WE’RE BETTER THAN WE THINK

When I first got back from Israel, I was depressed. I had lost my world. I hadn’t realized good things were happening. I just needed to shake off the blues and look around.

It turns out that misery can be habitual. We get comfortable where we are and not realize how gloomy we’ve become. We don’t see the gloom and after a while, it feels normal. It doesn’t show in the mirror, after all, so unless someone tells us, how do we know?

I didn’t see it. I thought everyone felt the way I did. I also recognized there were challenges some of us can’t face or at least not until we have an epiphany that cracks the shell of our doom and gloom and gives us the energy to move on. I think I was in this latter group.

Because I had to leave my adopted kids in Israel, I needed to see a shrink to confirm my decision — about which I really had no choice. He was the one who popped me out of my misery and made me realize that while I was losing a lot, I was also gaining a lot. So I could choose to focus on the gains or the losses — but I did have a choice. I believe I made the right one.

I’ve noticed how online, groups of people form misery circles with others who feel they are up to their lips in real or impending personal tragedy. They support one another’s negativity without realizing they are doing it.

Some of us won’t be smiley people. We aren’t all built that way. That doesn’t mean we have to be grim and dour all the time. It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said:

“Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying any attention to you.”

I think many of us feel we are the object of other people’s negative attention and criticism when really, they are totally uninterested in us. We may be focused on them, so we assume it is mutual — but usually, it isn’t.

Among many things that keeps me from falling back into total doom and gloom is being selective about how much news I read or watch. It’s hard to be optimistic these days. Between the endless lockdowns and isolation of life during the past couple of years, if I absorb too much of the always awful news, I’d never stop brooding and obsessing. Periodically, I bring up worries and fears — and then drop them again. I can’t be in that head space all the time and live a life. I haven’t changed my opinions but I have changed the way I approach them. It’s the best I can do.

Garry showed me — unintentionally — how you can wrap yourself in so much negativity that you can’t see the light in the window. When Garry lost his job, he acted as if his life had ended. He seemed to forget all the good stuff he’d done and declared himself a loser. Total doom and gloom. He forgot every award he’d won, every kudo he’d gotten, every story of which he was rightly proud. Instead of remembering how good he’d been, all he could remember was he wasn’t working. That he’d “lost it.”

We have been together for most of our lives, either as friends, lovers, or married. I have seen him on top and on the bottom. I knew he hadn’t lost “it.” He’d had a terrible shock and forgotten the good stuff he’d done, how hard he’d tried to make a better world. What he’d lost was hope.

That was when I had my ephiphany.

Life is never all good or bad. In the course of a life, everything happens. We are not the worst things we’ve done or which happened to us. We are better than that. We are more than that.

We don’t need to become robotic smilers, but it’s okay to remember good stuff too.

A titmouse enjoys the bright woods

Maybe we all need to take a breath and remember we’ve done some good stuff. Give ourselves and those we care about some some pats on the back. If you’re too arthritic to reach that far, find a friend to pat you. Or a total stranger who will merely think you are weird.

All back pats count. We’ve all done something valuable and deserve positive recognition, from ourselves first and foremost. Again, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’.”



Categories: Anecdote, Blackstone Valley, Communications, Friendship, Life, Relationships

7 replies

  1. Right on the money.

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  2. Absolutely beautiful. Perfectly said and a fabulous reminder so we don’t get stuck in the crap that life sometimes offers up. Even the crap can lead us to an unknown insight. Brilliant couldn’t love this more! Hope millions read it absorb it and understand it and if not, do it anyway, because it’s the truth!

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  3. Wise words Marilyn. I have been feeling a bit down in the dumps lately but I can still completely forget about the bad stuff going on in the world if I’m absorbed in something that makes me happy whether it’s having a laugh about something ridiculous, reading a good book, enjoying a drive in the country or taking photos.
    I am more pessimistic about the world than I’ve ever been in my life but most of what’s wrong is out of my control anyway. If it happens it happens but I can’t spend all my time thinking about it.

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  4. Hi Marilyn – I love this post and wish I could “like” it more than once. Your quote from Roosevelt admonishing us to “look fear in the face” brings to mind “the only way out is through” (can’t remember who said that first). Misery can be contagious, and there are hordes out there spreading it. I think that being authentic about one’s feelings is necessary, but it is unnecessary to bring others down. Acknowledging that misery in a one-person pity party can be healing. Acknowledging it with a trusted therapist can be even more healing. Just my two cents.

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    • I agree. The moment I realize that I dealing with someone who is in perpetual misery mode, I unhook. Everyone has problems, but people like that have nothing BUT problems. The more people they ensnare into “helping” them, the more of a bummer they become.

      My objection is not to their misery, but that they don’t want to escape it. More like they want to spread it around. Some of these people are also asking for money or pretending they have diseases — like cancer — which I think should be a jailing offense.

      I’m a soft touch for a sob story, so I get suckered in, but at least I’m getting better at trying to be sure the person is who (and what) they say they are. Shrink first, blog later!

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  5. When I look at myself, I recognize the good, the bad, and the ugly. Fortunately there is more good than bad and ugly combined. But when I look at the world around me, I see way more bad and ugly than I see good. And that makes it difficult to be positive and optimistic.

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    • I know. I feel the same way. Regardless, we have to live. We have to find a way to do it as best we can. We can’t fix the mess. I think we are (sadly) all very clear about that, but we can try to at least be the best version of ourselves we can dredge up.

      I can’t live in that negative headspace all the time. Once I sink into that dark trough, I can’t see any light. I become my own black pit of despair and that’s terrible for me, worse for everyone I live with. If for no better reason, there are a couple of other people in my life who have their own issues. I need them. They need me.

      We seem to have lived long enough to hit a really bad place in humanity’s path. As of right now, it doesn’t look hopeful or encouraging, but I’m sure people felt like this during other plague years and certainly during the two world wars — and more.

      It would be great if we could come out of this dark place into a better one, but I don’t think I’ll be around even if it happens. So I’m trying — and it’s not easy — to do the best I can to not be a total drag all the time. There are a LOT of things I refuse to think about (most of the time). I can’t fix them, can’t control them. All I can do is worry, obsess, brood, and be a general wet blanket.

      I’m never going to be a smiley person. I’m not like that. Never was. I also don’t have to be a complete downer either. Maybe I can find a place to be somewhere in between?

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