On most mornings, when I visit my favorite diner or coffee shop and plan to spend a bit of time, I bring my “Free Hugs” sign with me. I place it by my table for people to see, just a way to wish everyone a good day. I do get some business, so to speak, if someone really needs a hug. Some just grin a bit or laugh as they pass, some give a hi-five or handshake and a pleasant greeting, and some scoff and roll their eyes while insisting that nothing’s really free (always quietly to a friend, but never to my face…hmm…).
Unless it’s cold or flu season, I usually have the sign out. But this morning I really wasn’t feeling it, and put the beat-up piece of foam board back in my car. After a week and a half of pressure, I finally felt the Blahs full-blast. “Blah Me” didn’t feel right about offering hugs when it looked like I probably needed one real bad myself. I bring the sign to make others feel better or at least smile.
Now, when I say Blah, I don’t mean depressive and can’t get out of bed, but more a time when you’re going through the motions and it’s just not working, there’s no passion or interest, or after too many damned emotions you’re drained and don’t want to feel anything for a while. That’s the Blahs for me, or at least how they’ve always manifested. And if I don’t watch out, and don’t know they’re coming, they become tremendous time-sucks that turn a Blah day into a Bad day.
Today’s Blah day is a normal one for me: a string of crazy, bad, annoying, or overwhelming events that hit in waves with no end in sight. In this case, it’s the pressure to pay my bills, the struggle for writing time, my commute, job training in fits and starts, volunteer training deadlines…it’s all a bit much. I underestimate how long it actually takes me to do something, and so I fall behind, and forget to account for those little things (like internet outages, tech support, traffic, etc.) and my plans fall apart. My to-do list for the day is just too damned long, and I am in such a hurry to get things done I drive myself far crazier than anybody else ever could.
What results is a much less chatty version of me that doesn’t feel sociable. When I’m tired or stressed, I become chattier, as if my voice is a release valve that prevents me from boiling over. Unfortunately, I chat so long that I could end up neglecting my stress-inducing work, which only continues the stress cycle. I get worn out trying to be upbeat and just want to be quiet for a while, so I stop talking.
And, oddly enough, I don’t think that’s so bad.
I actually believe Blah days can be good for people, especially writers, as long as you can recognize them. That’s the clincher. My brain rarely stays quiet, too full of the world’s noise. Blah days force me to take a breather and—eventually—take time to decipher one of the great mysteries of the world, like the Ark of the Covenant, Stonehenge, or the retail machinations behind choosing the “it” toy every Christmas shopping season…
Damned frightening, but its true. Taking the time to be quiet and sift through what has been bugging me is necessary. A pad of paper and a pen prove handy for this (ooh, try saying that three times fast); and who knows—if it is something I’ve experienced before, then I try to remember what I did before to get past it.
When it comes down to it, stresses are results of emotions, either letting them fly or bottling them up. I mean, if you didn’t care, why would you be stressed? I reserve the right to be Blah, to let my inner Pollyanna give me the finger because she’s tired of being my front-line emotional trooper. Blah days are like a bizarre sidebar to the emotional spectrum, a feeling that’s more the absence of “genuine” feeling. It is worth exploring my Blahs when they show up, because why so many people insist we need to be happy all the time makes no sense. We’re human beings, with the good and the bad and the mediocre. A happy medium (see what I did there?) is being aware of our emotions and us.
I did myself a favor when I couldn’t sleep, feeling that Blah creeping in. I knocked things off that horrible list—and I don’t mean by playing “catch-up” and working on them all night. I struck them off and threw the list away. I reminded myself that as much as I want to have those things done, I’m not a cyborg, nor do I have loyal clones to do my bidding (I’m sure they’re all off to take over the world, or do something sensible like enjoy the beach before it gets too cold).
So, feeling the tidal wave of desperate emotion, I wrote e-mails requesting a day off to play catch-up and postponed my museum walk-through so I can finish and test my tour script. I erased things from the list that weren’t paycheck, writing, or exercise related. So many things I think I HAVE to do can wait, and if they’re really that important, I’ll remember to put them back on the list when I’m no longer a basket-case and my schedule allows me that extra item. Besides, if I can’t take time after work at night to unwind, I’m just going to get worse. So I took a breath, wrote those messages, slashed through the list, and found myself back in bed, out like a light, my brain quiet, and my tension gone.
Now emotionally recharged and thoughtful again, I can smile a little, and it won’t scare my students tonight.