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  • Writer's pictureunkillbilly

I Canned Cope Anymore

How are you doing?

And by doing, I mean coping. Things are bad. They're going to get worse. A lot worse.

I suspect there are a lot of soft people in this country. Had it so good for so long. The RV in the driveway, right next to the trailer with the matching jet skis. A home, a pretty one, in a safe neighborhood. Ha. There's gonna be a lot of unsafe neighborhoods…

So, how do we protect ourselves? How do we shield our soft, fragile little minds from the un-pleasantry about to unfold?

We develop skills, that's how. What kind of skills? I'd start off with a YouTube video of how to field dress a rabbit. KIDDING! Well, not really…

Rabbit, cat, potbellied pig—don't kid yourself, when the hunger reaches a certain level, all those are going to be turned into food. When the stores are empty and the cupboard at home is bare, people will be confronted with an astonishing pain. Do you remember? Perhaps you've never been truly hungry. For any length of time. Hunger hurts, man. Hurts bad.

Let's set aside the practical aspects of coping to discuss the coping itself.

See, I don't like the idea of coping skills. Dead set against 'em. I have a problem with the word cope, because it is anchored in the past, and I just won't go there. The past does not exist, I don't care what you say, you cannot take a bite out of it, thus it is useless, and why spend a second on it? Cope is pointin' in the wrong direction, man! I don't have any problem with the skills part, it's the coping piece that gets my dander up.

Which brings us to the concept of 'proactive' coping skills. Hahaha! Why hang onto the coping piece? Why not just focus on the skills? Emphasize those. Might take a bit of mental effort to contemplate and conjure the appropriate skills, but it's worth the effort.

If you're looking for a practical reference, you'll have little choice but to read the available literature, even though you'll find it under 'coping skills'. Strip off the coping, plug your skill into your personal matrix, start practicing. When you get to that stage, I always recommend James Clear's "Atomic Habits". Make your practical solution easy with Clear's approach.

If you're not in a position to peruse the web for hours, leaping into silos and riding them out to the very bottom…I'd start with laughter. I know, no job, no money, no food—how do you laugh when you got all that shit hanging over you? Here's where the skill part comes in. You got to practice. Start off with the most sure-fire humor you can get your hands on. As long as there's an internet, there'll be YouTube and you can find whole careers worth of humor there. Classic comedians. Hilarious sketch and improvisational comedy. There are movies—and clips from movies—that you know will tickle your funny bone. Start slow—set a time or laugh limit (you'll watch until the third time you're made to laugh), make it daily. Or twice daily. The more you laugh now, the more you'll be able to laugh in the face of the pandemonium racing straight at us.

After you got a laugh habit established, then you go out and field dress the neighbor's cat. KIDDING! I was just being sarcastic…

A little story:

It's April 2010, and I'm a hopeless alcoholic. I've been kicked out of my mom's place (the only time she ever did that), and checked in at the Hotel 6 on Indian School. I've been drinking one hunny proof Smirnoff and I just couldn’t see any way to save myself. I was almost out of money and I decided it was time to off myself. Use a carpet knife, open up a vein, drift off to oblivion…

I manage to make the cuts on my wrists…when the current failed love interest calls. I tell her what I've done (cue the plea for help) and she hangs up on me and calls 911. Momentarily the fire department arrives—the first thing the medic said to me was "you did it wrong". Can you believe that? You did it wrong. (Apparently slicing the wrists horizontally across the vein doesn't cut it, pardon the expression—you have to follow the vein with your blade, open up a seven or eight inch wound, if you really want to kill yourself.

Anyway, they take me to the hospital and they stitch up my crummy attempt (you can still see the scars near my wrists) before shipping me off to Urgent Psychiatric Care (UPC) where I was admitted. That happened around eight at night and by the time I made it onto the unit, it was time for the Wrap Up group at the end of the therapeutic day.

This young guy was eagerly trying to get everyone to laugh. I was stunned. How idiotic can you be? Did you learn this in college or something?


I did it. I forced myself to laugh. It was one of the weirdest moments of a life full of weird moments. The 12 steppers have a saying—fake it till ya make it. Somehow, that moment unlocked an understanding, that laughter is curative and that it doesn't necessarily have to have a source.

So, there it is, my canned response to stress and anxiety: Use laughter as a skill. Practice daily. Add a little more each day, per the habit building process. Grow your ability to laugh.

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