Thursday, November 27, 2014

You'll thank me later


You know that sound of a needle being ripped across a record on a turntable? Yeah, that one. How is it that anyone under the age of 35 knows what that sound really signifies? Sure, it’s still used in countless hip-hop mixes and radio commercials, but vinyl was about five or six technologies ago. Same thing with using “d-bag” as an insult. Whenever I hear some kid call another “d-bag,” I totally want to stop them and say, dude, do you even know what a d-bag is? I mean, if you think about it, a d-bag is really no more disgusting than, say, dental floss, though I doubt there was ever a commercial where a mother and daughter sat in a rowboat discussing whether they floss or not. And if you understood that one, you’ve probably heard the needle-across-vinyl-on-turntable sound live.

Why am I bringing all this stuff up on Thanksgiving? Wait for it; it’s coming.

I thought about doing a standard “things I am thankful for” post today. It wouldn’t be hard for me to do this, and it wouldn’t be hard for me to be sincere about it. I am thankful for a lot of things. They are mostly the same things on everyone else’s thankful list: good health, good people, a good life. But those words, while sincere and heartfelt, don’t have quite the impact I feel they should, because Thanksgiving has particular and peculiar significance to me that goes beyond turkey and trimmings. See, three years ago on the day before Thanksgiving, I still had a lot to be thankful for, and I knew it, but I didn’t feel it, I didn’t feel anything but terrible, so I tried to end the terrible once and for all.

Cue screeching needle-on-vinyl sound.

Yeah, I know, this is not the most uplifting thing to be talking about on a fun, food-centered holiday when I ought to be salivating over the many tasty forms of carbs to be had. But it happened—or, I should say, it didn’t happen, though not for lack of trying. I lived to see that Thanksgiving and to figure out how the hell I was going to get through my life from that point on.

You can tell a person to be thankful all you want, and sometimes it works, but much of the time—all of the time for certain people like I was then—all it does is make things worse. To be told how much you have to be thankful for, and then to be nudged, scolded, or cajoled for not seeing this, only compounds the problem; now you realize you’re unhappy and an ungrateful d-bag. The truth is, I did see it. I knew I was lucky. I also knew that despite my massive privileges and advantages in life, I somehow couldn’t make any of it do any good, to me or anyone else.

So how did I get out of all that? Here’s the funny thing: by doing exactly the thing everyone tells you to do—count my blessings, feel grateful, be thankful—only no one was forcing me to do it but me. It is possible, at least a little, and sometimes a lot, to will yourself to keep going.

I say this to anyone who happens to be reading and is feeling a little less than thankful, though you hide it behind a seemingly-grateful smile and apparently-thankful words. There’s nothing like forced merriment to make a person feel like absolute crap, but listen, you alone have the power to de-crapify yourself. It’s corny and hokey and doesn’t at all sound like it’s going to work, but it does, or at least it can. How you do it is you’re honest: you say, yeah, I feel like shit. You ask, why do I feel like shit? You say, there are reasons. You admit, there are always reasons, you can always find a reason why you feel lousy; it could be that you’re alone yet again on another major holiday or it could be global climate change. You say, but look, there are also reasons to not feel lousy. It’s not that the one category always outweighs the other; it’s that you acknowledge both but focus on one, and in this case it needs to be the one that will get you through this. You’re not in denial. You’re not pretending everything’s going to be all right. You’re saying, I feel bad. You’re saying, there are things that are good in my life. You’re saying, one may not cancel out the other, but neither should be discounted. I can only see what’s bad right now. I’m going to look at what else there is.

Good health. Good people. A good life. That means something.