Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"You've got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight"

-"Lovers in a Dangerous World", Bruce Cockburn

Recently, I've been reflecting on some social dynamics that I've come across and have been working to articulate my thoughts on them upon having made some solid decisions. After being repeatedly called a 'Nazi' for explaining a point of view or personal history and for, later, trying to make people feel better; hearing or reading, yet again, how much Person X or Y or Z hates happy people today; or people who get angry because I won't adhere to their personal agenda of who should get what kind of attention from me (seriously, wtf?), I find myself entirely put off. It's less a feeling of alienation than a clear indication that I've got better places to expend energy.

Because I'll be damned if I'm going to defend or relinquish my hold on happy. A hold, which, granted, may come more naturally to me, but in no ways means that I don't work my ass off for it. Sometimes with a conscious effort for damned near every minute for days that seem endless. I make sacrifices, painful choices, take risks, gamble and lose, get bruised, shake my fist at the sky and sometimes go to bed too exhausted to figure out why the fuck I keep getting up and doing it all over again. All in the name of happiness. On having one hopeful shot at getting it right or getting the least amount of it wrong. And that's the thing: I'm going to get a hell of a lot of it wrong. Of this, there is no doubt. Sometimes with spectacular results. It's a universal truth: YOU WILL FUCK SHIT UP. In light of that, the last thing I'm going to do is sit around with a bunch of chumps who would rather pull those around them down than stand up and forge on. Life, on its own does a good enough job of that, even on the most personal level: cancer; blowing your knee out; the loved one who, inexplicably, doesn't wake up one day. That doesn't even touch on the full range of experience from paper cuts to centuries of bloody warfare, torture and famine. Are we so arrogant as to think we can improve on this model? Better yet, why would we want to?

In a sense as much as people want to call me a PollyAnna and dismiss me for that, what I think they don't see is the practicality of being positive, to say nothing of the work it takes. It doesn't mean that you love everything all of the time, and God knows, I can barely stand the sound of my own voice by the end of Saturday night, but it does mean that you know that there's a space that's created amongst friends and loved ones where you get to leave the ills of life and the world on the doorstep - even when those ills may involve one another. Where the gloves don't come off at the first sign of vulnerability and where no one is in danger of being kicked in the teeth. And where truths are shared without an agenda of one-upmanship or sycophantic ego massage in rote expectation for the same bland, kid glove treatment.

I'm also not saying that there is no place for exploring and embracing one's grief, sense of loss, despair, frustration, anger, pain or sadness. However, what I'm drawn to are solutions. 'Lancing the boil' and working through the painful and ugly and disheartening, not to mention wailing and railing atthe horror and injustice of it all is a part of working toward a solution. Then there's growth and forward momentum. Change and learning and process and improvement.

I will gladly hold you, physically or figuratively, when you cry. I will sit in silence with you when need someone who can be a source of calm and comfort. Please understand, however, all of these are active states. I will offer my hand, but I need you to reach forward and take it. I will walk beside you every step of the way, but you've got to stand up and start the journey. I will not coddle and I will not carry. When crying and resting becomes wallowing; when getting up means running back to retrace the same steps, ad nauseum, that caused you the hardship or heartache in the first place; to do these things and ask that I show my support by standing by either watching silently or cheering you down the same dark road is to make me complicit in something that makes me profoundly uncomfortable. It is then that I begin to wonder if I'm not merely a captive audience of sorts for today's/this week's/month's installment of drama-porn and discomfort becomes sadness and not a little sickness at heart.

Here is where distance usually begins, because the above combinations where I am asked to show my love and support by unconditionally advocating another's actions or must be less of who I am in order to validate another's sense of discontent or risk some kind of punishment or ostracization is the kind of slippery slope that offers absolutely nothing to anyone. Least of all safety, trust or security; three things of which there is already far too little of in this world and these are the things that I need more than anything. These are things that shine in my heart, come dizzy giddiness or deep despair. These are the things that I'll fight for because these are the things that bring me the kind of happiness that I just can't do on my own and that kind of happiness is truly a wonderful thing.

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