I find that I do my best thinking in places that stress most people out. This is my strange form of self-care, I suppose. If I have a problem that I need to work out, or something that I’m thinking about that I can’t solve myself, something about putting myself into situations that, to most, are a headache, really lets me work it out. All of these places are public spaces. I value my alone time, the days where I sit at home and pluck chin hairs and eat peanut butter from a spoon and watch an embarrassing amount of HGTV, but the confines of my apartment are not conducive to thinking about anything.
The thoughts get trapped in the walls of my apartment, zipping around in tight circles, like mosquitos or that one really big fly you just can’t kill. My preferred type of alone time is time spent adjacent to the millions of people that live in my city. So, when I’ve had a fight with whoever, or am thinking about the big, crazy list of tasks that I would normally need a flowchart and a Xanax to deal with, I get the hell out of my house. “I’m going to touch stuff,” I tell my roommate on my way out. “It helps me think.”
1. The Home Goods Section At T.J Maxx
When thinking about things that are relaxing, the disorganized home goods section of a discount chain retailer is not most people’s happy place, but don’t discount it. I have lost hours of my life working out persnickety moral quandaries listening to music and absentmindedly touching non-stick pans and those weird jars of off-brand jalapeno jelly and pickles.
The vague promise of self-improvement combined with the fact that it generally smells nice in here makes Sephora the perfect place for working out whatever’s going on that’s bothering you. Overly made-up women coming at you with lipstick samples isn’t relaxing, but spraying every single perfume you think you might want to buy on your body and walking out certainly is.
3. Your Morning Commute
Commutes by nature are not relaxing, because it is early, you have had no coffee or too much coffee or not quite enough coffee, and you’re going to work, for Christ’s sake, the least relaxing place of all. But hear me out — your commute is a precious swatch of time in each day in which you have permission to just zone out, play Candy Crush, read and, most importantly, forget all your problems.
4. Doing Laundry
Nothing is more mindless than shoving weirdly stained things and socks into a washing machine and hanging out until it’s all clean. Read a book. Put your phone away. Sit and watch your laundry spin. Think about things. Practice your folding techniques honed after years of retail labor at Urban Outfitters.
5. The Grocery Store
Touching food is soothing. Also, buying groceries is something you probably have to do anyway, so you’re being productive, but really take your time and enjoy it. It’s not the worst place in the world, anymore, right? It’s actually not a bad place. Touch all the avocados, then buy two. Think about whether or not you want to break up with your boyfriend. By the time you check out, you’ll have a bag full of snacks and an answer.
6. The Drugstore
The fluorescent lights and the picked over aisles of my local Duane Reade are my default thinking place when I have something I’m trying to work over, or need to get out of my house without actually going out. Sometimes I end up buying a lipstick I already own, but usually I just leave with a magazine and a Kit-Kat, and my “leaving the house” bucket is full for the day.