How to Yell in Public

Yesterday I went to my nearest Montreal subway station, paid $3.00, then just sat on the platform screaming at trains. I’m one of THOSE people now. I swear though, this isn’t a sign that I’ve gone crazy, I had VERY good reason for doing so. One of those trains was talking shit about me behind my back, and I’m not standing for it anymore! No but really, it’s an INCREDIBLE way to release stress in your body.

A couple of months ago, while reading a book on female sexuality called “Come As You Are,” I stumbled on a science-y paragraph explaining different manifestations of stress in the body* (and why they make most people avoid sex as though it were two dudes in nice suits ringing your doorbell). We have three general reactions to stress, which will likely sound familiar to you: fight, flight, and freeze.

Picture yourself in your ancestors’ shoes, thousands or millions of years ago or whatever. You’re sitting in front of the hut that you made out of leaves and your own poop, just roasting some poor animal’s organs on an open fire.

Scenario 1: You see a freakin sabertooth tiger prowling towards you, but from far away. It’s in that place you went to fart last night so your cave-partner wouldn’t hear you and tell you how disgusting you are. You made sure to fart off-wind, but crap has that ever backfired. Your best option here, is to GET THE FUCK OUTTA THERE, aka, FLIGHT.

Scenario 2: You don’t notice the sabertooth tiger prowling towards you, because you’re too busy fishing out the 4TH EYEBALL you DROPPED in the GODDAMN FIRE. When you finally look up, the sabertooth is just sitting nonchalantly next to you, licking his lips. There is no way you could run at this point, so your best option here is to grab that stick that’s not even sharp enough to hold an eyeball, and FIGHT.

Scenario 3: Okay so this scenario is the darkest one. You realize, as the sabertooth is munching on your shoulder with no intention of stopping, that this isn’t the most fun place to be. You can’t run, you clearly can’t fight, but you CAN just mentally leave your body for a while so you don’t have to WATCH him EATING YOU. This is the FREEZE response.

*If you’re interested in reading more about this, Peter Levine has written some (what I hear to be) great books on it, with a focus on how to use it to heal trauma.

In modern life, our sabertooth tigers have become… a powerpoint presentation for all your coworkers. A girl you went on a date with who’s not texting you back. A um, global pandemic, where you have lost all of your paid work, you don’t really know what you’re meant to do in life, you are having EXTRAORDINARILY intense periods*, and you are completely isolated from your friends because your boyfriend lives with two pregnant couples and you can’t afford to take ANY risks, but they’re Quebecois, so like, even though they speak really good English you feel this inherent pressure to speak French, but really that just makes you stop speaking altogether and you spend most of the time you’re at their house just glazing over in your own thoughts because they’re speaking French so fast you don’t even really know what the TOPIC is let alone the nuances of the discussion; annnnd you got in a huge fight with your landlord over a slimy deal he made with you 2 years ago that you’re only just now contesting because it would put 900 more precious dollars in your jobless pocket every year. Just an example. (Those “theoretical” couples are, for the record, very sweet)

*If you are ALSO having periods that are ruining your life, check out this article for some juicy VALIDATION.

So let’s just say I’ve been very stressed. I’ve got loads of stressors, just like the rest of you, but where does that stress go?? Especially in the winter/early spring, where only the most die-est of hards put on their smooth-bottomed sneakers and RUN on ICE. In normal times, maybe we’d go to a gym?! Or go play laser tag and run around screaming bloody murder? We could go SIT on our DEAREST FRIEND’S COUCH and TALK?!? That’d be nice. So the stress just like, stays in your body. Maybe you don’t feel it because it’s really good at spreading itself out, hiding in all those lil nooks and crannies, but it’s there. It’s even speculated to cause diseases like cancer! But that’s a topic for another… person.

I’m lucky enough to be a part of this wonderful group of 9 women who meet every Friday morning over Zoom to talk about our feelings, disguised as a kindof creative book club. Last Friday, our week’s leader had us “shake out all the stress in our bodies” to this song, and I was shocked to find myself not only dancing like one of those uninhibited hippies from Burning Man, moving like I didn’t even know was possible; but I started sobbing. Quietly, so my neighbors wouldn’t hear me. SO MUCH STRESS was being released through this shaking, that it was overwhelming me. Then suddenly my throat started closing up, and I felt like I was being strangled?! Okay so I give the experience an 8 out of 10. I asked Kass, the leader, what might have been happening? And she tells me the same thing has happened to her. “You have to engage your throat” she said, otherwise the stress gets stuck there. And when you think about our caveman stress response system, it makes total sense. If you were running from a sabertooth tiger, or hell, running INTO battle, WOULD YOU NOT YELL?!?

We have trained ourselves to be so quiet, so neat and tidy, to fit into a civilized society, but we NEED to YELL. We need to run and dance and shake and fight and SCREAM!! Especially right now.

So, this is how I found myself on the furthermost platform of the Montreal subway system. (It’s called the metro, but despite fear of being kicked out of Quebec, I’ll use the term you ALL know) I came here to complete the stress cycle. My heart wrenched a little as I saw a sign on the wall with the number for a suicide prevention line—for some people, this situation is so much more dire than we could even imagine. Well, I’m starting to be able to imagine.

As I rocked from one foot to another at the spot where people statistically go to take their lives, looking at oncoming trains but never getting on, I wondered if anybody on the platform or in the security camera room was starting to worry about me. “I just came to yell at the trains!” I’d say, which I imagine would be returned with a look of recognition. “Just don’t do anything stupid!” I imagined them replying. That, by the way, is a line I just subconsciously ripped from Nisha Coleman’s amazing storytelling show about suicide, “Solving the Problem of Living,” which you can now watch on her website!

Let me just say, where you stand on the platform really matters. At first, my yells sounded more like high-pitched whinnies, as the trains weren’t as loud as I’d hoped. I was relieved to have a mask covering the VISUAL proof that I was screaming; but if you have ever studied EQ, my high-pitched lady range was actually sharing the audio space with the low-rumbling train quite beautifully. So I walked to the end of the platform where the train coming IN to the station was right in front of me, rather than on the opposite end of the track. The problem is that the train has already started to slow down as it comes in, so you have a very short period of time over which you can yell and be pretty sure that guy standing by the trash can is just going to think he’s hearing a ghost. What I found, is the best time to yell is at this very spot, when the train opposite you is LEAVING. It took me a few tries, spaced an unbearable Saturday-train-schedule distance apart, but soon I was just LETTING RIP from the moment the train started to pick up speed until the millisecond it left the station. At that point, people hear you again, as I learned the hard way.

After one yell, I felt pretty good. After two, I felt really good. After three, I felt fucking GREAT, and I started laughing my ass off to boot, just in case people were still on the fence about whether or not I was crazy. When I felt like I’d released all the stress I needed to, I calmly left the station, trying to walk with the body language of someone who clearly did not intend to kill themselves some other way instead.

Before I yelled at the trains, I was in a really big funk. I’ve been feeling super disconnected lately, generally walking around very slowly, mostly looking down, and avoiding people’s eyes in public. But after the trains, I was SMILING AT STRANGERS. I don’t DO that. I walked into a public library 5 minutes before closing, and just like, skipped around looking at books. I asked the librarian a question I could have looked up online at home, IN FRENCH! I ran into a couple of people I know, and felt myself telling them about my dumb landlord situation but all the while smiling so wide my cheeks were starting to hurt. I felt miraculously reconnected to myself, so I had the ability to connect to others.

So, I’m just saying. I really think there should be some sort of club for this, where we meet up outside and just scream. Maybe we could take turns chasing each other! I’m starting to understand why this one guy I went on a few dates with in the Fall told me about a fantasy he had that I would one day chase him naked through the woods with a gun. Or maybe that’s… unrelated.

Anyway go yell at something! Go to the top of a mountain, or to the middle of the woods if you’re lucky enough to not live in a crowded city. If you do, but you’re too shy to go to a subway platform, grab a few pillows to muffle yourself. Try it! There’s also a “Rage Cage” in Montreal and possibly places like it in other cities, where you can pay some dollars to go yell and smash things. Or you could just do like my downstairs neighbor did last night, and bang on your walls while drunkenly belting out opera tunes late into the evening, taking breaks every hour or so to go outside and scream “FUCK YOUU!!!!!” at the top of your lungs. While I was vaguely annoyed, I respected his ability to unabashedly release stress,* and we could all stand to take a page out of his book. A true sage for modern times.

*The cops may or may not have been called

My Beef with the New Year

Every year in December, I start hearing two things constantly from friends, family and social media that really irk me:

  1. “What is your New Year’s resolution?”
  2. Something along the lines of “(Current year) was a total dumpster fire, next year will be way better!”

I appreciate that for 8-12 days, people intend to infuse some discipline into their lives and kick that nightly Negroni habit. But, why does the changing of digits on a man-made calendar have to dictate when it is socially acceptable to make positive change? We should always be reassessing our habits, and figuring out what isn’t working for us anymore. Making a New Year’s resolution is like saving up all of your poop for one giant dump a year. We need to clean that shit out regularly because it’s toxic!!

(Poop analogy quota: filled)

Another thing I hate about this question is that it always implies a tangible, surfacey change. We are conditioned to hate ourselves for the exact activities we were conditioned to accomplish in the 3 weeks previous: eating waistband-expanding holiday goodies, and filling the ever-expanding gap between the floor and the Christmas tree through extravagant spending. So we boomerang, and suddenly make resolutions to eat healthier and spend less. Good thing for capitalism, we already filled its pockets!! Here is a list of the 10 most common resolutions, cobbled together by Brad Zomick on Goskills.com:

  • Exercise more
  • Lose weight
  • Get organized
  • Learn a new skill or hobby
  • Live life to the fullest
  • Save more money/spend less money
  • Quit smoking
  • Spend more time with family or friends
  • Travel more
  • Read more

What about, “Get my head out of my own ass and start asking questions and offering to help people more?” Or “Stop my cycle of toxic relationships and figure out why I am avoiding confronting my childhood trauma by fixing others?” Who cares if you put on a little weight over the holidays, it’s just part of the natural cycle of life. We’ll lose it in the summer when we can actually walk places without getting hit by a snow plow.

Just a thought.

Now the second phrase that comes up every damn year, the one about how this year will be better, makes me want to smack people. It reminds me of how every single winter we claim it’s the worst winter ever, when ya know, it’s not. Why are we always so much more focused on the future than right fucking now?! If we say “this year sucked, next year will be better” EVERY SINGLE YEAR, does this not mean that every single year has sucked?! You better believe if you already have this approach, every single year until you die is going to suck.

I will admit, 2020 has been a tricky lil bitch. Definitely the trickiest year of my lifetime thus far. But was it really the worst year ever?!? In some ways, I think it may have actually been the best.

I want to precede the following statements by saying that I am privileged AF, and I am aware that what I am about to say is by no means true for everyone…

2020 is the year that many people died suddenly and unfairly, but exponentially more people woke up and started living.

So many of us learned how to slow down. We learned that we don’t need to be in that constant grind of working like crazy in order to make enough money to be able to relax from all the over-work. I found, in the first few months of the pandemic, that despite losing 75% of my income (thanks CERB), I was actually saving money. Why? I wasn’t exhausted from work, so I didn’t need to eat out constantly and take weekend trips and binge drink with friends to trick myself into thinking I was doing it all for a reason. I learned that I could make just $2,000/month and be totally fine. (Ideally though, I would move out of my apartment that eats most of that up in one fell swoop)

We learned just how much family and friends mean to us. Normally I fly to Nova Scotia to visit my mom twice a year, for 5-10 days each pop. 5 days is around the time I start to pick fights over the antique triples of condiments in the refrigerator that should have been thrown out decades ago. A visit this year just didn’t seem possible. But after 5 months of isolation in a big city, with none of the social or cultural benefits a big city has to offer, I was desperate for some country time with people who love me. Ethically, I couldn’t fly home this year- way too risky. But we learned just how much we are willing to do to see each other.

I isolated for 2 weeks, getting a Covid test towards the end just to be safe.* Then I quarantined once I received my negative result while my mom drove 14 hours both ways to pick me and my Maine Coon up and escort us to peace and tranquility, where we quarantined for 2 whole weeks together. She made this exact trip AGAIN 7 weeks later to bring me back. That’s around 60 hours of driving. (My mom may also be slightly crazy)

*This method isn’t really kosher, and were I to do it again I would quarantine for the full 2 weeks before seeing her.

So you’d think, a mother and daughter quarantined together for 2 weeks, who normally start driving each other crazy after 5 days… how did that go over?! And I’m surprising myself just as much with this one when I say, it was amazing. Because we both knew I’d be home for ages, there was no pressure to spend every second in the same room- and I got really good at expressing when I needed some alone time, or when something was bothering me. We learned how to communicate. Who knew?!

What else… a lot of us learned a ton of new skills, that allow us to be much more self-sufficient! I’m talking bread, sewing, designing a website, starting a new business, how to freakin record and mix and live-stream audio, how to play the banjo!! (My friend Amy bought a banjo on July 4th, and plays just a bit every morning- the videos she has been sending me lately are blowing my mind. Note that she was already a fabulous professional trumpet player)

The dating climate improved! Yes that sounds like a load of bullshit given we’re not meeting new people in real life anymore. But, there’s still the apps. In the past, these have had a certain “reputation;” whereas now, we have to get to know each other really well before getting physical. We need to be super upfront about what we want, and whether or not we are monogamous because otherwise we could kill people. Forced monogamy wooo!! (Note that this time has been very difficult for polyamorous peeps) If you haven’t done so already, check out the article I wrote about how to date ethically during a global pandemic.

A lot of people realized their former lives weren’t really in line with their true talents and desires, and have embarked on new, scary, more fulfilling paths. I for one, recently accepted that writing is my true calling, not classical music. I can go weeks without touching my violin; but if I go a few days without writing, I am muddy, irritable, and I have a fun little habit of creating drama where it doesn’t actually exist. I am not giving up music altogether, I am just switching my priorities. Writing first, music second. Do I secretly wish I realized my dream is something that might make me more money than a dying niche art, not less?! Merp.

Let’s not forget the bigger picture stuff, like the Black Lives Matter movement. White people finally woke up and realized we are all at least a little racist, and need to swallow our pride, shut up, and make space for BIPOC voices.

and…

WE GOT RID OF DONALD TRUMP.

We got outside more!! Usually, come September, I wonder where the summer went. I feel a twinge of guilt that I didn’t take advantage of the beautiful weather while it was here. Getting outside on every damn nice day just feels like so much pressure. I would often stay in and watch movies out of pure rebellion. But we were damn fucking SICK of being inside, and getting outside was literally the only way to see our friends and family. I heard many, many people say that they have never spent more time outside during the summer, and consequently, it was the best summer ever.

We learned compassion. Do you remember the moment you realized that we are not wearing masks to protect ourselves, but to protect others? The simple act of putting our masks on every day slowly changes us. We are now more aware of those around us than ever. We are sending a very clear message to every single person we encounter: “I care about you.”

Are you starting to get it? How can a year with all of the treasures above, be the worst year ever?!? Are we so ready to abandon this year along with all the other “horrible years,” in favor of this new kid in town?! I don’t know 2021!! Maybe they suck!!! Why can’t we just wait until December of next year, to determine whether it was good or bad?! We’re just assuming 2021 is going to be better when in reality, the whole earth might explode.

Anyway, I’d like to start a New-New Year’s tradition. Let’s not look forward, let’s fucking look BACK. Every year, on December 31st, let’s count our damn blessings. Let’s grieve our losses, and celebrate our triumphs. Let’s not make up some dumb resolution that fat-shames us, let’s vow to love the skin we’re already in.

May you all have a Happy (but no pressure, it’s all just a constant wave of emotions) CURRENT Year!!