I was thinking about starting off the new year with a post about hope. Since mostly I write to, for and about people who are hurting in someway, I had in mind to write a bit about the process of becoming un-miserable.
I have an aunt about whom my family is fond of saying, "She loves to be miserable. That's what makes her happy." This was meant to impart to us the idea that we really should not worry so much about trying to change her or cheer her up. She was best left as she was, unhappy, anxious and at odds with the world.
I, for one, believed this to be true. But I did not think that this was the whole story. I had the idea that Auntie was afraid. Whatever caused, shaped, contributed to her deep fear, I did not know, but I had the feeling that the misery sort of helped hold her together, and that to mess with it might be a bad idea. I often wondered if all of her pain was, however legitimate, some kind of an insurance policy against even more pain. Real or imaginary.
Sort of the same as folks who tell me that they worry so much, and expect the worst because then when it happens, they won't be so shocked. The fall will, according this line of thinking, be less far and less hard.
Same goes for self attack. When we pummel ourselves with words (sometimes with actions), figuring that if we beat ourselves up badly, whatever anyone else does will not be as bad. We will have beat them to the punch. So to speak.
So I am not one for New Year's resolutions. Not to dampen your resolve if you have made them. Power on! But mostly I find that many of us make a thousand promises and never a decision. The difference being that we can promise ourselves, Gd, our families, whoever, whatever, but if we have not made a well thought out, well consulted, well informed decision, with a good plan to go along with and support it, we may well be going nowhere fast.
It's risky to mess with misery. It's risky to take stock of the things in your life that are causing you pain and to embark on a journey of discovery. And to head toward a decision. And then to make one, and abide by it. Of course you always have the right to change your mind, re-evaluate and re-do. (Usually you can change course. Unless your decision involved someone else and it may be more difficult).
And sometimes, the things that make us miserable are the things that are holding us together. Or at least we think so. Like bingeing or cutting or drinking or going in and out of a relationship with someone who is unstable or unreliable or mean. And we are afraid to mess with it. Fear of the unknown. Fear of happiness. Fear of nothing: that if we make a decision to mess with our misery, we will have a great enormous nothing. And that might be worse than anything.
Sometimes when someone is in my office and they are hurting themselves, with say, razors or matches, or food, or words of steel, I am not so quick to mess with the symptoms or the behavior. It's hard to be sure that if you "make" (as if one could) someone stop something that seems bad for them, that they won't do something worse.
For those in the throes of an eating or cutting disorder, or addiction, it's about venturing into the unknown. A place that may require replacing the bad feelings with good feelings, which sounds nice on paper, but terrifying in reality. The unfamiliar is often quite scary.
Still and all, fear and glue, I think its most often a good idea to mess with misery. You don't have to mess fast, or even often. But you can decide to take a look at what the misery does for you. What purpose it serves. Is it keeping you close to something you have lost? Is it familiar? Is it protecting you from having to get up and do something you are even more afraid of doing? Do you doubt that you could really have a better life?
And by the way, there are big miseries in life and smaller ones. Not everything has to be on the grand scale of overall angst. There are choices, though. That's my message of hope. You can walk into the sunshine and not get burned. You may need proper protection and a good guide, but you can step out into something new. Just takes a small spark of interest, the right timing and a good dose of support from people you can trust.