When everyone is yelly
On trying to hold it together
Welcome to At The End Of the Day! It’s been a while but I’M BACK.
If you’re new here, I write for perspective on the daily crush of life and news. Why not subscribe?
Happy new year for those who believe that fall is the best fresh start! (Waves to ghost of former self).
After a summer that felt especially free, several years into a pandemic, this September seems packed and rushed.
Last week, I had coffee with an old colleague and we agreed that the vibe in the world right now is frazzled.
“People are acting weird,” he said.
“Oh yeah,” I agreed.
It was probably that conversation that gave me a heightened awareness as I rode my bike away and got yelled at—twice.
The first time, I was stopped at a red light, waiting for my green to go.
“I’m trying to turn right!” the driver shouted before immediately gliding her window back up. I looked around at the empty intersection and all the room she had to turn around me. If you know what it’s like to be yelled at by a driver in an SUV while you’re on a bike, vulnerably made of flesh, you get elevated—fast.
I turned my frustration into a grin, like a kindergarten teacher who’s barely keeping it together: “You’ve got lots of room there!” I called back. “Thank you!” I added a jaunty wave.
The next time, I was entering my neighbourhood park, crossing in front of a man who had to wait an extra second at his stop sign while I lifted my bike up to the curb.
This man simply let out a primal scream, no words.
I mean, it’s a mood-killer, but I get it. That scream is all of us.
The street-level frustration is constant. All day, I’m ensconced at home or at the office, in private spaces, tapping away at this computer. But it seems that every time I go out, this aggression is a given.
The other day, I walked down a crowded street with a bag of take-out dinner, flanked by my two eager kids. A man, angry that he had to break stride, snorted in disgust.
“Ugh! Get out of the way!” he huffed.
Now here’s the thing: If you’ve ever been a young woman, you know what it’s like to have unwarranted things yelled at you on the street. I used to just keep it moving because, well, why? Because I was scared?
Nowadays, I can’t help myself when people think I’m going to take their bad vibe and absorb it. I can see and hear! I’m not an inanimate curb you stubbed your toe on!
“It’s called sharing the sidewalk!” I called out to his retreating back in the crowd. “We are literally just walking, dude!” My tone wasn’t angry but adding “dude” wasn’t beatific, I know.
And then this man, also carrying take-out and still rushing away, turned to flash me all his teeth in a smile and waggled his fingers flirtatiously over his shoulder.
Oh, I know this move, I thought. Taking my kids’ hands in preparation to cross the street, I burst out laughing.
“That man just did what I always do!” I said, to break the tension. My kids relaxed but I’m not sure they understood.
I’ve told them before about how I believe in being a Beyoncé in heated situations, rising above and serenely floating away (while killing the competition by simply being the best at what you do every day).
Still, I’m pretty sure that moment was not me at my best. Can any of us be at our best when we are all super-frazzled?
A few things on my mind as I think about how deeply irritated, bothered, unsettled and cranky people are:
Every day is who we are. This is cool because it always gives us another chance to react better, reach out better, connect where there might have otherwise been a breaking point.
You don’t get a do-over of life. Life is made up of a string of days. So while every day is a new chance, there’s no second chance at the whole thing. For years, I’ve been trying to fashion a life where I enjoy my daily routines and don’t cram too much in. For a recovering overachiever, this is a daily battle but I break it into pieces. I think it’s mostly working.
Having any sense of control over these things is a luxury, not a mindset. (Okay, maybe when you have the luxury, you can choose the mindset). Having choices in life is a marker of privilege, and I get that. So if privilege comes with responsibility to others, what does that mean for me? At a minimum, I can up my own mental health vibes so I don’t become a yelling driver or take-out man, or react noisily, even, as I did. What’s a better reaction? I’m actually not sure! But I don’t need to judge what they do.
Keep anger in the right bucket. Anger over injustice is necessary fuel but it needs to burn the right way. Not everything is an injustice. For now, today, I’m talking about everyday, garden-variety street-level interactions, like someone who needs extra time to cross the road. That’s just on a scale where anger isn’t necessary.
In case this reads like some kind of personal mantra or monologue, it totally is! And I’m making it up as I go.
It’s rooted in a few influential aspects of my life right now:
For my work, I’m interviewing healthcare professionals who are willing to talk about the trauma they’re experiencing working through a pandemic. I am humbled by what people in caring professions are doing to keep people alive. (More on this below).
This summer I read, “From Strength to Strength” by Arthur C. Brooks and it was the first book that has made me look forward to this second half of my life. I turned 45 this year (damn straight, I’m middle-aged!), and it’s a really great read for reframing our productivity-obsessed way of life. I’ve long been searching for more calm and peace (I recognize that I am literally a person who can argue with myself for impressive lengths of time) but my new goals are not simply to chase an hour of peace at a time (i.e. yoga or therapy) – it’s to have it in such abundance that I can share.
Having new goals makes sense because I think so many of us are taking stock right now. Maybe it’s the changing seasons that do it.
It was a long, cherished summer break (seasons have changed!) but I’m back in regular writing mode and so happy to be connected and back again. Hit reply anytime.
Atlantic friends, thinking of you with Hurricane Fiona — stay safe!
✨✨✨ At The End Of the Day is edited by Laura Hensley ✨✨✨
Here’s me with Laura — a rare, in-person meeting! 💖
It’s Not Just You, New York Times. A series of essays on mental health.
Book Review: Strength to Strength by Arthur Brooks, Business Insider. An easy-to-read, get-your-head-on-straight kind of book for a time in life when you’re plunging back into work and old habits.
The Creativity Business, Steve Pratt. A newsletter for those navigating creative business written by a mentor and friend. Another big recommend!
Do you work in healthcare in Canada?
This is one of the projects I’m working on right now.
I’ll be interviewing people across Canada, in various roles (nurses, PSWs, cleaners, physicians, therapists, lab techs and more — I’m looking at you!). Especially if you’re in a rural area or work with vulnerable or racialized communities, I’d love to connect.
This project is led by the Trauma and Recovery Lab at McMaster University. For more information, send an email to email@example.com with the subject line “I have a story to tell.”
More award noms for Media Girlfriends!
As you know, my day job is with a small but mighty team at Media Girlfriends, our podcast company, and I’m so proud to announce two more award nominations! Congrats to the whole team of Strong and Free, a podcast on Black Canadian history, a collab with Historica Canada, on being nominated for Best Black History podcast and Best International Black Podcast, from the Black Podcast Awards.
Listen to the show on your fave podcast app (and share with the teachers in your life, in English or French, as Fort et Libre).