Suffocated by the Silver Lining

I have claustrophobia- I can’t stand to be in confining places, have blankets over my head, or feel things covering my mouth. Lately I’ve been feeling a little more suffocated, but metaphorically, by this insistence that we look at the silver lining of whatever tough thing we’re facing. There are infographics on social media tell us how to handle tough times, advice from well-intentioned loved ones, and just an overall sense of guilt that makes me feel like it’s wrong to be upset by life’s obstacles.

Remember, there’s someone in the world that wishes they had a home in need of fixing/cleaning.

Remember, there’s an infertile mother that hopes to have a child who makes a mess in her house.

Remember, there are people in poverty who are happy with only a fraction of the income you have.

Remember, even when things are tough you have the health of you and your loved ones.

There are Instagram accounts that showcase families dealing with the deaths of their babies, there are gofundmes dedicated to raising funds to rebuild homes that are lost to fires, and event notifications on Facebook for candlelight vigils honoring people lost in tragic shootings/accidents/cancer.

Someone always has it worse. Always.

And because of that we’re supposed to shut up when non-catastrophic things happen.

I’ve been guilty of this mindset, both in terms of pushing it on myself and others. It’s supposed to provide perspective and encourage gratitude, both incredibly important, useful concepts. It’s a gentle reminder to those who may need it, it’s an urging to take a step back and breathe.

It’s also a total invalidation of people’s emotions. Sure, maybe you make six figures and your car won’t start. So what? You have the means to fix it, right? But maybe you actually don’t, because you’re helping your kid through college and had to spend a quarter of your income the year before on a spouse’s medical deductibles.  Sure, maybe you have three darling kids who are naturally going to be loud and messy, but maybe you suffer from migraines and struggle to make it through the work day. Whatever it may be, there’s often so much going on behind the scenes that others don’t see.

The messaging above, and this sort of obligatory guilt people are made to feel (even it’s self-induced), make it seem as if you can’t feel anything short of thanks if you have things that others are lacking. If you aren’t pausing during every single moment of struggle to recognize that it could be worse, acknowledging that silver living, you might just be a Bad Person.

It’s suffocating. Not being able to acknowledge those feelings and stew in them every single day is absolutely stifling. “Little” things add up and take a tremendous toll over time. 

Sure, there’s a limit and there are boundaries. Someone who stubs her toe shouldn’t lament the pain to their sister with breast cancer. Someone who makes a ton of money should probably not spend a week complaining about how Amazon keeps losing their packages. The list goes on and on;  you do have to be mindful of who, what, and where you vent your emotions about the things in life that go wrong. We call know who the complainers in our lives are, and we don’t want to join that club.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s okay that you feel like trash because of the accumulation of the things that are bothering you in your life.  

I am a product of this silver lining mentality and the last week or two I’ve just been… mad. And anxious. And depressed. Partially, it’s because January is a notoriously gloomy month that just seems so damn blah after the festive holiday season. But there have been things going on in my life, other than the ceiling leak, that I’m tired of finding the silver lining about. I don’t want to wallow indefinitely, as my temperament tends to be more buoyant that mentality. But things got to the point recently where I was just done. I have a hard time completely sharing the true ins and outs of my life with others (I have lots of friends who get pieces; this person knows about this, another person knows about that, etc…), so for me it was just a personal, internal acceptance that I was unhappy. I didn’t force myself to instantly make a list of ways to solve the problems like I normally do, I didn’t distract myself, I just accepted that there are a lot of things going on that could be better.

And worse, I know. I KNOW.

But for a few days I sat with myself and didn’t sugar coat things. It felt honest, it felt acceptable, and it helped. The problems are still there, and so are the feelings, but I’ve validated my own emotions and I feel better right now. In a time where we desperately want quick fixes and for everything to be shiny this was hard, but sometimes you deserve to feel like shit for whatever big or small thing you want to feel like shit for.  

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