I’m all for the uplifting and supporting of other humans. I am. But, I feel like I need to build a straight up army against the kind of dangerous and convenient spirituality of the blindly privileged who seem to think that IF ONLY WE WOULD BE THINKING MORE POSITIVE THOUGHTS OUR LIVES WOULDN’T SUCK SO MUCH.
“Last night, as I was walking out of Goodwill behind a stressed out and irritable Mama with her three blonde-haired daughters, I heard her say to her girls… “Life Sucks.”
And without a moment’s hesitation, I turned to her and said, “No. Life is AWESOME and nothing sucks!”
And she immediately burst out in hysterical giggles.
I proceeded to my car feeling like my life’s work had been accomplished… hahahaha.”
– Sic From Facebook
This is problematic on so. many. levels. Race, class, trauma, and shit you don’t know and will never understand, so stop telling anyone what to fucking do, and start asking how you can have empathy instead. Et cetera.
Most of us just need to know that we’re okay.
That the intensity and, often, irrationality of our feelings don’t mean we are damaged beyond all lovability.
That the fact we don’t adore every second of our lives, or love every moment we have with our families or our children doesn’t mean we are negative, failing, or doing them irrevocable harm.
We need to know that we can define and redefine our definitions and associations to ease into grace.
We need to be reminded that life, especially the important parts involving our relationships with other people, includes the entire spectrum of experience and cannot be compartmentalized into all light all the time. Shadows and light are symbiotic.
We need someone to witness our suffering, understand oppression, understand how oppression affects everyone and that nothing but more harm happens when only the disenfranchised complain and the privileged tell them to STFU.
We need to ask the questions and take the actions that rise, rather than just frost, the cake of “doing good”. The flour isn’t as glamorous as the candy sparkles, but it’s fundamental to a sound product. In this half baked (lol) metaphor, the flour isn’t posting its part on Facebook for props. The flour is busy keeping the cake upright (if that wasn’t obvious).
We do not, I repeat, we do not need to be told that we are WRONG about feeling stressed. Or that we are damaging our children by living out management of that stress in front of them.
As my own son struggles with a depression and anxiety that I intimately understand, I have told him many times that “life sucks”… only to be followed up by a more sophisticated conversation about how to get on in a world that sometimes does actually suck, how to carry around what can be heavy and burdensome and not always so easy to release, how to find awesome moments and hold and elevate them for as long as possible.
I shudder to think of all of the people in the world that have overheard slices of our conversations. Also, it’s none of their fucking business to assume anything about our lives.
Newsflash: Some people’s lives actually do suck. And no amount of Wonder Bread positive, self-centered yoga-retreat-based spiritual practice thrown in their face and shouted at them is going to change that.
It reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five when Billy Pilgrim’s daughter asks him what it was like being in the war and he says, “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”. And then, “Wait. That isn’t right.” Because IRONY.
It’s probably a more thoughtful practice to assume that during the quieter moments you don’t see, those frazzled people are giving their children a more rounded perspective and joy that balances the full image.
I mean, if we’re insisting on making assumptions and all.
It’s also a more thoughtful practice to try and refrain from bragging about your latest charity win. It brings your motives into question and it gives other people who weren’t even there the opportunity to add their two cents of judgement. It’s painful for everyone. And no one gets a tiara or a free taco or anything at all. We only get the futile prize of being further entrenched into a hierarchy of systemic separation.
There is a difference between sharing something you care deeply about, something that your voice can actually shine healing light towards, something that, when shared, will increase the awareness of a need to be met… and telling everyone you really rocked some sad person’s world today.
Quiet acts of kindness are a spiritual tenet.
One of my favorite examples is from the ever straightforward 12-Step programs where “Principles Before Personalities” is one of the key components of member safety and group longevity.
From Tradition 12 on anonymity and putting right actions before raising individuals :
“As we lay aside these very human aspirations, we believe that each of us takes part in the weaving of a protective mantle which covers our whole society and under which we may grow and work in unity.”
No one gets to be a Messiah.
So please, for the love of all things real, let’s do some stuff together.
- Let’s do quiet acts of kindness.
- Let’s use our voices to articulate justice and fight for principles, rather than demand recognition.
- Let’s leave tired moms at Goodwill alone! Or give them some coffee! Or money! Or a nanny!
- Let’s remember that when we see our feeds roll by and everything looks brighter, more exciting, more put together, more emphatic than our lives feel, that we remember we are all suffering and we are all doing the best we can. We are all perfect as we are and we could all use a ton of work. We are all members of the same basic brand of Impermanent Human Experience and everything about it is the biggest paradox ever. We can’t ever really know, but we can choose the most compassionate story over and over. We can stand stalwart in curiosity rather than judgement, choosing questions over answers. We can be kind. We can be discerning. We can hold each other close. And we don’t even have to talk at all.
“To be a good human is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertainty, and on a willingness to be exposed. It’s based on being more like a plant than a jewel: something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility.”
– Martha Nussbaum
Alrighty then. Carry on, dear ones. You’re never really alone.
*The image in this post is mine. It is of my new, super exciting piece of neon art that I broke before I even got to hang it up. Impermanence is a bitch. Nevertheless, we stay gold.