pay and sometimes really thankless. Some of these jobs are amazing but I bet there are more people complaining about them than raving about how great they are!

But are they really that bad? There are some people out there who seem to love them; always happy and joyful when the rest of us are grumbling about nasty customers and physically demanding tasks. It got me thinking about how these people do it. How do they remain so perky when the rest of us feel like we are on our knees?

And after lots of reading and watching talks and trying things out myself I have realised that kindness and caring is the key. I thought that was a bit of a cop out of an answer but it really is true and this is why.

As human beings, we are wired to be social and to live and work in community. The world as it is, makes this soooooo hard to do. It just takes one bad thing to happen in your day and your mood is ruined and you are far more likely to pass on those bad vibes to the checkout girl who is taking her time scanning your shopping!

But what if that checkout girl breaks the chain of ill will? What if she smiles back at the angry customer and at least tries to be pleasant? It’s not necessarily going to appease the angry customer but it might do. And if the next person that he comes into contact with is also very pleasant, it might have even more of an effect. If everybody he comes into contact with gives him excellent service and a smile it’s going to be hard for him to stay mad at the world at large.

And then the effect on the checkout girl is positive too. Just the act of smiling and being nice floods our bodies and minds with all those happy chemicals. Providing the customer doesn’t scream at her she can just carry on with the next customer and forget about him, knowing that, at least she has done the very best that she can.

The positivity of that checkout girl has a snowball effect, gathering more speed and more force for both her and the people around her. It’s infectious and that is a very powerful thing.

The point is that we can’t counter bad behaviour with more bad behaviour. It just doesn’t make anything better. We need to make a mental note that we should come out of every interaction having made a positive difference in that person’s day. We should never leave somebody having made their day worse.

We also feel happier and more successful when we behave in this way. It’s truly very difficult when we deal with droves of nasty customers, but those that are happy and joyful in their ‘sucky’ jobs are the ones that don’t let that first one completely deflate them and cause them to be ‘off’ with everybody else. Feeling like you have made everybody’s day better is the ultimate way to feel successful too. Stop measuring your success in money and measure it in how good you feel!

And funnily enough, it is the happy and positive people who are less stressed and more likeable and ultimately more likely to get promoted through the ranks (if they want it, because let’s face it, they’re normally pretty happy anywhere!).

So next time you have a crappy customer, smile and wish them a nice day. At least you can feel good within yourself even if they choose to remain miserable and angry.

Cheeky little bonus poem

You sometimes need to give a smile,

And go the extra freaking mile,

When someone’s getting on your wick,

And being quite the little pr*ck.

Just ask them how their day has been,

And until they’re gone, keep your language clean.

The first step to success is this…

Are you struggling to get yourself moving in life? There are so many areas that we are trying to juggle and sometimes it’s really easy to drop one of the balls. And the way to make sure that you are able to pick it back up and get moving again is to tell people about it.

Perhaps your fitness goals have fallen off the radar and you know that you need to pour some time and energy into that area of your life. Perhaps you have decided that the way to do this is to run a 10k or a marathon, or even an ultra marathon! It’s all very well setting yourself this goal, but how are you going to hold yourself accountable?

The most obvious way is to TELL SOMEBODY ABOUT YOUR GOAL! If you tell somebody then you have to put the training in otherwise they are going to be disappointed when they next check in with you. And that person can help! They can be your cheerleader and encouragement on the journey. If you are starting a new business they may be able to provide that key contact to jet propel you to the next level. If you’re trying to stop drinking that person you tell can be the person to take you off to the cinema rather than a night at the bar with all your boozy friends.

You also need to tell people what you need emotionally. It helps to tell people if you’re feeling drained because then they know what to do to help you. It might just be a case of them coming around to have coffee with you to perk you up when you’re feeling low. Tell your friends and colleagues how you feel! And tell them what you need!

This video goes a little deeper into this topic. Please give it a watch and hopefully it will give you a push in the right direction.

Much Love,

Rachel xx