The other day, a friend and I discussed the habits we all have when we go through our ‘dark days’—those little life moments when your world seem to collapse around you, forcing you to find some sort of comfort in the chaos. These habits are sparked from loss most times—the loss of a friend, of a relationship, of a loved one—whatever the case may be, it forces you to learn to live without that comfort. It forces you to cope with change.
The approaching new year always puts me into a mood—I think about my past year, the ups and downs I faced, and what changes I hope to see in future. I could really have these reflections at any time, but the marathon of the holidays always leaves me exhausted, and ready to create some sort of structure in my life after so much chaos.
On top of my usual reflections, 2015 for me wrapped up with some dramatic changes, both very good and very bad. Over the last few weeks, I’ve managed to take the time to process most of my thoughts, and the best way to describe my situation is this—I’m going through a period of transition. I’m not always the type of person who deals with change well, so to cope with this, I turned to a few of my routine habits that help me find a bit of comfort in my life.
I start with a playlist of music that brings me back to happier times—Matchbox Twenty (the only band my family ever agreed on during long car rides growing up), Mumford and Sons (my obsession during the first few months living in New York City), Ed Sheeran (he brought me out of ‘dark days’ 2013 when my apartment was infested with bed bugs), and Sting (just because). Using this as my backbone, I’m able to reflect on my thoughts with a clearer perspective.
Outside of the safety of my headphones though, I’ve found a solid cocktail solution of three things that always make me feel better. First, I try to set aside one day a week for me—the activity changes week to week, but it gives me a chance to slow down and get out of my head. Usually I’ll try a yoga class, or if it’s warm, I’ll walk up to the park after work and sit in the shade with a book.
Second, I turn to my favorite TV show (Parks and Recreation) and binge through the entire thing again. Mike Schur and Amy Poehler were able to create this perfect fictional world that is hilarious, welcoming, supportive, and loving, and when reality seems to be too much for me, I’m always glad I can escape to Pawnee for a few hours. And finally, I’ve found a very recent comfort—rereading Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please.
I’m a comedy nerd for sure—biographies and interviews with my favorite comedians are pretty much my crack. But unlike books that focus on the person’s career, Poehler’s book is much more open and raw. She still talks about her rise to stardom, but in between her tales of improv and her years on SNL, Poehler gives us an inside look at her daily life. She talks about her highs and her lows, and while other books by my comedy heroes make me want to drop everything and start writing jokes, Yes Please inspires me to try to make the best of the life I have now. She talks about her divorce, and how she dealt with that, and gives you that little reminder that even the most famous celebrities are venerable.
This time, the chapter that struck me most was about Poehler’s trip to Haiti. She was still in the midst of her divorce, and in an effort to escape from everything, she decided to accompany a friend to the country for some humanitarian work. Traveling to Haiti is not the same as traveling to some Caribbean island to relax though—you don’t go there to vacation, you go there to meet the people, to try to help them, and to gain some perspective.
As you read about her trip, you only get a snapshot of her thoughts. She reminds us that even when you separate yourself from everything, your reality will still haunt you, but every day you can find moments that can center you, that can help bring you out of those dark days. It was in this description that I cam across this line, describing the children she met at the orphanage:
“Most of these children were living in the moment. Thinking about the future was a luxury.”
It makes you pause for a moment when you think about this. The future is a luxury. Highlight on luxury. On any given day, I can guarantee 90 percent of it for me includes thinking about my future. I’m obsessed with planning—I make at minimum five lists a day. I map out my exercise routines, my meal plans, how much money I expect to spend in the week, how much money I need to save over the next year, where I want to be in a year, in five years, in ten years. I actually map out what days I will do my laundry over a whole month (I have a system. It makes so much more sense in my head, I promise.). It’s no wonder I’m exhausted all the time—my mind is always worrying about tomorrow.
I would never describe this as a luxury though, but when you are reminded that there are people all over the world who don’t know if they will make it into the next year, it really hits you. We take so much for granted, we stress so much over our futures that we forget to enjoy the moment. I am constantly trying to remind myself of this, especially in times when my present isn’t exactly going the way I want it to.
That’s why we constantly need to remind ourselves of the fortunes we have in our lives. It’s so important to be present, and to be thankful for all that we have.