Planet Death Anxiety

IRIAD (I realise it’s a downer) but I hereby coin the phrase “Planet Death Anxiety”. It’s one up from death anxiety and a partial cure for it, but the downside is that the terror of plain and pedestrian me and you death is replaced with the terror of Earth and or the entire human race dying through it’s own stupidity. Planet Death Anxiety is essentially Double Death Anxiety!

In the last few years I haven’t had any decent tools to form a decent “death denial” (arguably religion is one of these as it can mean there’s some sort of continuation beyond death. Having kids can be too as you live vicariously through them and/or you’re probably too exhausted to get the existentials). I do now have a few more distractions, which I guess is all we can hope for. Planet Death Anxiety and one of its key instigators the dreaded double C-word: climate change are all wrapped up in evil consumerism too. If we and/or “The Man”/Mr Capitalism wasn’t so consumed with getting us to part with our hard-earned cash and churning out shit we’ll no-doubt buy that’s bad for everyone – Maccy D’s, vehicles, plastic and shit – we might be on a better path as a species and a planet. It’s hard not to contribute to it all in some form (I’m certainly guilty of it despite my fears).

Anyway – Planet Death Anxiety. Tis a thing. If you’re interested in climate change check out my latest over at Henpunk, concerning Greta Thunberg’s classy collection of speeches: “No One is too Small to Make a Difference”, published by Penguin.

Further reading:

“How the climate emergency could lead to a mental health crisis”

“The fight against climate change is a fight against capitalism”

Positivity

I’m not a particularly positive person, at least I haven’t been, but I’m trying. The problem I’ve always had with it is that everything is not OK. Japan is back into commercial whaling, politics seems to be stuck in Permanent Empire Strikes Back mode (but in a shit way) and Mother Earth’s going to hell in a hand basket because none of us want to deal with all the horror we’ve created. Plus historically I’ve felt pretty negative and lacked a bunch of confidence that’s meant I don’t always feel I’ve lived to my full potential.

I’ve never really believed in that old chestnut around thinking positively and then positive things happening as a result and that how you feel affects people’s perceptions of you; but I’m coming around to the idea.

Generally in life I let things get so bad I can barely function by the time I come to do something about them, but for the last year or two I’ve been making a concerted effort to change this and take back control. It is, of course, a work in progress but a lot has changed for the better. This is not an exercise in gloating, it’s simply me ackowledging that positive things can happen if you realise when things aren’t right and that it can be a slog to get what you want. I can’t promise you’ll get a whole lot from reading it though!

In the last 12 months I have:

  • Ditched my old job. it was damn tough finding a nice one and I got messed around a bit in the process (a couple of interviews wasted a lot of time, prep and taxi fares), but it certainly paid off in the end.
  • Decided to move – despite loving our house and making it our own, we made this very difficult decision as the neighbourhood is a backwater, and our neighbours are vile, noisy little-Englanders (I’m not being a snob, they’re a shower of knobs). We feel isolated and it’s certainly not very “us” here.
  • Got a new job which I’m really enjoying, have had lots of praise and since starting I’ve had my first payrise.
  • Become more confident – in the workplace at least. I’ve visited clients, helped organise workshops and delivered a talk (the sort of thing that previously struck great fear into me – it still does, but it’s getting better).
  • Saved some hens with my partner, who pay us back everyday through being awesome!
  • Spent as much time as possible with animals and birds – and not Elephants and Albatrosses, but pigeons and ducks and all of the other wonderful common breeds you get bored of if you don’t actually look and admire, as I didn’t until recently. Look again, they’re rad!
  • Changed my diet considerably to better suit my beliefs – it feels much better to have some willpower and pupose, though I now need to work on getting fitter!
  • Secured some design jobs on the side for practice an extra bit of cash.
  • Got into the routine of not sitting on my laptop each night desperately trying to get stuff done but somehow never seeming to; and instead I’m feeding more creative stuff into my day job and learning to sense when to call it a day.
  • Tried to be more creative – I try to sketch and animate more, but (crucially) more casually. I write blogs just to write and I keep a diary. I find it really difficult to not feel guilty about how I spend my time. When I’m not being creative, I feel like I should be, and when I am, I feel like I need to create a masterpiece (but obviously never do). So I try to do bits here and there to lessen the guilt and to practice, but mainly in order to remember things need to be fun where they can be; otherwise what’s the point?
  • Had surgery on my nose, which I had to appeal to get on the NHS and I managed to get full funding. I was nervous. It’s still a bit bunged up and may never be 100% but I can now breathe through it, I get less dust colds from being unable to clear it and I sleep better which is a marked improvement!
  • Spoken to someone about how I feel. I’ve talked stuff through at length and though a work in progress, my soul feels less heavy.

Not everything is peachy of course, but by making things happen and being much busier, I’ve had several “corrective” experiences meaning if certain things go South the fresh experience is not immediately penciled under a litany of other failures; why? Because now not all of the experiences have been failures and I feel I can move on more quickly.

Forced Fun Clusterfudge* : Two truths, one lie

You forget everything that has come before, you are fresh from the womb. No worries, no past failings, you’re a clean slate. But it’s not as nice as it sounds, is it? No, friend, it’s not nice at all. You need to think of something fast. Panicked, you grope around in that suddenly empty mind of yours for memories – who are you? What have you done? Even by fluke something interesting must have happened to you in all your years on planet Earth.
 
It was stated in the rules that the truths and lies could be as simple as “I like x” and so “I like pies” becomes one of your truths. Jesus, what have you been doing for 29 years anyway? Solely eating pies? Your life has been a waste of time, you realise. To have been someone interesting, to have done something important or exciting like fighting the law and winning (truth), playing for the England rugby team under 12s (lie), or starring in the 2013 flop After Earth alongside Will Smith (truth).**

 

You recall the only scene from the movie “Signs” that resonated with you. That bit when the angry Australian bloke recalls his wife (what’s-her-face) and how all she can remember in throes of death is a random sporting memory (baseball, perhaps?). Except you can’t recall any sporting anecdotes because you don’t even like sport (did you ever? Have you forgotten you like it?).

 

They could be talking about anything by now. They could be speaking Latin or Greek. You berate yourself for the two lousy truths and one uninteresting lie you’ve scribbled on crumpled yellow post-it notes, shuffling them between sweaty palms lest you forget what the hell you’re about to say.

 

Then the round-table of responses reaches you. You read your two truths and one lie aloud, laughing at your own stupidity. Maybe you go a little red, you don’t actually know, this is sort of like an out of body experience and yet… and yet…

 

It’s over. The wave that crashed against you is gone. It moves around the room and you suddenly discover you have hands and internal organs and legs and toes and a nose. One-by-one they are switched back on like Lorna Derne reactivating fences in Jurassic Park.
“Mr Hammond I think we’re back in busine-“ – you scream like Lorna Derne in response to the squeal from the proverbial velociraptor of regret. Nobody cares because nobody notices. The squeals and screams happened inside your head.
 
You are finally able to absorb the final few truths and the final few lies (although you can’t tell which is which, because unlike you, these people have decent poker faces).
Everyone elses are funny or interesting. And then it’s over. The icebreaker is over. It’s on with the meeting.

 

You made it.

 

You may not have said anything funny or interesting, you may only have recalled all the exciting things that have happened to you over the last 29 years after-the-fact – a man who can will oncoming shits not to drag him into the brown stuff for 8 hours while stuck up the Atlas mountains (how could you forget a victory of that magnitude?) – but you bloody made it, and right now that’s enough.

 

And then, when you thought it was safe, when you were just getting into the swing of things -nodding in all the right places, grinning and concentrating on limiting the sound of your stomach rumbles- it happens again. Fun. It is never fun. You cringe at the mention (threat). You scowl (inwardly) as they send a group of you away for 20 minutes to devise a presentation.

 

Where did things go wrong? Wasn’t the icebreaker it? You got through that, you’d got through the rest of the meeting too. Then you remind yourself that fun is not mutually exclusive, idiot!
 
You have a task, they realise your skills. You are the sound effects man. Even you can’t screw this up, you make sounds all the time, some more elaborate than others. Something at your back of your mind though -a warning- can you really do this?

 

You return to the room. The forced fun (conference) room. You wonder whether you’d survive the fall if you were to dive out of the window when everyone’s back is turned. If you do you could use the time to complete your Christmas shopping and perhaps even fit in a pint of dark ale, it is after all only 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Christ, you could even be working. That would be preferable. Can’t we just work instead?

 

All you want to do is rip off your balls and throw them like smoke grenades so you can make good your escape. Of course instead you sit quietly until it is your turn to “present”. Your throat is dry and heavy, you are unable to perform simple tasks. What is your name? You can just about remember that one. What do you do for a living? Debatable. Some sort of nimble-minded monkey who answers emails, you recall, but you are sure there’s something more.

 

It all goes wrong. You are supposed to sound like the perfect accompanying SFX for the Christmas gift to-end-all Christmas gifts you’ve been asked to come up with (justforfunjustforfunjustforfun). What is supposed to sound like an engine-less ride-on car engine sounds like a cow. Your imaginary car-mounted toy gun’s gunfire sounds like a horse. You blame the lack of dress rehearsals, but mainly you blame yourself. After all, you make sounds all the time and some more elaborate than others. This is not the toy you all planned on pitching. It’s OK though. It’s OK. All is forgotten. This was a fun exercise after all. Wasn’t it? WASN’T IT? Time heals everything. Everyone forgets.
 

Apart from you.

 

You get out. You go home. Tomorrow there will be another similar session involving more fun. Tonight you have a beer a day early and mentally pen that down as a truth, because that’s the sort of crazy bastard you’ve become. Later this evening (half-empty beer bottle in hand – you don’t really fancy the rest) you write down a list of all the possibilities for the truth and lie icebreaker game. You will not be caught out again. Bright and early you will practice both car and rifle-fire sounds and realise you could win the Oscar for sound effects.

 

These two glorious forced-fun humiliations book-end an otherwise worthwhile exercise in learning how to better work as a team. You sigh, which lasts an inaudible amount of time. Welcome, shy introvert, to corporate fun.

 

*”fudge” replaces a commonly-used swearword. Try to guess which. Additional points for your ability to make car and rifle noises.
**examples only.