February 27, 2012 · filed under grief

wise owl

OWL

Just sharing a couple of things I’ve read and loved lately, and maybe, if you’re going through a tough time, they’ll give you a little peace, too…

One of my resolutions for the new year was to live my life and not compare it so much to the lives of others. As I’m sure you can imagine (babies! everywhere!) this is really difficult. But I love this advice from Carolyn Hax:

How do I stop the “Woe is me!” voice in my head? My best friend is expecting, and another good friend engaged. I’m going through a rough divorce and major depression (I’m being treated). Their happy news makes me feel terrible about myself, which also makes me feel terrible. I want to be happy for them. I just don’t know how.

Depression puts everything through the “It’s all about me” funnel. Your friends’ happiness underscores your failures; their struggles are one more thing to worry about; your own bad news proves nothing in your life goes right; your good news proves that even good news can’t cheer you up; the bad weather is just the cosmos piling on; the sunshine is the cosmos flipping you the bird, rubbing beauty in your face. It is relentless.

But, more important, it’s not true. It’s a deceptive filter through which you receive (and everyone else with depression receives) the random, unrelated messages of the outside world. When you aren’t depressed, bad things don’t suddenly become good, but you’re able to see them as the isolated incidents they are, as opposed to elements of a vast conspiracy of pain.

Even if you know this — or just take my word for it — that won’t automatically render you able to cheer for your friends, but it’s a start. When you’re forced to process other people’s milestones, keep reminding yourself that neither bad feelings nor good ones are permanent. Celebration is a moment, as is grief. Everyone gets to happy points through miserable points of their own.

If you find that hard to believe, then force yourself to recall the times these friends have leaned on you. “Happily ever after” isn’t something that actually exists; it’s just lazy storytelling.

I suppose it’s theoretically possible for someone to get through life without genuine suffering (and not be a psychopath) — but would you even want to be that person, or be close to that person? Who has never felt emotional pain, who can’t sympathize with it, and who will never really know how good it feels to feel good?

This is not to glorify suffering but instead to celebrate the transience of all emotional states.

Read full reply here.

If step one is realizing that no one is living a fairy tale – even if it seems like they are because of Facebook, then maybe step two is embracing the richness and complexity that comes through grief and loss. From A Blog About Love, I found some quotes on happiness from the woman who developed the stages of grief. Here are a few:

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.”

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen.”

The next time someone looks at me funny when I cry in public, I’ll just tell them I’m on a journey to becoming a beautiful person. A beautiful person with mascara running down her face.

 

{photo credit}


34 Comments

  1. J
    February 27, 2012 2:52 pm

    That was an awesome post!! Thank you, I needed that today :)

  2. Janssen
    February 27, 2012 8:41 pm

    Janet, I love these quotes. I read sometimes about people who just have no comparison compulsions or envy or jealousy and I am staggered. It’s hard for me not to measure myself against others (especially, as you note, their Facebook updates. . . ).

    • Janet
      February 27, 2012 8:47 pm

      J — I remember you made a similar resolution and thought of you when writing this post. Hopefully by 2013 we will have made some progress : )

  3. liz
    February 27, 2012 9:35 pm

    These are great – I will bookmark for when I need a reminder/kick in the pants.

  4. Operation Pink Herring
    February 27, 2012 10:28 pm

    I love this. Also: no one posts the shitty stuff on Facebook.

  5. heidikins
    February 27, 2012 10:32 pm

    I really really love that “beautiful people don’t just happen” post. And you, my dear, are beautiful. You are a beauty to start with, and a greater beauty in the making.

    Hugs!
    xox

  6. Erika
    February 28, 2012 9:03 am

    This is so timely. Thanks, Janet (from a recent Facebook account deactivator)

    • Janet
      February 28, 2012 10:08 am

      E — is life better post-fb? I’m on the verge of quitting, but it does offer some positivity/happiness and I know I’d miss that part of it.

      • Kate R
        March 4, 2012 11:29 pm

        I’ve been ‘facebook deactivated’ for almost 8 months. I L-O-V-E it. I re-activate for about 30 minutes every few months to check in on the folks I care about. Other than that, its kinda fun to stay in touch the old fashioned way. I’m not saying I’ll never go back, but I got to a point where I didn’t like how it made me feel. I recommend giving it a whirl. xxoo

  7. jen
    February 28, 2012 10:00 am

    The Daily Muse (blog) just posted about not comparing yourself to others last week. It’s so hard – especially in this day of Facebook, glamorous bloggers, etc. The online world is never “behind the scenes”.

    I also find that a good way to become that beautiful person is to surround yourself with people that inspire you to be better. Before we moved last summer, I had a close friend that was constantly negative and just downright bitchy. Never really had nice things to say about other people. As a result I would leave her house feeling toxic and mean. When we moved, I used that opportunity to stop seeing her/talking to her. I made a new friend here that is always positive. ALWAYS. My attitude towards nearly everything has improved and I find myself more willing to help others and be a better person.

    Good luck with your resolution! anything worth doing takes effort and i think you’ll start to see rewards for yourself. :)

    • Janet
      February 28, 2012 10:11 am

      Thank you for this, Jen! That is such a good point. Over the last few months I’ve really only been able to spend time with people who are “soothing” — as my therapist says :) — and I’ve just had to shut myself off from anyone else. I felt like I did it out of survival, but maybe it will carry over even as time goes on.

      Spend time with positive people. Maybe we should write up these collected tips somewhere. (Oh, like, on our blogs! ha)

  8. Liz
    February 28, 2012 10:17 am

    Oh man, Facebook. I think this quote sums it up best:

    http://pinterest.com/pin/48202658481594899/

  9. redpenmamapgh
    February 28, 2012 11:32 am

    I, too, really like that “beautiful people” quote. It reminds me of the idea that you can’t have success without failure. Sometimes when bad things happen to good people, they actually become bad (embittered, ugly on the inside) people. And sometimes they do become beautiful, mascara or no.

  10. jen
    February 28, 2012 11:59 am

    So I was going through some of my untitled documents on my computer just now trying to find a recipe for a friend and I stumbled on this that I saved in June 2010 right after my miscarriage. I have no idea where I found it or who to contribute it to, but I knew I had to come back and post it for you.

    “Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    It is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy.”

  11. K
    February 28, 2012 2:08 pm

    I’m not sure why grief makes us/me feel so ugly. Is it because it’s so brutal and harsh and unwanted? Something else entirely? I don’t know. But I do know that even having healed somewhat, the scars–they are there–and I’m still not used to them.

  12. Chocolate Bear
    February 28, 2012 3:08 pm

    Very very tough stuff, my friend. Dig on this to slow your mind down:

    And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
    Finds tongues in trees, and books in brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in everything
    -Billy Shakes

    Just know that facebook is the side of people they want to share, not what is really going on in their lives. Also, as terrible as things get, the world still has some magic in it, you just have to remember to look. The human “soul” is amazing in so many respects, especially in how much it can take…and how much it can love. So, breathe…give that sexy hubby of yours a hug…and appreciate something beautiful (sunset, wine, kisses, cats, shoes, etc). Sending you good vibes!

    • Janet
      February 29, 2012 12:08 pm

      CB – thank you for such a sweet comment. That sexy hubby of mine and I are headed off to Costa Rica in a couple of months for just what you described. :)

  13. doahleigh
    February 28, 2012 6:28 pm

    Having just written a whole post about how facebook has made my miscarriage experience difficult, I was most struck by that part of your post. My friend and I were just talking about how people create these fairy tale lives on facebook. They post a picture of the flowers their husband sent them, but leave out that it was because he verbally abused her all week.

    That’s an extreme example, but I think facebook does make it easy for us to think everyone is living an enchanted life when in reality we all have our struggles.

    • Janet
      February 29, 2012 12:10 pm

      The “Hide” button is a magical tool!

      It’s funny though — I’m an open book here on my blog, but I say a whole lot less on facebook. It’s just a totally different audience/purpose for me I guess.

  14. Carly
    February 28, 2012 6:44 pm

    Absolutely love this post, Janet. And you may still feel ugly on the inside, believe me I know b/c I remember being there too, but you are an inspiration to everyone that knows you. I feel lucky to have you as my friend. We share the good and the bad and don’t judge. I just wanted you to know that no matter how ugly you feel you are always beautiful to me.

  15. Alissa
    February 29, 2012 1:11 am

    I really love that last quote. I posted it on FB because I need to remind myself that life isn’t perfect for everyone else but me…even though people like to make it look that way.

    • Janet
      February 29, 2012 12:13 pm

      Alissa you are one of the best writers I know for “keeping it real” and I think it gives the rest of us courage to do the same. It was because of you that I shared photos of Miller here.

  16. Jane
    February 29, 2012 8:26 am

    Depression totally sucks. And the worst is when you can’t be happy for your friends and you know you should be. Every time I think about those times in my life, I’m reminded of the good friends and family I have, who are still my friends because I think I was not so nice…

    Great post, great insight. I think you are doing all the right things for you right now (at least according to your blog)

  17. lauraldawn
    February 29, 2012 8:44 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for so long, and I never comment.
    But, I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.
    I just wanted you to know I’ve been through something similar to what you are going through (I didn’t blog about it), and it all sucks.
    I have suffered through depression, and for me, it’s always sort of there, but sometimes it’s hiding and I feel good.
    No matter where I’m at, good or bad, there’s one thing I always say “right now you are exactly where you are supposed to be.”
    It doesn’t make everything okay. And it doesn’t give me permission to dwell. But, it lets me know it’s okay to be in those feelings.
    Thinking of you (and for very different reasons kind of on the same page today)

    • Janet
      February 29, 2012 12:15 pm

      Laural! I remember you! Are you not blogging anymore. I am sorry for your loss. I hope for brighter days ahead for you (but email me if you ever want to chat :) ).

  18. Angela Noelle
    February 29, 2012 4:02 pm

    Janet, thank you so much for sharing these excerpts–especially that first one. I really needed to read that today. And maybe every morning before I get out of bed!

  19. Alison
    February 29, 2012 11:07 pm

    You have always been a wise owl. For example think of the wisdom you’ve imparted to the next generation by calling out “in the old west you would be shot for touching your cards before I’m finished dealing!” Bwahahaha, but seriously, you’ve always been a truly wise woman and I know this experience will deepen that in every way. (And also seriously, I heard you say that to a kid you were babysitting once and it still cracks me up.)

    You know what people put on Facebook that I sure wish they would keep to themselves, stuff about puking. I have been known to start down the road to an anxiety attack on that basis alone. (This is why I am in therapy too!) :)

  20. Nic
    March 1, 2012 9:10 pm

    I keep thinking about FB and this post. I’ve really struggled over the seeming fairytales on FB. It can be so hard. I like that I can keep up with my friends and see pictures, but more often than not, it feels like I’m reading my alumni magazine of everyone’s awesome accomplishments and life events, and well, I’m not listed. Again.

    I know I shouldn’t compare my inner struggles to others’ outward displays as they’re vastly different things. But I do. I shouldn’t keep score and think that people who are married, own a home and have kids are at 3 and I’m at 0. But I do. I shouldn’t feel bad about it. My life is my life and it’s fine, all of that stuff will come (I hope and pray). I wish I were able to feel peace and contentment about it in the meantime.

  21. Emily
    March 3, 2012 7:56 pm

    Beautiful people do not just happen. I AGREE wholeheartedly. The most beautiful family I have ever known suffered the terrible loss of two of their children. I was their nanny. They are still the most amazing and admirable people I know.

    I post way more on my blog than Facebook for that same reason, and have never linked FB to my blog. I haven’t found the balance of sharing on there so I lean toward the neutral or minimal. And anytime something makes me uncomfortable on there I “hide” people. Even dear friends from real life whose online voice is bothersome. It made it way, way better. You will always find out the important stuff anyway.