"Just breathe" -Pearl Jam
When I sat down to write this piece, it was intended to be something entirely different than what it'll likely wind up becoming. What I had set out to write about, provided I don't fall down a well over the next week or two, I'll likely revisit at a later date.
Sitting adjacent from me in the Brooklyn coffee shop I'm currently working at is a complainer. Let's call him Barry.
Barry completely sucks.
If I wasn't blessed with the vertical leap of a cantaloupe, I may seriously consider dropkicking Barry. Over the last 30 minutes or so, I've listened to this guy complain about his malfunctioning DVR like he was Liam Neeson and the machine had recently kidnapped his daughter. And though he's relatively calm as I type this, not 10 minutes ago he was ranting and raving to the point where his friend had to ask him to calm down, not once but thrice. His point of contention -- that the DVR had cut off the last minute or so of both Game of Thrones and Mad Men two weeks in a row.
By God! How dare it?
Now, first off, as far as Mad Men goes, spoiler alert: Don Draper drinks Scotch and then puts his penis in something. Roll credits. Cut to commercial. Secondly, Barry, you primitive bozo, if this happens often enough where you're yelling about it while eating a pistachio muffin, how about you just DVR the next show. Newsflash, dummy: The first minute of that show will be the last minute of what you intended to watch. Problem solved, mo-ron.
But I'm not actually writing to complain about Barry. Doing so would be the pot calling the kettle irritating. I'm aware. I was just doing so to make a point. What about? The ability to put things in perspective.
And to make that point, allow me this tangent:
The other night, during my daily trek home from work, while strolling from the subway back to my apartment, a homeless man, one of many who hang out around my neighborhood, approached me. The riveting conversation went as follows.
"Do you have a dollar? I'm a cow."
"I think I might have a... Wait, what?"
Yes, directly after hitting me up for money, this man proudly proclaimed, with inexplicable immediacy, that he was actually a cow. The questions I had were endless. Why didn't this particular cow look like other cows? What's a cow doing in Brooklyn? Why does he need a dollar? Historically speaking, cows aren't big spenders. I wanted answers. But, sadly, I knew I would receive none.
Anyway, after handing over a dollar and some change, I watched this cow graze off into the sunset. And while doing so, I was as confused as I was sympathetic. You show me a homeless person and I'll show you someone who never in a million years thought that he or she could ever possibly wind up homeless.
The cow, he can complain all he f*cking wants. Being reduced to telling a stranger that you're a farm animal -- a bona fide problem. Barry being deprived 60 seconds of televised drama -- not so much. And the sad thing is, the guy with the warranted complaint seemed more at peace than the dude in the $300 shoes. Another column for another day.
Stress is only as real as you let it be.
The way we react to life, that's entirely on us. Entirely. Sh*tty things happen to good people every single day. Such is life. My fear is that some people, Barry included, become fixated on the bad to the point where they overlook the good. Don't let an annoyance be an anchor. Never let minutiae necessitate an Advil.
No one should ever venomously shout the word "cocksucker" when discussing the digital recording of premium cable.
We've all known a Barry. Hell, you may even be a Barry. A Debby Downer, if you will. Let me tell you something: Being friends with a Barry is draining. It's exhausting. Do you want your friends to not want to spend time with you? Rhetorical question. Of course you don't.
And I'm not advocating bottling up problems. That's insane. If something's bothering you, talk about it. Hell, scream about it. Venting is healthy. It's cathartic. That's part of being a friend -- acting as a sounding board for sh*tty days. But what I am saying, or even urging, is that you put your problems in perspective. Relax. Ask yourself, "Is this really worth being angry over?"
I promise you, more often than not, the answer will be no. Use your energy accordingly. Don't misdirect it toward bullsh*t. So many people do.
Was your car stolen? Complain.
Did you catch your girlfriend giving the guy at Jiffy Lube a handjob? Complain.
Are you actually Liam Neeson and someone just kidnapped your daughter? Complain.
But if you couldn't find a parking spot, you stubbed your toe, your phone bill was too high last month or the coffee you're drinking is just a little too bitter, swallow the complaint, don't vocalize it and move on.
The opposite of blowing something out of proportion is putting things in perspective.
If you open your eyes, something good will come away to negate the bad, and soon. It always does. There's a world of difference between a problem and an annoyance. If you don't realize the difference, you become one or both yourself.
Don't be Barry.
Don't have a cow.