I stress-craft. Some people smoke, some people go for a run – I craft. We all have our vices. There’s just something satisfying about stabbing a crochet hook through a ball of wool when you ought to be worrying about college or money or relationships or the rift in the British branch of the Labour Party or whether or not Steven Avery did it or, God forbid, safety measures in Cincinnati zoos.
About two years ago, just before I sat my Leaving Certificate, my house was covered in origami cranes. I bought a packet of coloured paper in a pound shop (€2 shop these days, because of the exchange rate) and used damn near all of it on making those stupid little birds which ended up in the recycling bin almost as soon as they had received their first taste of life on the outside. I tried scribbling motivational quotes on their wings at one point, but they were hard to read and harder to take seriously when you consider I was making birds out of paper when I should have been studying.
I’m sure there’s something poetic about channelling your upset into creating something beautiful – or trying to, at least. A lot of those cranes were on the deformed side, but they were my children and I loved them. I’m sure there’s something poetic in my stress-crafting, but I have yet to pinpoint it. What I do know is that, as I’ve gotten older, there’s been an awful lot more handmade items around the place than there were previously. That’s not because I’m feeling any more stressed than usual, understand: I think it’s the manifestation of a subconscious understanding of all the stress that goes on in the world now that I’m an Adult.
Life is hard. Bad things happen every day, and people keep being awful. I write a lot of comedy, so I should know. I, like most people, also consume a lot of news, whether I want to or not: it’s hard to get away from death and destruction when it’s become a constant background noise wherever you go, whether that’s through the television, the radio, or the eBay, which is the collective term my grandmother uses for social media. If we were to get upset over every bad thing reported in the news, we’d all be catatonic. Similarly – although this is something I’ve been aware of for years – ordinary people have a lot of shit to deal with. Bad things happen to good people. It’s that kind of thing that, if you thought too much about it, would drive you around the bend. Or to crafting, if you’re my way inclined.
I’ve learned to react to the harsher side of life with a kind of stubborn resilience over the years, which is probably why I lose my mind nowadays whenever something nice happens. I saw a photograph of someone feeding their aging dog his favourite meal the other day (it was a burger) and I cried. I cried, damn it!
Let me make this clear, alright: I am not, generally speaking, an emotional person. It normally takes a lot to get me het up over something. That’s not to say that distressing information doesn’t have an effect on me, but I’m quite composed when it comes to most emotional situations (unless I’m hormonal. I once had to take some time for myself because I forgot to give a friend of mine a spoon with which to eat a bowl of pudding, after which they claimed they hadn’t wanted the pudding that much, anyway. My poor, pre-menstrual heart). However, there seems to be some kind of switch in my brain that gets flipped anytime I see someone behaving in a particularly kind way. Or when anything or anyone is just pure and good. Or, I’m not going to lie to you, whenever I see a dog.
These situations are countless: there was that time I and two women working in a chemist had a laughing fit over a bundle of balloons; the time a man was really excited to show me his Irish thesaurus on the Luas; the elderly former monk who told me his life story on the side of the road; the kids who made me a tiny little campfire so that I could have a s’more one night at summer camp. Again, I thought I was pretty good at staying composed when it comes to this sort of thing. Apparently not. The group of kids I was taking care of for the summer made me a card out of purple paper for my birthday and wrote me little messages in it, and one particularly cheeky yolk hollered “don’t cry now, Lauren!” at me while I was stood reading it. What a little asshole. It was my party; I could cry if I wanted to.
Sometimes, I cry at nice things. If I’m having a rough day and someone says something particularly kind to me, I’m gone. At weddings, too, occasionally – if you were to catch me, mind, I’d probably make a joke about the divorce rate, but we’d both know I was only being a giant nerd-noodle. Almost anything on the Dogspotting group I’m a member of on Facebook will open the floodgates, depending on the time of day and my BAC. Don’t even get me started on that time Ralph Wiggum didn’t get a Valentine’s card and Lisa Simpson gave him one. Remember that? “I choo-choo-choose you?” Oh, my God. Stop. But there are far worse things in the world to be crying over and I have cried over far worse. Sometimes, a tiny dog with a tiny hat on just speaks to my heart. Sometimes, a jolly taxi driver will remind me that most people are good people. Sometimes, a random act of kindness will transform itself into a little lump at the back of my throat. Because I’m a tiny ball of feelings.
Sometimes, I cry at nice things, and I reckon that’s OK.