Relax into Sad Internal Normalcy: Learn to Sit with Bad Thoughts to Avoid Stress and Panic

I used to take ten minutes a day to write a blog post and whatever came was the thing I sent out to you and then I entered a state of flight and never returned.

I’m writing a memoir about panic and I’ve learned a thing or two or three about stress.

Did you know that “fight or flight” doesn’t have to mean running away from an actual threat? The threat can be perceived. In fact, oftentimes, you are the only threat.

Tonight I received an email, some notes on writing. I panicked while reading it and immediately decided that I’m a loser who can’t write. From within self-hate, I felt restless. But, I recently read Flea’s memoir Acid for the Children, an unexpectedly lovely awesome book. He eventually writes that, as he’s aged, he’s learned to sit with his pain instead of using drugs or alcohol to run away from it. And so, I lay there until it felt ok. It felt ok to have pain. I mean, truly, pain isn’t an end to anything. I re-read the email and it was full of compliments.

I’m taking ten minutes now. I want to tell you about my Andrew Bird Days.

Queen’s Park, Toronto, was just a park to me. I didn’t know there were government buildings behind it, a mass of offices formally known as “Queen’s Park.”

I had a friend who was an apparent best friend but truly I didn’t like her at all. One time her antisemitic mother told me that I needed to invest in a bra and while I hated receiving that comment, it felt to me like a great summary of my relationship with her daughter. The friendship needed a bra or else it might as well have settled on a stomach somewhere.

My friend, Chloe, was a political science major which she mentioned all the time. But, her minor was in Buddhism.

I wondered how anyone could pursue the two topics at once. On one hand, the state of the world was dissected into little units which were formulaically dissected further into democratic potential and then discussed with theoretical disregard for socially necessary emotions. That was political science. And, then there was Buddhism. A study of nothingness, an actual denial of anything-ness, including countries, including governments, and especially including laws.

Her contradictions sucked.

At the time of our friendship, I loved Andrew Bird. His music followed me everywhere, like fairy dust. I didn’t want to tell anyone about Andrew Bird’s music even though, from his discography, I could tell that just about everyone in the world had heard of him already.

I was, and I remain to be, a loner on the edge of complete non-matter.

I had no idea what music people were listening to and I didn’t care. To me, Andrew Bird matched my life in collegiate Toronto. His bouncy guitar, white-male voice, and poetic narrative felt appropriate. It felt like he understood my environment and he was writing about my relationship to that environment’s privileged nonsense.

Eventually, I told Chloe that I liked Andrew Bird. I think sometimes I would tell her things hoping she would help me enjoy life better. Instead, she told me that her boyfriend’s friends loved Andrew Bird. They knew everything about him. (What is there to know?)

Her boyfriend’s friends didn’t like me especially his best friend who was apparently the world’s biggest Andrew Bird fan. I didn’t like his friends. And, I realized as she broke my heart in mentioning them, they were Andrew Bird. White, pretentious, smug, guitars and strings, poetry and black t-shirts. Fuck.

Soon after, I tried engaging the leader of her boyfriend’s pack. We were in a bar and, whatever I said to him, he launched into a dissertation on Jews and Israel and how we’re all in need of correction.

I left the table. Walking through the bar, someone grabbed my ass. I turned to see who it was but couldn’t identify anyone.

At a table next to me, I asked two guys if they “saw that?”

“What?”

I recognized them as two idiots I had met a couple months previous at this same bar.

Two other Andrew Birds.

That night, I completely fell in “crush” with one of them.

Years later we had a short fling until he proved to hate me.

I think it became clear, after a while. Andrew Bird sounds nice. But he’s a real asshole up close.

A decade later, I feel repaired now. And I like his music again. Something about it reminds me that I’m sad, and sad is normal, and it’s ok to be ok with that.

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