My mother is, among other things, a conspicuous consumer of chick lit. For every birthday and gift-giving holiday since I was seventeen, Mum has given me a different book with a pink cover and plucky yet confused heroine. I read them the same day that I get them, then forget them just as quickly. That being said, I loved “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and its sequel. I’m a big ol’ Jane Austen nerd and I loved the way Helen Fielding took the stories of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion respectively; modernising without bastardising them. I like the books the same way that I like “Sex and the City”: they deal with immediate, shallow-end issues without being patronising or glib. Plus, they’re fun. Cotton candy for the brain.
The Christmas I was 23, I was given “Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination” as a present. It’s also by Helen Fielding of Bridget Jones fame, and it was alright on the whole–seemed a little more like a fairly complete rough draft than a finished book, but still alright. However. Contained in this book was a hidden gem: the titular character’s Rules For Living. Some of them are really lame and have been discarded, but what remains is very good indeed. What follows was written by H.F. and merely edited by me, and is known in my head as:
The OH SHIT! List: How To Survive A Crisis
1. Don’t panic.
2. Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems.
3. Hardly anything REALLY matters.
4. When disaster strikes, check if it’s actually a disaster by, (a) saying “Fuck it!”, (b) laughing at it, or (c) looking on the bright side of the situation.
5. If none of the above works, it’s probably a disaster. Refer to item #1.
6. Trust your instincts.
7. Success depends entirely on how you pick yourself up from failure.
Rule #7 is a little nebulous and I need CLEAR instructions when upset; my rule of thumb is to act in a way that I’ll be proud of five years from now. Cool, dispassionate detachment works well across situations that you can’t laugh at (yet), and I highly recommend it. This is easier said than done sometimes, especially when you’re in crisis mode and all you want to do is find someone to blame and kick them in the head. Which seems like a great idea, but it’s never worth it. It’s been my experience that revenge of any kind is hollow because instead of killing the anger, it feeds it. You might feel better for a minute, but eventually that same anger is going to bubble out of you: bigger, hotter and more violent than before.
I’ve recently gotten back in touch with two old friends of mine, one of whom I met as a result of the shady actions of a boy. I was thinking about that situation today and how much it hurt at the time, when it occurred to me that I couldn’t even remember the dude’s last name. How beautifully that faded! He’s now an anecdote, a funny “How-I-Met-My-Friend” story. It strikes me that someday, everything will be a painless memory like this. Just goes to illustrate point #3: hardly anything REALLY matters.
In short: when you get caught up in a crisis, be graceful in word and in deed, heal yourself and move forward with confidence. Yeah, I can do that.