What a great couple of weeks it’s been. Two local moms let their babies die in hot cars. (If you’re looking for the glass to be half full here, you can bail now.) The poor one was arrested, the one with resources wasn’t charged. A local county known for its multi-million-dollar lakefront homes can’t find the money to get public school started. A friend has cancer, bad y’all. And I found out that someone I loved very much was allowed to die of neglect and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Really super stuff.
Now, nobody ever accused me of wanting to be a cheerleader. (I’d like to have seen those guys haul my big carcass up over their heads anyway.) Perky I’m not. But this week put me in a hole so deep I had to look up to see Schopenhauer. I was supposed to go to a Mussar group about anger but I was too pissed. And the two people I’ve been friends with the longest, when I went to them for comfort, blew me off.
Enter the Brightsiders. Even on a good day, terminal chipperness is annoying. But let things go all the way in the ditch, and the battle is joined. I’ve always said that if you’re not depressed, you’re not paying attention, and I hate to channel Woody Allen but, dammit, some things are simply not “Awesome!” Kids with leukemia, living in a nursing home, ignorance, poverty, greed… sorry but I just can’t bring myself to say, “Good job, Humanity!”
You see, all that rah-rah stuff is not only not helpful ~ god forbid someone should actually have to DO something ~ it negates reality: the observable, factual kind. It also negates my reality, when I know that talking about anything that might be deemed, even in the slightest, “negative,” I will be drummed out of polite society. It’s a form of aggression, that relentless kind of happiness. It cuts like a knife.
Years ago, I used to run 25 to 30 miles a week. (I know, it doesn’t look like it now, but I was in shape.) Five days a week, I’d go to the big, fancy boulevard in town at 4:30 a.m. to run, because it was brightly lit and they have a private police force to keep the muggers away. Not that many of the mansion-dwellers were up at that hour, but there started being this couple who, as I was coming back up the boulevard were just heading out. The road was very wide, and it was damn early, and I was usually worn out by that point, but every morning they were there, they would shout “Good morning!” at top volume. from across the divide. Sheesh. If I didn’t return the greeting, gasping for breath across the chasm in the dark, they’d scream it again. You see, they didn’t give a crap about me, or what I was into at that point, they cared about BEING NICER THAN ME. Good job.
It’s been pretty well documented that Americans are obsessed with positivity. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a really fabulous, well-researched book on why that is. It was a bout of cancer, and her experience with “support” groups, that gave her the energy to write that book. When my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer, a friend suggested I join one of those groups, online, that gives you a buddy to help you deal with the pain. The group was filled with so many cancer-is-a-gift types that I wanted to scream. Actually, I did scream.
Sometimes, not only is the glass not half full, it’s empty, or even shattered. The difference in the cheerleaders and the person for whom the glass is broken is that the cheerleaders can go on their merry ways while the person who’s hurting gets to pick up the pieces alone. That’s one of the really, really negative effects of positive thinking. It can be a weapon, and it can be an excuse for not loving somebody enough.
So, y’all love on each other, okay? And if you have a story to tell, a heartbreak, an illness, a disappointment, I promise not to talk you out of it.