Today I'm feeling Meh

Today I’m feeling really meh. Somewhere between the third bottle of champagne and the second box of chocolates I just started feeling a bit down. This meh-ness is slightly at odds with what is meant to be the most wonderful time of the year but for some unbeknownst reason there are no Christmas songs that account for the general post-Christmas blues that is hanging around everyone right now.

I had such a busy and fun start to the month & for the introvert who needs a lie-down after a coffee with friends I did an impressive amount. I then had a magical Christmas (blog soon to follow!) full of eating, drinking and spending WAY too much money enjoying myself. But now? Yesterday’s feeling a ‘little off’ led to a full blown existential crisis as I was trying to fall asleep. AWESOME.

I think most of the existential crisis can be traced back to the fact that I am 27 and that is just what we do for fun these days. Seriously, don’t worry about that whole I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING WITH MY LIFE panic, everyone else is having it too and most of the time you are actually just hungry.

But the post-Christmas ‘down’ time is another matter entirely.

One of the most obvious causes for the holiday blues is the slowly dying Christmas tree in the corner that somehow manages provoke three emotions at once:

  1. Foreboding that much like the life of this tree the holiday will soon be over and you have to return to work;
  2. Ennui over the consumerism that is leading to the general death and destruction of mankind; and
  3. Confusion as to how the hell you are meant to get rid of a dead Christmas tree in London, because your Dad always took care of that back home.

Of course for any Doctor Who fans there is the added emotion of suspicion as I am pretty sure one of these Christmases the tree will come alive and take me directly to our Sycorax overlords. For anyone not into Doctor Who just ignore this horrifying fact.

I think part of the down-ness is because we put so much chocolate covered pressure on Christmas, even more so if you are an expat. In the great busyness of the last half of December there is this little movie reel in the back of your mind saying that your Christmas in London will be like Love Actually, Dickens and Downton Abby combined. You will overcome the fact that your family is on the other side of the world by carolling with your chums as you all learn some sort of invaluable life lesson over your first Yorkshire puddings. But then it turns out that Christmas in London is just, well… weird.

Yes it is a nice day but it is not the same as home, it’s just not. You can totally plan an awesome day and bad-ass your way through it, but it will never be the same as a family Christmas. For one it is a hell of a lot more exhausting because all that cooking and shopping that your parents normally do is now down to you and your friends. As it turns out the reason your Mum complained about spending all day in the kitchen is because to cook Christmas dinner for ten people you have to spend all fucking day in the kitchen! Oh these things you discover when you try to adult for the first time.

The good old rose tinted glasses come into play as well, Christmas is always best looked at with about 10 months breathing space. Go on, what can you actually remember about the last Christmas you had at home? I would bet you a flat white that it has actually reduced down to the happy glow of presents and family… so you are comparing your current Christmas to what is essentially a highlights reel.   The bitter fact of being an expat at Christmas is you remember all the rosy good times, and not the ‘oh my god my sister just took the chocolate I wanted’ angry times.

There is also the small fact that what with being away from your parents and not having to drive anywhere, well you might have been drunk consistently for the last four days. I for one got up on Boxing Day planning to have a day without drinking and then saw I had some leftover champagne… there was only one logical conclusion. So feeling a little down is because this is the slowest built hangover of the year, four days of binge eating and drinking cocktails ‘to hydrate’ is finally taking its toll.

So why don’t you go through this in New Zealand? Back home you get gently eased back into reality like a kitten filling out a cardboard box. Everyone has time off work, the sun is shining and Christmas drinking just turns into Summer BBQ drinking – no harsh blues, just seemingly endless good times. I think even if you were an expat in New Zealand it must be a lot easier at Christmas time because of the general vibes of the entire ‘happy its sunny’ nation.

What to do about the miasma of meh? Firstly its time to utilise the unique post-Christmas benefits: all the chocolate and party trays are half price at the supermarket and it is totally acceptable to crack into the Baileys pre-lunchtime. Also you need to enjoy the fact that London seems oddly chill this time of year, like you can actually leave your house without wanting to punch a slow moving tourist kind of chill. The second approach is to just bloody revel in it, don’t try and fix the blues just know that it is a temporary thing that will pass with the New Year.

So how am I enjoying my post-Santa ‘down’ time? Well I have spent a rather splendid day catching up with those Kardashians. Not only is it junk food for the mind, but I feel a lot better about the dying Christmas tree in the corner when I compare it to the frightfully heated argument that Kim and Khris got into over Lamar. I mean, it’s Christmas so we really should be thinking about those less fortunate anyway.

 

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Its ok to feel down

Never forget you are amazing

Happiness has been my go-to conversation piece when drunk for about the last month. As soon as I hit that third glass of wine tipping point, whoever I’m out with gets gifted a drunken Runawaykiwi preaching about happiness – apologies to everyone caught up in the ramble. Rather than continue to piss off my friends, I thought I would write something hopefully more coherent on this little old blog of mine.

I’m not quite sure if it is social media, the stage in life I’m in (late 20’s for anyone asking) or the language of modern marketing imprinting itself on my brain; at the moment we only speak in bests and worsts. It’s no longer ok to be just simply happy, now you need to be living in a constant state of ecstasy or alternatively be a tight ball of misery in order to fit in with the crowd.

I am really happy at the moment. God writing that felt like declaring a political statement. It’s not that I am an overnight Zoella, have been promoted to CEO or am suddenly getting married; I’m just getting enough sleep, have been doing some fun London stuff, drinking a lot of coffee and have actually managed to catch up with my friends. Not earth shattering, but I’m smiling and content. And yet this happiness is quite simply not something you hear about very often. It is partially because you are sensitive to others emotions and don’t want to rub happiness in the face of someone who is struggling, but it is mostly because stressed is the new normal.

The biggest issue I have with this best/worst mentality is that it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Think back to the last time someone asked how you were, I would put money on your reply going something along the lines of “I’m so stressed and/or tired/shattered”…and it might be have been true. The problem is the more you say it, the more you reduce your emotional rainbow down to those two negative emotions, and after a while you don’t even bother to think about how you actually feel, you automatically go straight to stressed. You begin to forget that stressed and tired are just temporary states of being, you forget that they do not identify you.

I listened to this being discussed on the Being Boss podcast and their suggestion was to add a positive twist to the end of your automatic reaction; change “I’m so stressed” to “I’m busy but loving it”. I’m not sure that works for every situation, sometimes you are just stressed to all hell. But identifying the bigger picture really can work. This week in particular it’s too reductionist to say “I’m stressed”, instead it could be “I’m so excited for Christmas and I want to get all this work finished before the break”. It’s not “I’m stressed” its “I’ve got a big project and its taking up a lot of my energy”. Or hell, it’s not “I’m stressed” it could even be “I’m great”. Turns out just like complaining about teachers and homework made you cool in high school, being stressed makes you fit in at work.

Motivational quotes on my wall

The Pinterest impact can’t be overlooked either. Now I love a motivational quote, I pin quotes most days and have them all over the walls in my room. The danger is if they stop being little nuggets of lovely and actually start making you feel bad about your life, as if you are not doing it right unless EVERYTHING IS MAGICAL ALL THE TIME.

The funny thing about happiness is that, just like all emotions, it’s on a spectrum. Happiness runs from the tiny things like that first sip of coffee, through the middle ground of planning world domination with friends over wine, right up to the highs of finally having wanderlust satisfied – or my personal highlight this year of seeing my sister marry the love of her life, a moment so happy that it was in another emotion universe entirely. With all the Pinterest-beautiful quotes floating round, I get the impression that it’s only ‘happiness’ if it falls in the top 10% of the spectrum.

You are selling your happiness so so short if you can’t bask in the tiny happy moments that dot your day. That top 10% of social media approved happiness means that apparently 90% of your life is unhappy. That’s just terrifying.

I’m not sure if this post is any better than the wine ramble, but I think what I am trying to say is that this is your life, every second of it is a moment that you won’t get back. Don’t sell yourself short by falling into stressed/tired automatic-reaction trap, or feeling like your little moments of happiness aren’t big enough to count and enjoy. Wake up and think “I get to do this, I can try again and might even find some happy today”, and if that is too hippy dippy for you just remember that today you can buy a coffee and treasure that first sip. The emotions you are feeling are delightfully temporary, the fact that you are amazing is a constant that you need to keep in your heart every day.

Christmas is going to be a hard time for a lot of you reading this, either because you are an expat away from home or you might be home with your family…but your family is a bit cray. Forget that its not THE BEST CHRISTMAS OF ALL TIME, forget for a moment that being unhappy is cool and just enjoy those little moments. Use the silly jumper, the mulled wine and a surprise ‘Merry Christmas’ from a colleague you didn’t think knew you existed to get you through.

So, after all that I have to ask…what makes you happy?

xx

 

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Happiness

Stay in touch with home

I think my parents would be happy to confirm that I am RUBBISH at staying in touch. All those best intentions for Skyping every weekend pretty much go down the drain when its cold, I’ve had a long week at work and Suits is calling on Netflix. I can’t even imagine what Mum and Dad think about my life in London when these are the reasons I have got in touch:

  • its midnight and the lights have gone off in my flat and I can’t find the fuse box
  • I couldn’t figure out how to change the time on the microwave
  • Terrorists attacked Paris
  • I made a pom pom rug
  • Crying from work stress
  • I needed a dairy free, gluten free dessert for a dinner party
  • There was a fox outside my door looking at me
  • I got a retweet from Sigmund Freud’s granddaughter
  • I didn’t know if the lightbulbs I had got would blow up the house

Seriously none of those are made up. My parents get no contact for a month and then just get hit with one of the above…terrible terrible daughter. Its actually amazing that they haven’t either disinherited me or somehow managed to inject me with a GPS tracker so they know where I am.

Sadly after such terrible levels of communication I am no longer the favourite daughter, the mantle has been picked up by my older sister and she is getting all my Christmas presents from Santa 🙁

To help you avoid a similar fate, below are my top 7 ways to stay in touch with home. I know some are kind of weird, but lets be honest when you are useless at staying in touch in the normal fashion you need to get creative.

1. Send a box of marshmallows with your face on

Boomf marshmallow selfies

This might be my favorite way to stay in touch, there is a company called Boomf that will put your face on a marshmallow and send it to your Mum. Ok, you don’t have to put your face on it, I just thought it was narcissistic and funny…the dream combination. You can choose any 9 photos, if you want vanilla or strawberry mellows and then they ship them anywhere in the world for free.

Sending sweets anonymously has a history in my family; my sister and I once got into a candy war where we sent each other bulk candy entirely in anger (we both knew we had no self control, and being faced with large amounts of sweets could be devastating). It started with an anonymous delivery of 4kg of marshmallows and only stopped after 4 months and the final battle of 10kg of crunchy bars. I know, my family is weird. Anyway try Boomf they are awesome and will make your whanau smile.

2. Send 60 postcards over the course of 1 year

Postcard photo

This was back when my sister was living in London as well, and these two terrible daughters were going to be overseas for both Mum and Dads 60th birthdays. At this point the cats were the clear favourite and Mum was cooking them chicken each night, I think the fur-babies were getting the house in the will. So we did something crazy to try and get back in the good books. Over the course of the year we sent them 60 postcards, on the front of each was a photo of us holding up one word on a mini chalk board. Once they got all of them they would be able to read the entire Happy Birthday message. Oh and we also got all of their friends and family to take a birthday message photo as well. Cats 0: Daughters:1

3. Skype

Skype with a cat

If you can get around the time difference, the buffering and the likelihood that at least one end of the phone will be drunk … Skype really is the best answer. Why is this one on the creative list? With the terrible internet in my flat I often end up looking like a cubist dreamboat.

4. Start a blog, wait three years then write a blog post

Runawaykiwi Dad

Love you Dad http://runawaykiwi.com/2013/08/13/a-special-note-for-my-dad/

5. A one line email is better than no email at all

If you see a top that you think your Mum might like, tell her. You see a piece of street art that would make your Dad laugh, tell him. You don’t need to put aside an hour to write down every detail of your life, your parents just want to be involved. They want to know you are safe, happy and to get some picture of your life in London. Oh and brunch, they also want photos of your brunch.

6. Call a bar and ask the creepy bartender to give your Dad a cocktail

The first year I was in London I really didn’t know what to get for my Dad for his birthday. New Zealand just seemed so far away, and no present seemed like it was enough to make up the distance. So instead I got creative/creepy. I knew it was really likely that my parents would go for a drink at this one bar in Mt Eden where we often went there as a family to celebrate life’s highs and lows. From London I called the bar, picked out a cocktail and paid over the phone. I then gave the bartender a (what looking back was probably a very insulting) description of my Dad. When Mum and Dad sat down on his birthday, the creepy bartender walked over with Dads favorite cocktail and said “this is from Rebecca, Happy Birthday”.

7. Travel half way across the world whenever you can

I love travel. It broadens the mind and the waistline in equal measures. I often sit in my London flat just consumed by wanderlust, endlessly scrolling the painstakingly composed travel photos on Pinterest and dreaming about one day seeing them myself. But adventure and that perfect Instagram photo is something that you want, not necessarily what you need.

What did I need? Two weeks ago all I needed was something to nourish my soul and someone to tell me that it was all going to be ok. I wanted Rome, Dubrovnik and Ibiza; but all I needed was my Mum.

And I guess that pretty perfectly sums up my travel personality. Trips fade into a distant memory after a few months, but those singular moments of surreal joy I take with me everywhere. I remember driving though pitch black country lanes in Devon trying to find a pub with friends, sitting on top of a boat on the Nile at 9am drinking cocktails, the first time I stood in front of the Mona Lisa, buying something at Tiffany on 5th Ave in New York and feeling just so grown up, being among the first in the world to see the sun rise on New Years day in Gisborne, and of course that hug with my Mum.

 

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