Last year I swerved the Christmas ads. You know the ones I’m talking about. Department stores tugging on the heart strings with tales of accelerated growing up. The redemptive power of connection and small children rescuing old people from unbearable loneliness. They chuck in dogs and pandas and all manner of furry creatures as well; just to make sure that no emotional stone is left unmanipulated. Well I couldn’t and can’t be doing with this stuff, largely because, at some point over the past couple of years, the universe has pressed the ‘hard relate’ button on my psyche. And it’s a bit of a nightmare.
It’s as though I have been stripped of all emotional skin. I can’t bear anything. I plug right in and feel the feelings. I had to turn off Finding Nemo because I found the prospect of (the drawing of) the single parent father fish searching for (the drawing of) the lost little boy fish utterly intolerable.
I can no longer watch anything with a narrative arc on the telly because it asks too much of me in terms of empathy. My heart leaps and dives and I sob or go rigid and end up shattered. And this is just the small stuff. I obsess over the big stuff. I panic about the Kurds, I try not to think about immigration and desperation and loss. I worry about reproductive rights. From the smallest stories to the biggest nightmares I am unable to separate myself. Is this being a grown-up? Is this because the world has clearly gone mad? Is this self-obsession running out of control? Is this peri-menopause? Is this forever? Because I’m exhausted.
Even as I type, the tumble dryer is screeching from effort and I feel its pain.
So it’s Antiques Roadshow and Strictly Come Dancing for me. You can keep your meaningful dramas, your searing documentaries and your button-pressing adverts. I simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth what with the divorces, illnesses and crises happening IRL. All of which require great dollops of compassion and responsiveness. Hard relate is exhausting. Oh, for the distance of youth.