Mindfulness For The Mindless
Look up at the sky and remember that you are an insignificant piece of trash in a wide, wide universe.
You shouldn’t even ask me what I’d like most in the world. The answer is more money, probably, or an egg and cheddar cheese bagel every morning. Maybe a sudden and magical ability to build chic furniture out of scavenged lumber. A few extra hours added to every day.
These are unrealistic goals for a 24 year old with a professional talent for worrying, earning an unlivable salary. I reside in New York City and work in the publishing industry; at best, the egg and cheese bagel represents an attainable goal.
My flock and I have no time to feel like we’re losing our minds, and yet here we are. Post-20 but Pre-30, we are miserable and broke. We are running on empty in an expensive, hectic city.
I can’t count the amount of times an adult in a stable job, with an acceptable salary, has explained that my issue is ambition: “You try to do too much, and you worry about everything,” they sigh, as if they haven’t just spent the previous hour lecturing me on the inherent laziness of my generation. It’s such an incredible mystery how a sigh from an older, successful person can manage to sound both insightful and completely insulting at once.
We can’t do it all, but we’re supposed to try; and we’re supposed to do it without going off the walls. Sleep deprivation, hunger pangs, social isolation. The struggle is real (though let’s be frank for a moment, it isn’t even substantial compared to the real struggles many people endure).
Believe you me, I would gladly pull the panic out of my body and exist as a serene island of human happiness. But it’s not going to happen, because it’s impossible. I have too much to do, too much to say, and too high an expectation to live up to.
Mindfulness is a supposed savior for those of us who experience difficulty in controlling our anxiety and restlessness, but I still don’t think it’s actually meant for us.
Who has time to meditate when they could be meal prepping in order to avoid splurging on restaurant meals? Who has the mental capacity to work at positive thinking, when they spend hours schlepping to and from the laundromat after work because they can’t afford to live in an apartment with a washer and dryer?
My solution to stress won’t manifest in meditation, positive thinking, $4 once-weekly latte splurges, or observation of small wonders like the color of a flower or the smile of a stranger. I don’t have enough time or money for that kind of malarkey, and neither do you.
My answer to near-constant anxiety (about money, sleeplessness, dating, etc.) falls more along the lines of taking whatever relief I can get. My strategies are simple, and won’t break the bank:
Complain, all day.
It’s easy, it’s cheap, and you can do it with your friends! Bitching provides the most effective form of therapy I’ve experienced. Don’t complain to your boss, roommates, or parents, though. You need their sympathy to carry you through the week, and complaining is the easiest way to lose it. Complain to someone you barely know: I prefer a Trader Joe’s cashier, or even a dog. And speaking of dogs…
Sneak into a dog park during lunch.
Sure, you’re not allowed in without your own dog (worst rule ever, New York City. Not cool), but you only need 5 minutes to complete your mission. Sit down on the ground like the trespassing criminal you are, and hold out your hand. Four or five licks should do it. Your skin will absorb that magical saliva, and the pure love from a stranger’s dog will stay with you all day. During your mid-day bathroom crying session, look at your hand and remember the puppies and their little faces.
Trick yourself, with money.
Before work, withdraw $50 from your checking account and stash it in your wallet. When you get to the office, take it out. Hold it. Stare at it. Because you’re too broke to hold large bills in your wallet on a regular basis, you feel really special right now. Put the bill back in your wallet, and just hold it whenever you feel useless or upset during work. You’re too important and powerful for sadness! You have fifty dollars in your hand! Feels good, right? After work, go back to the ATM and deposit it. Suddenly, you just saved a bunch of money. You could’ve spent that cash, but you saved it instead! Good job! You’re so tired that it’s easy to trick your worthless brain.
Post politically-charged content on Facebook.
The more extreme, the better. Watching people argue over the comments section will change your life. You may feel like a penniless failure, but at least you aren’t arguing about the Middle East with a stranger on the internet as if your opinions and faulty virtual arguments will actually make a difference. In addition to the rush of pride you will gain from feeling superior, your friends and family will automatically believe you are well-educated on relevant news topics. Who is that Steve Bannana guy? I don’t know, but ever since I posted some link from a newspaper article about him, everyone assumes I’m up-to-date on politics. I feel so smart.
Cry in public, and don’t feel ashamed.
Forced positivity won’t make you happier, but a complete purging of all negative emotion via ugly crying in the middle of a crowd might help. I’ve recently shared my favorite crying spot with a friend: behind any tent at the Union Square Greenmarket. This event occurs so frequently that it’s a dependable location for public sobbing. Crying in front of a squash farmer from upstate New York only feels uncomfortable the first few times. If you still feel reluctant to engage in public crying, sit down with a random book and proceed. Everyone will assume you’re an intellectually-evolved person who reads moving and inspirational novels on a regular basis.
Split a donut with a friend.
Who are you kidding? You can’t afford that entire donut unless it’s from Dunkin, and even on your worst day you’re better than that. Go to one of those fancy donut shops with a friend, and split a donut. You always feel too guilty finishing the whole thing, anyway.
I’m never going to be the person who practices traditional mindfulness; my generation will feel the burden of heavy stress and financial pressure for at least the next decade of our lives, and I am too frantic a person to avoid it. This is an integral, though not enjoyable, aspect of life as a young American in 2017.
However, if we throw away our egos and embrace the simple pleasures of sleep deprivation and “I swear I have it under control, I only drink like twice a week” binge drinking, we may attain true inner peace in the distant future. Or someone will open a bar in the East Village called “Nirvana” and we can check in there on Facebook. I’m good with either.