I think most of us know what it is like to walk around with a dark cloud following overhead. We are the picture of sadness and woe, carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. The awful thing is that we seem perfectly content in our misery, convinced that this is our fate.
Truly some of us have grown fond of the load we carry. We lug it around, show it off, talk about it, weep copious tears over it and, although we know that we should throw it away, we refuse to get rid of it. We are not ready to set the baggage down, not now, not ever.
Why do we allow ourselves to become like “Sad Sack”? Remember him? He was a comic-book character, a soldier in the US Army during World War II who always wore a forlorn, down-on-his-luck look in his face.
How about Joe Btfsplk in the old (very old!) Li’l Abner strip by Al Capp? Joe had a black cloud following him around. He was a jinx and wherever he went, misfortune followed.
More recently, there was Bad Luck Schleprock in Hanna Barbera’s “Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show.” It was pretty much the same thing, black cloud, bad luck. I know people like that. Don’t you?
I have a friend who loves to be the bearer of bad news. She can’t wait to announce tales of woe, sometimes not bothering to confirm or check details. So far she has “killed” more than a dozen perfectly healthy people. When I get an e-mail from her, my instinct is to hit “delete.” And when I don’t, nine times out of 10, I wish I had.
Is it true that misery loves company? Many of us love to wallow in our pain. We hang around people who are also hurting. We linger in their shadows. And while we are on this pity party, no one can share any good news with us. Without a second thought, we squelch whatever joy it may bring.
A cousin of mine received a sentimental token at work one day and was all excited to show it off to her husband. He took one look at it and remarked: “Whoever gave that to you probably got it from someone else and didn’t know what to do with it.” Some people refuse to see the heart. This is so sad.
Last year I sat and held the hand of a good friend who was grieving over her husband. He had walked out, headed for greener (read: younger) pastures. What could I say to lessen her anguish? I wanted to reassure her that this would not be the death knell of her life. She had seen me struggle (and survive) many years ago, and I guess this is why she called me and not her happily married best friend.
My heart was heavy with remembered pain as we sat quietly in her dark room. She had been there for days. She was angry, devastated and very tired.
I held her and listened to her sobs and recriminations for a little while. Then I got up and turned on the lamp near her bed. We both blinked in the sudden brightness. She tried to smile through her tears and said: “This is why I called you. I figured you would know where the light switches are.”
It reminded me of something actress-writer-singer Rashida Jones said: “I know that in life there will be sickness, devastation, disappointments and heartache. It’s a given. What’s not a given is the way you choose to get through it all. If you look hard enough, you can always find the bright side.”
The key words here are “if you look hard enough.”
Do you really wish to see that first ray of sunshine? You need to desperately want to get out of the dark. This is a very rough time in your life; the worst, maybe? But those bumps are there for a reason. Trust me. It gets better, really it does.
They say it is normal when “stuff” happens; that it is how you deal with it that matters. I wonder if life would suddenly be dull and boring if everything was smooth sailing.
Some people live like they need drama to make a humdrum day more exciting. Their emotional upheavals are almost predictable. They fight, scream and yell nasty things at one another. Then it is business as usual. Nothing changes. Could it be that they create their own meltdowns for thrills? Is making up really that much fun? Have I forgotten? Don’t they ever get tired? Personally I think it is sick, but to each his own.
A research group from Harvard found that optimism actually lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Could it be because happier people choose to live more sensible lives?
The group also found that the incidence of strokes and heart attacks was higher among depressed people. Julia Boeh, lead study author, writes that “psychological health and physical health are intertwined.”
Statistics show that “merchants of doom and gloom” or pessimists, who look for what is wrong in every little thing and for whatever could go wrong, eventually cause the madness and chaos in their own lives.
So, tell me, isn’t it better to look for the brighter side of life? I don’t mean for you to “tralala” through your journey either. Never lose touch with reality. But to drag baggage around or go through life looking for ghosts and phantoms is not my style. It once was. But no more!
I realize that it is not easy to emerge from the shadows. It takes time. It takes guts and determination. But it can be done.
“Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds. Shine!” —Buddha