Friday, January 22, 2016

Why do I think I'm the only one?

This was one of those rare things I shared on Facebook, mainly because it rang all my bells at once. These are "issues" that come up again and again, and not just when I'm trying to sleep.

But my second reaction was: wait a minute. You mean other people go through this? This must be a mistake. But why are so many people clicking "like"?

Don't tell me other people go through these things. No. It's not possible.

Could it be that MOST people keep up a good face, a brave face, even when (especially when) they are going through absolute, utter shit? Could it be that most people, if they are facing any kind of adversity, even the niggling stuff, answer the question "how are you doing?" with "oh, I'm fine"? Might this absolute imperative to present a strong front backfire when they're lying down with their eyes closed in the dark, rigid with anxiety and utterly vulnerable?

I talked to someone I'm very close to recently, and she told me about the trite things people sometimes say to her when they're trying to be helpful. "Oh, don't worry, I'm sure it will all work out for the best." "Something will come along." "Just be positive!" "Maybe it wasn't meant to be." "What's the worst that can happen?" - and, my all-time least-favorite: "Everything happens for a reason".

That's only a notch away from "it's all part of God's plan" on the suicidal scale. Perhaps followed by (and I actually heard this one once), "There but for the grace of God go I".

People say these things because they don't know what else to say. They're afraid they will say the wrong thing. Even if they truly do want to offer reassurance, it stops the conversation cold. It'll get better! Case closed. It also sends the message: I don't want to hear this. 

Deeper than that is a certain abhorrence, a dread that this adversity is somehow contagious and will rub off on them. So they have to quickly dispel it with bland-isms that don't help at all and even make the loneliness, isolation and shame (for facing problems/failure is innately shameful) more painful.

There's a creeping suspicion these days that when things go wrong, it's because of something you did or didn't do, thought or didn't think. This is all linked to that cheery, chirpy philosophy that "we can do anything we want and have everything we desire if we just try hard enough". If you have the right attitude or send out the right energy, the Universe will respond and shower wonderful things on you.

So if the Universe isn't showering (and why should it, when it is totally oblivious of your existence?), it must be you. If your dreams aren't falling into your lap, if you get sick or lose your job and can't find another one in the shark-infested waters of today's economy - well then, why? 
It can't be the fact that life can be excruciatingly tough, unfair, even destroying certain people who have every right to thrive.

I think in this slick sugar-coated age of social media and its narcissistic posturing, this kind of crap is getting worse. That's why it is so rare to see something like this, an admission of vulnerability, of fear, of irrational yet gnawing worry. It's rare to see such humanness, because no one seems to want to admit to it. If you can't sleep because your gut is in a roil, well, what are you doing wrong?

Which is why I had that knee-jerk response. Everyone else has got it together, don't they? Deluxe vacations, glorious birthday parties, reunions of families that are loving and always get along. Perfect-looking selfies with perfect teeth and hair gently stirred by the (electric fan?) wind. And in my case, because most of my Facebook "friends" are writers, fabulous book launches attended by hundreds of people, TV interviews, prestigious awards, etc. etc. And big fat contracts with huge publishers, not to mention very cushy advances. And let us not forget the most important thing of all: sales.

The middle two are my biggest concern, though.  Am I sick, or what? Why did I lose 35 pounds in 5 months, without dieting, when all my life I've had a weight problem? (And I could have done without the TWO phone calls I had this week about my abnormal kidney function.) Will we have enough to live on in retirement, when neither of us has an income? Maybe this affects "everyone" (and that's another thing that bugs me, the "everybody thinks/feels/does/has" syndrome that is supposed to stretch to include pimps, drug dealers, members of Isis, and people in a coma). But not likely. The "everybody thinks/feels", etc., thing is a way to make ourselves feel better because we suspect we ARE the only one, and that we're losers because of it.

After centuries of contemptous silence and raw fear, people are just beginning to talk about "mental illness", specifically depression (because terrifying things like bipolar and schizophrenia are still the province of horror movies and those celebrity "memoirs of madness" that everyone sucks up so eagerly), but most people have no idea how it annihilates self-esteem and destroys hope. You just have a negative attitude, that's all, and if you'd be more positive you'd feel better and wouldn't have to just languish at home on drugs, and could go back to work and be productive like everybody else. Everything happens for a reason, so for God's sake stop taking those pills and get back to work! Self-pity never got you anywhere.

Then again, maybe it's far more therapeutic to read something like this. It might make some people laugh, but it didn't make me laugh. It made me wonder how anyone else could be that vulnerable without being destroyed. 

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