Let’s face it − we can all feel discontented with work, disillusioned with where we’re living, dislocated and disconnected from those closest to us, or even disenfranchised by the whole stir-fry of life. John Steinbeck astutely noted in Travels with Charley,
‘There seemed to be no cure for loneliness save only being alone.’
I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, along with many of Mr Steinbeck’s wonderful insights, especially pertaining to life on the open road – and Steinbeck had a loving and devoted wife who flew out to meet her husband twice on his cross-country road trip to rediscover the USA.
However, we all seek true, real, sincere connections for so many colours of comfort, solace and love they bring. At the very least, people and connections offer a divine covenant of another beautiful being to share ourselves with, and placate the deep kernel of horror within most of us that we are alone-together in the whole mortal coil of it all.
To be fair we can all be shitheads: best friends crap all over best friends, hearts break when love dries up, people deceive and cheat on those closest to them, and even someone with the most exquisite sense of empathy can surprise you with just how selective their empathy jumps from you to someone else like the privilege of a holy fire.
Don’t get me wrong – people can forgive. Like ocean tides yoked to the moon and the earth we have such an immense capacity and willingness for it. But when shitty behaviour is conducted with such feckless unaccountability, ignorance and/or a lack of common courtesy it’s hard for a person not to be left feeling utterly lost and adrift in an expanse of deception and foolishness. Emotional scars aren’t all bad mind you, because they ossify so immaculately the purity and darkness of one’s heart – but it takes its toll.
This is when the happy and glaikit express limp platitudes like ‘Cheer up,’ or ‘I hope you feel happy,’ which is a bit like healthy people saying to sick and terminal people how they hope they get better soon. I mean you can sprout aphorisms like the legs of a yoga class standing on their head until the sun goes down – sūtras compelling you to live inside a falling rain drop, or to embrace the wondrous contradictions swirling about the landscape of human emotions. But I’m in this for life and the problem with parables and apothems is we don’t live in them. And words act like statistics and good intentions, They can justify just about anything, but without actions to back them up that is all they are – words.
So if Eckhart Tolle, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Amening the Thunderbolt in the Dark Void, Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox, or the Beatles’ bathetic sense of true love starts to numb, or grind you down, here is an alternative set of guidelines. However, I must forewarn you dear reader that the following list (at least in my case) comes with an added bout of violent irony – because it’s hard to divorce the legacy of the people that make you feel so shit when you are reminded of them in each step like the scent of sweet, spring lavender.
The added peril of engaging in steps of personal change and improvement is it comes with a fear that by letting go you may unwittingly, or irrevocably remove a bigger part of yourself that believes in people, serendipity and one-in-a-million chances – a bit like when Pepper Potts is goaded into pulling out Tony Stark’s electromagnetic heart and pulls out more than he or she bargained for. There is also the unfortunate consequence of being misconstrued by the untrained eye that you are going through some rather pathetic and premature mid-life crisis.
#01: Choose an anthem
Every movie hero needs an anthem. Even a plucky dancer from Pittsburgh PA got her own inspirational anthem Flashdance… What a Feeling in the eighties classic dance movie – so why shouldn’t you have one?
Personally, I find it hard to pass up Conor Oberst in Bright Eye’s due to his brilliance at encapsulating the existentialist conundrum of the post post-modern world.
As an alternative you also might consider Katy Perry’s Roar
But whatever you choose (like with any step of introspective exploration) make good choices. So make sure you choose an anthem which doesn’t rule your heart. Because when you feel like shit it’s a motherfucking battle to divorce those feelings from the tome of fond memories – and their sounds, smells, taste and touch which can sour from maudlin sentimentality and an abject state of feeling wrecked and wretched about yourself.
#02 Conjure and imaginary mentor
Given the strong tradition of B-grade martial films which indiscriminately mix kōan riddles with diluted teachings of the Buddha Way, evoking an athletic Kung Fu master like Bruce Lee is an obvious choice.
I have chosen to conjure Apollo Creed AKA Carl Weathers, specifically from Rocky III.
This is where Mr Creed (motivated by a fair degree of personal pride) takes Rocky out of the doldrums of Philly PA, following his whooping at the hands of Clubber Lang, and trains Rocky in his own hood of LA to regain the Eye of the Tiger.
If you unfamiliar with the film, or the quintessential Rocky training montage this basically involves buying new trainers, sweat bands and really short shorts and sprinting like stink along a beach in super awesome gay slow motion.
The only downside to this is in real life you can look like a proper tool trying to re-enact a classic eighties freeze frame while hugging phantom air at the end of run along St Kilda beach. This is why I defer to Mark Twain.
‘Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.’
#03 Drink a tower of tea
Booze may get you through the day and the night, but tea is life.
The funny story behind why I have so much herbal tea is there was someone who was supposed to come visit me who exhibits the cutest little compulsive streak. And when we lived together it occasionally manifested itself by her getting really narky at me when I drank her herbal tea and left empty plates stained with condiments in the kitchen sink.
So I went out and bought a shit load of herbal tea in preparation for her arrival. For the most part this was a sincere gesture to reciprocate all that she had selflessly given to me, and to add flavour to the grand cinematic welcome I was devising. But I also couldn’t help consider a mischievous side effect to this was it would enable me to tease her a little with mock irritation the first time she made a brew in front of me.
I don’t know if it would necessarily have been funny – or even received in the guileless manner I intended. She never really liked me teasing her – and I probably teased her too much. But I loved her like a lover, and adored her because she was my best friend. And this is what people do when they are patiently waiting for someone they love to arrive – imagine exotic and expansive movie clichés of how they hope their time together will play out. That’s why I went out an bought tickets to The Breeder’s Last Splash tour, while studiously researching all the isolated and halcyon coastal camping spots on the West Coast where I planned to take her and act out a fantasy like some Zen Lunatic Dharma Bum. It turns out she had a change of heart, cancelled her plane ticket then wrote me an email telling me so. When I remembered the tickets I feebly and foolishly responded, ‘What about gig?’ and she flippantly replied, ‘You’ll have to find someone else to go with,’ and broke my heart all over again. URghhhh!
Time to reengage Step #01 with Arcade Fire’s Rebellion (Lies)
But I suppose herein lies a prevailing theme implicit in all modes and manner of feeling less shit – look on the bright side of things.
I now have shit loads of herbal tea all to myself!
#04 Immerse,Submerge, Move & Levitate
Immerse yourself in water. This is my personal preference.
But it doesn’t really matter what you do – walk, fish, run, clean.
Just do any activity which gets you out of the house.
Allow the vices of past and future to weaken and welcome the exquisiteness of being in the present – let a sustained moment envelop you like the sleepy arms of a lover.
In the words of Lin Chi, Zen Master of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism,
‘Just cease clinging to the past and hankering after the future.’
Detoxing has the pleasant consequence of placating the copious consumption of The Essential Leonard Cohen, The Breeders Last Splash, Blur 13, The Best of Bob Dylan, along with a shit tonne of whisky, rum, tequila and fags.
After two cups of coffee I recommend a hot lemon drink from juice of one lemon with organic honey, followed by as much herbal tea as you care to drink, a midday miso, then Dave’s Dextox Apple Shake before a dinner of lentils, broccoli, beetroot and kale, garnished with kimchi, sprouts and hot sauce.
Dave’s Detox Apple Shake:
– 1 Granny Smith apple
– 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar *
– 300mls of freshly pressed apple juice
– Juice of one lemon
Notes on Preparation:
Roughly chop the apple, or for an alternative use a pear (because both contain high amounts of malic acid). Combine all the ingredients and blitz in a blender.
* My personal choice of apple cider vinegar is Braggs. However, if you live in the Antipodes and are fiscally challenged like me I would suggest the Melrose range, which is also an organic, fresh pressed and naturally fermented product containing ‘The Mother’. The Melrose range can found in most health food stores, but is also stocked in Coles under the Naturals range at a saving of over five dollars a litre compared to Braggs.
If you want to go completely Rocky on Dave’s Detox Apple Shake you could include a clove of garlic. But in reference to Step #04 it could impinge heavily on your social stature when leaving your home. Although, if you do have a some spare coin I highly recommend sourcing some hemp seed oil from my good friend Kim and incorporating it in Dave’s Detox Apple Shake.
Read anything! I would suggest reading something which eloquently erodes inhibiting notions of nostalgia. This is important because nostalgia is a fucking bitch which call out in your head like femme fatales to poison recollections with fanciful delusions of ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’.
For this purpose I don’t think you should look any further than the cathartic master of leaving, or being left behind, Mr Thomas Wolfe and his posthumous novel You Can’t Go Home Again.
‘You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of “the artist” and the all-sufficiency of “art” and “beauty” and “love,” back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.’
#07 Get a Lightsabre
Seriously – get a lightsabre! Obviously, it doesn’t have to be a lightsabre per se. Get a Nerf gun, a Slip ‘n’ Slide, or Scaletrex set instead.
Or as an alternative just sit in the shade of tree and stare up at the clouds to invoke a childhood sense of pareidolia. Trust me!
I don’t mean to confuse you, or cloud Mr Wolfe’s consummate work at instilling how the magic of a moment is lost once you turn you back. But it’s good every now and then to resurrect a semblance of childhood – the endless sense of summer holidays, the heady chrism of Christmas and the immortality and wonderment of everything around you.
I always see rats and dragons when I look at the clouds, which in my own personal zodiac translates to Juliettes and Da-veeds. I really miss you Juliette! Crap!
Back to Step #01 with Maggot Brain (who else?) and Can You Get to That
#08 Yelp Your Lungs Out
Although, screaming you lungs out comes in at number nine I cannot stress enough the importance of expelling what Rocky’s called ‘the stuff in the basement’ in Rocky Balboa.
I don’t mean to suggest you should yawp in some pedestrian Dead Poets Society manner. To gain the most out of this exercise find a portal in a shamanistic rock, or some other natural arch. Failing this go the closet place where the horizon appears unattainable.
If you have the money and energy I cannot recommend highly enough a trip to Shamanka on Olkhon Island in Siberia, Russia.
The added benefit of going to Olkhon Island to scream you lungs out from a rock sacred to the indigenous Buryats is you can satisfy Step #04 at the same time. Although Lake Baikal is the largest source of fresh water in the world, don’t be fooled into thinking it will be warm – you’re in Siberia! And the water is fucking freezing. But by immersing yourself in the celestial waters you are also said to be rewarded with 100 years of health.
I should note that as an alternative whisky can also be used for excising your demons, but it often has the adverse affect of making your demons burrow further down inside you – down deeper into your basement.
#09 Watch Bromance Movies
As I mentioned before, prescient to any step on the road to personal rejuvenation and transformation is making good choices. Just like listening to depressing breakup albums and smoking bushels of dope there is another way.
Equally, when someone else is feeling shit maybe think of something a little more constructive and sincere to say than, ‘Chin up,’ or ‘Hey, why don’t you turn that frown upside-down.’ It’s not that the intention is wrong or flawed, but it will stick like unwanted chewing gum on the bottom of their shoe. This is because a lot of people fail to acknowledge that human beings are arc reactors for emotions – with a predilection for transforming positivity into negativity, and negativity into more negativity.
Incidentally, I don’t condone this. I think everyone should work way harder at dispelling the Dukkha of everyday trivialities, which inhibit our discriminating mind from finding a path towards enlightenment. And I would love to debate the austere virtues of Buddhism against Taoism’s depth of humanity. But when you feel a bit shit its hard for it all not to end up sounding a bit like a geeky argument pitting Spock’s Vulcan logic against Kirk’s humanity.
The process is easily reversed, but not by saying trite crap to a person who’s feeling shit, like ‘There’s plenty more fish in the sea,’ or ‘If you’re treated like an option, leave like it’s choice’ – because who said they had an option, or wanted a fish?
In my experience this tends to have a cumulative effect of just pissing them off as well. So to initiate this reversal of emotional output put down the cloying romcom, which only serves to perpetuate delusions that one-in-a-million-chances and happy endings can happen in real life. Instead pick up a bromance movie which captures the caustic repartee and witty palaver between best friends like Pineapple Express, or Hot Tub Time Machine.
And if you do need to watch a film about the end of the world as we know it, don’t watch Lars von Trier Melencholia (even though it’s an amazing meditative piece of film making.) Instead my advice would be to watch Steve Carell and Kira Knightley in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. As I said, it comes down to making good choices.
#10 Get Seriously Fucked Up – Seriously!
Although this defers to Step #05 I do realise it may sound a bit aberrant and contradictory to… well most of what I said. This is because punishing your body with booze and smokes is a placebo of martyrdom. I guess this is why Mark Twain also famously wrote,
‘Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins.’
But then again Jesus did turn water into wine to keep the party going. So I think it’s fair to say at least for a little while there’s no harm in getting really fucked up to make yourself feel less shit.
#11 Involve Yourself in a Project
Get into a project – again it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it takes your mind off things.
Personally, I have a penchant for the hypothetical and reality bending devices of quantum physics.
I once spent three months trying to understand space-time as a concept for creating a time machine.
At the time of my research the prevailing scientific thought leaned towards a theoretical model which indeed supported time travel into the past.
However, travelling into the future was considered impossible – which then made me think well what’s the fucking point in that.
When I give up, or finish my teleporter I’m going to start work on this refuse vacuum cleaner and turn it into my new jet pack.
You could also stretch this step further and take on a role for the betterment of humankind. But be careful not to amalgamate Step #10 with Step #11.
Otherwise, you may blink and end up in a tragic role akin to Sir Digby Chicken Caesar.
#12 Upgrade to an iPhone
If all else fails and you still don’t have a smartphone, get an iPhone. I’m not normally one for materialistic attachments but fuck it made me happy!
Otherwise listen to Ben Kweller and have a bit of cry – I did and felt way better.
Shit! I’m really terrible at Step #01.
Let’s try it again with some Bob Dylan.
If you feel none of the above steps are working for you there is always the advice offered to William Shattner’s self parody of Captain Kirk in Airplane II:
Lieutenant: We could try ignoring it, sir.
Murdock: I see… Pretend nothing has happened and hope everything’s all right in the morning?
But if you’re going to take life lessons from Buck Murdoch I would opt for this one:
Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.
If you still feel a bit shit at the end of it all you’ve got to remember there’s a lot of poor fuckers out there worse off than you. People experience unfathomable trauma and tragedy every day. Karma doesn’t dole out comeuppance And feeling sorry for yourself gets pretty fucking dull and tiresome when you’ve still got your health.
In the words of Steve Miller remember we can all be gangsters of love, and get our loving on the run! And like Mental as Anything, if you see someone crying beside the dance floor tell them to come up to your place and live it up!
Fuck! I can’t believe I just found $40 in an old shirt pocket – literally! Maybe you should just ignore everything I have just said about Dharma and Karma and just listen to Wayne Coyne and Moby – they get it!