Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Every Pity Party is a Shitty Party

I read over the post I was minutes away from publishing and I had to stop my own fist from punching my own face. The overarching theme of the post was about my tendency, for much of my life, to equate a slow social life with being a total loser. When I thought of this topic and how I've often felt "out of sight, out of mind" in social circles, it felt relatable and worthy of my blog.

My nose scrunched as I read story after story of being left off an Evite or not getting invited to a wedding. The whole point of the post was to share these feelings, but also illustrate how I've evolved into accepting my tendency to be a loner. I do believe that. I'm perfectly at peace with my social activity and inactivity. However, as I read over the post I had spent days writing, I sounded like a whiny bitch.

After a huge eye roll, I pressed down on the trackpad, dragged my finger up over the text and with a disgusted exhale... hit DELETE.

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In that now defunct post, I wrote about a few parties that were thrown without me, but the one party I refuse to attend or host is a pity party. As an eternal optimist, I cannot allow myself to go too far down the road of despair because there are too many things to be thankful for. Every single day I try and surround myself with positive energy because, as I get older, negativity sucks the life out of me. Seriously, I would be like a dried fruit version of myself if I succumbed to all the bummer stuff around me. For my own mental health, I have to literally and figuratively turn off sources of doom. It is especially hard right now with the current climate; both political and well, actual planetary climate, but I make it my mission to focus on all the beauty around me. And yes, there is plenty to find.


The Woe Is Me Club
At my very first job out of college, there was a group of men at the office who were miserable. Naturally, they were all friends; you would see them congregating at each other's desks, going out to lunch, huddling together at happy hours (ironic). As a fresh-faced woman in my early 20s, young and excited about life, I had no idea why they insisted on being the office wet blankets all day, every day. Today I am older than those men were then, and I still don't get it. During those years of working together, I had learned quite a bit about each of them... they all had families, all were relatively healthy, they had college degrees in viable fields and well, obviously they were employed. I'm sure there was plenty I didn't know about them, but learning what I did during the years we worked together, it was pretty clear these guys were bound and determined to be miserable. 

I sound pretty harsh here, I realize, but I'm not even going to try and sugarcoat how little patience I have for people who have SO much to be thankful for, but choose a life of whining and misery. To be clear, I'm not talking about folks who are clinically depressed or suffer from other debilitating mental health conditions. I'm talking about chronically negative, privileged people who have lost perspective. 

One day, I was sitting in the cafeteria with one of the Woe members and he was bitching about being passed over for a promotion. 

"Story of my life..." he exhaled shaking his head. 

"Well, it doesn't have to be," I said biting into my turkey sandwich.

"What do you mean by that?" His eyes bored into mine as if I'd just accused him of saying something racist.

"Well, I'm just saying if you're so unhappy here, maybe you could find a better job somewhere else," I shrugged.

"Ohhhh, the naiveté of someone who's been here for 2 years," he leaned back with a snarky smile and folded his arms over his chest. 

"Ohhhh, the bitterness of someone who hates his job but won't look for other opportunities," I said mimicking his body movement.

He laughed. We were acquaintances at best and he seemed surprised by my bold response to his insulting statement. That day, I was in no mood for his negative crap and I had no qualms about telling him that.

"Look, I'm just saying that this isn't the only place to work... if you hate it so much, make a change. At least see what's out there." I felt odd giving someone 8 years my senior such advice, but I also felt like the more logical one at the table given his attitude.

"It's not that simple," he said shaking his head.

"Why not?" I asked.

We went back and forth as he made up flimsy excuses about having put in so many years at the company, established relationships, probably nothing better out there right now, etc. I would deflect each of these with simple statements like, "But, you hate it here," or "If you haven't looked at other options, how do you know nothing is out there?" Frustrated, he finally retorted that I wouldn't understand because I was too young and inexperienced.

"Believe me, when you're my age with a family, you'll see things the way I do," he held his hands up to signal the end of the conversation.

Nope, I thought, I'll be sure to never see things the way you do.


TCBW
This isn't to say that I haven't had dark periods where I've fallen into "the world is against me" despair. When I look back on those times, I realize now how trudging through that emotional sludge was so necessary for me to appreciate all the fantastic things in life. And that mental shift didn't magically fall into my lap. I had to want it and find it. One thing I've learned over and over again is that finding the proverbial silver lining is work. I wish it was more like, WERK... but no, it's solid WORK. Ask Oprah... she probably has about 4,000 gratitude journals at this point.

BREAKING NEWS: THINGS COULD BE WORSE!

I live by these words and have for a long time. Do they always work to salve my pain? Not always, but again, I'm willing to work at it. Some of TCBW thoughts are:
  • Yeah, my baby is fussy and not sleeping, but given that my dear friend just had her 2nd miscarriage, I'm going to cherish this healthy, fussy monster.
  • Okay, it's not ideal that my husband travels a lot, but he is supporting our family. He also listens to my concerns about feeling like a single parent at times and never dismisses my feelings.
  • Fine, my face and bod look old and fewer people understand my references, but at least I'm around to look old and bore people with my stories of the 90s. I didn't lose my life to cancer at 37 like my friend Amy, I didn't suddenly die in my sleep like another friend last year, or get killed by a drunk driver like my husband's dear friend in college. 
These are trivial things, I realize. But I also suppose that's my point. My life hasn't been rife with tragedy and drawn-out struggles, so therefore, I refuse to let myself ignore the fortune of living a pretty charmed life. Nothing irks me more than privileged people finding shit to complain about. Yeah, it hasn't been all smooth sailing, but I'm also not a refugee or an abandoned child roaming the street. I don't live in poverty or in an abusive household. I'm not suffering from a debilitating mental or physical illness that limits my independence. But here's the thing, there are tons of stories of people overcoming those types of injustices or personal tragedies. Those badass tales are all around us! Read Educated by Tara Westover or any of Maya Angelou's memoirs among others. Those types of inspiring stories certainly knock my perspective back in place. Look, this works for me and I'm not saying it's what will work for everyone. I'm just glad that I have this nagging gratitude reminder which I fully engage if I smell a personal pity party going on for too long. 

An area where a TCBW thought is harder work for me is with my relatively new migraine condition. Back in 2008 when I got my first one, I thought I was having a stroke and went to the ER. The doc that day gave me my first TCBW moment when she came back with the results of my CAT Scan.  She told me I had "nothing scary" in my brain, but instead seemed like I suffered a migraine with aura which was both common and treatable. Since then, I've gone through ebbs and flows with those damn things, and there is constant worry that I'll get one. While I had an extremely hard time with it at first, I've learned to deal with them as best I can. I live with the possibility that they could get a lot worse as I get older... but I never forget to remind myself that they could get better as my hormones level out with menopause (good GOD). Below is the TCBW work I need to do and, admittedly, isn't always easy to do when I suddenly can't see half of someone's face. 
  • I get these migraines once every few weeks while some people get multiple migraines per month. I do not suffer from chronic migraines and for the most part, I've figured out my triggers. Some people have to be hospitalized or prescribed strong drugs while I can treat mine with OTC pills and recover relatively quickly. I have quite a few friends who have offered to help me if things do get worse, including using medicinal marijuana, which sounds super cool and would make 15-year-old Sheevani blush from how edgy I've become in my 40s. 
My common theme here is to never forget that life is hard and while sometimes my own shit may seem awful, a ton of other people out there have it a lot worse than I do. That's something I will always work to keep at the forefront of my thoughts.

Wah WAHHHHH
I will sit and watch Debbie Downer SNL sketches for hours, but as for a real-life Debbie? No, that's a swift drop-kick right out of my life. All that complaining and seeing the gloom-and-doom in life is draining to be around. Now, I'm not talking about listening to a friend going through a hard time or providing a much-needed shoulder to cry on. I love to be that person of comfort. But, even those friends can overstay their welcome, especially when they are doing zero to help themselves. I'll refer you back to the gentlemen of that Woe is Me club from my first job. They all sat around having the exact same complaints for at least 7 or 8 years as if somehow the Gods of Whining would dump some good fortune on their cubicles.

My father educated me about a lot of wonderful things during my life, but the most important, albiet unintentional, lesson he taught me repeatedly was how I never wanted to view the world like he did. I'm not talking about politics or religion, but more the cynical lens through which he saw almost everything. I'm pretty sure a lot of us can relate to having an elder tell us they are just being "realistic," but to me growing up, I just saw my dad wallow in negativity so much that I know it affected far more in his life than just sharpening his gift of snark. My father did have real stress, from his career to his health... all pretty major and tough to deal with, however, he certainly didn't make it better for himself or any of us in the way he dealt with the challenges. I remember feeling this unfair burden of emotions due to his unwillingness to address his issues properly. Once, during a summer back home from college, his emotions about his own issues had boiled over to the point where he wasn't allowing me to spend the day with my then boyfriend. His arguments were absolutely nonsensical, so I said, "Why are your issues the reason I cannot go out? Can't I just have fun for a day and not deal with YOUR issues for once?!" My words sort of snapped him out of his rage. "You're right," he quietly responded, "This isn't your problem... go, bheta. Have fun with Greg." 

Now, would I go back in a heartbeat and sit with him to understand what was troubling him so much? Absolutely. But, that's not the story. The story is about a father taking out his issues on his 20-year-old college girl. Here is another lesson he accidentally taught me as well; that I never want my own issues to distress my kids. This doesn't mean I will never show them vulnerability or emotion. Give me a break, they see a range of that every single day. But, as they grow up and develop their own problems in their own little bubbles, they shouldn't have to worry about or deal with my shit. In order to be the best possible mother to them, the least I could do is figure out how to properly address the issues of my life. If they ask me why I'm sad or struggling, I'll happily open that book for them because I know I'll have a chapter in there titled, "In Progress," or, "My Plan." 

Obviously I have no clue what sort of battles our family may endure in the future, but I never want my kids to feel I'm not working on myself at all times. For me, it's about transparency at all levels, from the onset anger or despair to picking myself up, wiping away the tears and figuring out how to see a path forward. While my dad didn't really put that sort of thinking into practice during my lifetime, I know he'd encourage my approach during his grandkids lifetime. 

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Please don't let the theme of this post suggest that I do not understand how therapeutic a good old fashioned bitch session can be. I LOVE to bitch, WE ALL NEED TO DO IT. Life is hard and the alternative to venting to our friends is bottling up that shit and I don't know about you, but my blood pressure is not equipped for that. But, just as I tell myself with strawberry cheesecake and baked macaroni and cheese, everything in moderation. You do too much of any of that, including the bitching, your insides will hurt and all those toxins released from your body holes will alienate a lot of people. 

Whether a bitch session or pity party, I choose keep mine short, poorly planned and with shitty food. Like the Fyre Festival of pity parties... except with much less Ja Rule.  

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