L’esprit de l’escalier

Surprise!! Here I am blogging on a Friday night. While you, on the other hand, are probably out partying and enjoying your life, and not going to see this until tomorrow. But it will be here when you return! Just like me…

Of course, the other people who are sitting all alone tonight are doing what I’m doing: trying to decompress from the week. It takes awhile, and it isn’t a pretty process. (Mostly because I wear pants with ducks on them and repeatedly rub my eyes until they are bloodshot.) De-stressing can take even longer when you are finally laying in bed at night, moving over the details of the day, cringing at every embarrassing moment, chuckling at every sarcastic thought. All of those unspoken words. All of those moments that passed without a second glance. All of those missed opportunities. The pain is suddenly physical when you think of what you should have said to your boss, partner, friend, etc. and what you only muttered in your mind.

The French call it L’esprit de l’escalier or “elevator wit.”  It describes the feeling you have when you leave a situation and think of the perfect comeback or the most succinct line. Of course, the rest of the world is a bit more uncouth and imprecise when it comes to this emotion. We call it regret. Our lives are full of it, moments that we wish we could take back, do over, and replay in our minds.

Except, life isn’t a movie or a filmstrip. You can’t cut it into pieces and edit it together the way you want it. You aren’t delivering lines from a script. You’re speaking. And while it feels good to tell someone what’s on your mind, sometimes it has real consequences. For example, instead of sashaying away with a renewed confidence after telling off your ex (like every romantic comedy ever), you might find that you feel just as empty inside as the day he or she left. Only worse because you just verbally abused someone who once cared about you.

Or what about telling your boss exactly what you think of your job? Sure, it is momentarily satisfying. Until you get in the elevator by yourself. And you replay all of that “wit” you had only moments ago. And you realize that you have to return to face your problems all over again tomorrow. No “exit stage left” like on the big screen. (However, the crying into a tub of ice cream is very, very real.)

The point is, nothing is perfect the first time. That’s why they call it a second chance. You’re allowed, and encouraged, to try again. So, if you’re having a bad case of l’esprit de l’escalier at night, and you can’t sleep because what you didn’t say is tormenting you, write it down for later. You may find that your snarky comeback will finally have a time and a place someday. Or you may find that it never really applied to the situation at all. Deciding which course of action to take is called wisdom. And that translates in every language.

You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry

Tonight, we’re going to talk about our feelings.

No, seriously.

You can work to swallow them, hide them, or even pretend that they don’t exist. But feelings are a part of us, and without them, we’d all be Cybermen.

(Personally, I like to sing to in the car to expel my emotions. Performing a concert live where no one can hear me sing the wrong words and notes makes me feel like Beyonce, and we all know that no one can hurt the queen’s feelings.)

It was during one of these solos inside of my car that I realized something about one specific emotion: anger. Anger is unlike any other feeling because it is so fleeting. It transforms too quickly to envy, fear, sadness, or even apathy. We don’t really experience anger all that often, at least not in its purest form.

But when we do experience anger, and here’s where my revelation comes in, we are not angry in the way that we have made ourselves believe. Have you ever realized that when you are angry at someone or something it’s because they didn’t do what you expected them to do instead of being angry at them for what they did? Isn’t anger then simply surprise and confusion?

Think about it. When you were younger and you did something wrong, oh say, stuff a lot of tissues in the porcelain throne to see what would happen (like I did), you can probably remember that your parents were pretty angry. Or at least, you could probably guess that they would be very angry if you did such a thing. Why? Because you did permanent damage to the toilet? Maybe. But they could buy another one. Because you purposefully tried to break something? I guess, but you were just a kid.

No, it was because you weren’t acting as your parents were expecting you to act. I don’t know why, but most parents simply assume that their children will wear halos and do what they are told. And everything we know, from fairy tales to television shows, tells us that this is not true. So, kid goofs off, parents get angry, kid gets punished, kid promises never to do it again (with variable results).

Think of another situation. What about when you forget to buy something for your anniversary with your partner? Why does he or she get angry, you ask? Not because they really wanted a present, and not even because this is probably the fifth time you forgot. (Although, yes, it is probably the fifth time you forgot and that sucks for the other person.)  But the reason they are probably angry is because you are not acting as they’d expect you to act. 

Consider one more scenario. You have a best friend. You develop feelings for him or her. Then, when you build up the nerve to tell this person, he or she tells you that they are not interested, but they would like to stay friends. You, in turn, are angry. So, you declare yourself eternally in the “friend zone” (which does not exist) and proceed with whatever course of action that scorned lovers take. But really, you guessed it, you are only angry with your best friend because he or she did not act as you expected. This causes feelings of mistrust and hurt, and that’s understandable. But it isn’t your best friend’s fault for being honest with you.

Essentially, you need to evaluate the situation the next time that you find yourself angry at someone or something. Most often, you will find that you are angry because things didn’t go the way that you were expecting them to. And if you are going to be angry about that, then you are going to be angry for the rest of your life.

Procrastinators! Read This…Later

It’s a disease (or a gift?) to be able to postpone things to the last minute. But, I wouldn’t even call it postponing because that implies some sort of effort…hmm…oh, well. I’ll think of a synonym later…

Yes, we’ve all been victims of procrastinating both large and small projects, and of course, science says writers are repeat offenders. This is not news to me, as you’d expect. For it wasn’t that I didn’t want to write about whether Hamlet was actually “mad” in his eponymous play in high school, it was simply that I wanted to do other things more. Like watch full marathons of Say Yes to the Dress and analyze why pretty girls chose ugly dresses.

And procrastinating is a habit that seems, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, as unbreakable and insurmountable as other unhealthy routines like smoking cigarettes or eating junk food. And it’s not without its perks: the adrenaline high of completing a project or finishing a task as the deadline is closing in, as the wire pulls taut around your neck, is simply exhilarating. Why else would we do this to ourselves time and time again if we didn’t get some strange pleasure out of barely getting things done?

Of course, this was my mantra in college. At any given time, I was so tired from staying up studying and writing that I was almost completely awake and energized. I lived in a constant state of finishing a paper only to start another one a few hours later (one I had known about for weeks). Then, when I was removed from the gentle hands of the American educational system (I can hear you chuckling through the screen) and into my study abroad experience, my procrastinating only worsened. At finals time, I wrote two 15+ papers in the span of 24 hours. (Of course, I’m sure you’re all skeptical and unimpressed by this because this is all coming from the girl who writes daily, but this is the part where you gasp in amazement for dramatic effect.)

I convinced myself that I didn’t have “time” for papers, and I let it all go, until I sincerely did not have any time to write my papers.

But today, in life’s infinite wisdom, and through the tried and tested methods of age, I have come to the following conclusion about procrastination: the homework that is known is better than the homework that is yet to be done.

Meaning this: do a little bit each day and you won’t feel so bad about putting it off.

Because here is the rub, keeping with the Hamlet theme earlier, if you know you’re a procrastinator, then you shouldn’t kid yourself about it. You shouldn’t even begin to tell yourself that you’ll start the project early when everyone knows you’re lying. Just accept that it is a part of your identity. For example, Clark Kent is a huge part of Superman, even though it is the dorky, not-so-awesome side. Procrastination is the Clark Kent to your secret superhero identity.

So, embrace your procrastinating side. However, plan for it. If you know you are going to procrastinate, then make sure you have enough time to do so. I promise, the looming feeling that you get when you think about a project or issue that you have to resolve is so. much. worse than actually pulling yourself away from wedding shows and just doing the thing. Then, when it’s done, you’ll feel accomplished, and you can reward yourself. With more wedding shows.

The point is, don’t spend so much trying to change your ugly habits. Instead, make them work for you.

Be Mine? Be Alone.

The adage “you always want what you don’t have” is always true.

Yet, it is even more accurate around Valentine’s day.

Singles are painfully reminded that they need to be coupled to be considered a successful member of society. Meanwhile, they are trying to work up the courage to sign up for a dating site or be forever humiliated by their “encouraging” (nosy) parents.

Couples, no matter how long they’ve been together, feel an annual pressure to reveal their undying love in one expensive, romantic display. Even if they agree not to exchange, someone reneges and buys a really awesome gift for the other and further seals the fact that he or she is far, far too good for you, making you wish for not only the single life but for a private island where you can be ashamed of yourself, by yourself.

And this is all in the name of love.

Now, I know we’re a couple of weeks away from V-day, but I need to make something clear before we’re lost in a haze fueled by chocolates and romantic comedies. Before everyone starts asking you why you haven’t found someone “nice” to “settle down with.” Before you feel the overwhelming pressure to conform with society’s orders to share your life with someone else.

Before you ever involve yourself romantically, you need to learn to be alone.

That’s right, all that “love yourself before you love someone else” isn’t really helpful advice. If you really want to be successful in a relationship, you should know what it feels like to be by yourself. What it is like when you only have you.

You should teach yourself how to solve your own problems, how to feel better after your own temper tantrums, how to unwind after a long day. Then, when your significant other is unavailable, emotional or otherwise, you won’t have a complete meltdown. And you won’t completely cling to them when they come back.

In the end, the biggest problem you face in a relationship is when you think your partner should be there to fix things for you. But a good boyfriend or girlfriend should be like aspirin: they are able to ease the pain but not keep it away forever.

Of course, I don’t often consider myself in a position to give out romantic advice. Although I have been in a relationship for 9 years, I don’t suggest that what may work for me will work for you.

But this Valentine’s day, I wouldn’t ask yourself why you are still alone. Rather, ask yourself if you’re ready not to be.