“How can I say it?
The way to “get over” a life is to die.”
from The Cure by Albert Huffstickler
I recently heard this poem and this line stuck out for me. “The way to get over a life is to die”. While that initially sounds incredibly depressing it is true. The only way we’re getting out of this existence is death. And please, before I go any further, if you are reading this and feeling suicidal please stop and call 1-800-273-8255 or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Your life matters so please get help.
Whether you are a mom feeling the pressure of every day or you are a man feeling pressure to provide for your family and everything else in between; we struggle daily to “do it all and do it with a smile”. While I’ve explained the pitfalls I’ve experienced with the do it all mentality before and how it’s just not possible, today I want to focus on the do it with a smile portion of this perfection disease we’re coping with.
Life is not all sunshine and roses, it’s not all rainbows and kittens. It can down right suck on occasion for big and small reasons. In 2012 my father was diagnosed with what basically amounts to stage IV lung cancer (small cell lung carcinoma) and passed away in about 6 months from diagnosis. He passed right at the beginning of the school year, the first week of school to be exact, so if you can imagine a worse time for it as a school teacher you let me know. Not that there would have been a “good” time for my father to die it just meant I started off the year feeling way more out of sync and behind than ever before. And it just sucked. Now, luckily, I have a wonderful group of coworkers who supported me through that time and made my coming back to work behind the eight ball easier than it could be had I been doing it alone but it still made life difficult. And then since I’m a science teacher, I also had to TEACH about cancer.
And people will inevitably ask you “how you’re feeling” and then they get a look of shock when you say “crappy”. We’re not used to people saying that to us when we ask them how they’re feeling. The canned and polite responses in American culture seem to be “fine” or “great” or the potentially sarcastic “living the dream” so when you answer with anything other than those it takes people off guard and they’re really not sure how to react to you.
We have become a people of smiles. As a culture it seems we’ve forgotten anything other than happy even exists: if you’re not happy there is something wrong with you so you need help. Now, there are levels of unhappy and I am a huge supporter of therapy and medication if you need it but we are supposed to experience unpleasant things once and a while.
People feel fear or pain for a variety of reasons. These emotional or physical cues would not exist if they didn’t provide us with some important message, the problem is we’re afraid to figure out what that message is so we want to drown it out with the happy. If you break your leg, which I imagine is VERY painful, what is that pain telling you? Don’t walk on your damn leg! But if you take a lot of painkillers because you’re just going to “suck it up buttercup” what happens? You can do more damage to the leg and potentially cause it to be permanently damaged.
Physical pain, like the leg, and emotional pain are much the same but we prefer to not feel them. We’d rather drown it or hide it until we can’t anymore instead of looking at it and realizing what the pain is trying to tell us.
Negative feelings are important because they warn us that someone may be hurting us, that a situation may be toxic for us but we just want to squash those feelings down and just plaster the smile on our face and be “fine”. We need to stop being “fine”. We need to understand that to be alive there is a full range of emotions and they are all important for us to truly be a part of this life experience but they aren’t always pleasant. The only way out is death so we might as well “suck it up buttercup” and realize that we’re not always going to be happy and we’re not always going to be okay AND THAT IS ALSO OKAY! There is no reason to look like a deer in headlights, stutter and find something else to do when someone comes to you with uncomfortable feelings. We need the negative to appreciate the positive but we’re so afraid to feel the negative that we feel the need to “Pollyanna” our way out of anything negative.
“Stars can’t shine without the dark” that’s what we put on our brick at the labyrinth meditation space at our church because it’s so true. We do not need to be happy 24/7/365. It’s unrealistic at best and dangerous at the worst. I would also posit that by not pretending to be happy all the time we actually have a richer experience in life. This life is an amazing thing if you’re not too afraid to live it.