The Exquisite Joy of Being Miserable

So I’m listening to Garbage’s Only Happy When It Rains, mindlessly singing along with Shirley Manson. Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me.

I’m sure the song is mocking those Eeyores among us, the Debbie Downers, the ones who feel so good when they “feel so sad.” I mean, haven’t we known those types? The ones who excitedly call us up to tell us about the pitfalls of their newest romance, or are the first to post some sort of horrible national news on Facebook, the people at a party who leave us looking around frantically for an escape.  My only comfort is the night gone black .

Of course, the song couldn’t be talking about me, right?

I mean, yeah, I’m a Gen Xer, so my whole generation takes pride in being cynical, dark. No Pollyanna idealistic Boomers here, no sirree. The first we knew of politics was hearing the grownups talking about Watergate. We grew up hearing dire predictions about the environment, about how we would be the first generation less successful than our parents, we were latchkey kids of divorce.  I‘m only happy when it’s complicated …

But me? No, I’m hopeful. Optimistic.

Except for when I’m not.

I’m riding high upon a deep depression …

That’s the thing of it, isn’t it? That no one talks about. There is pleasure in being miserable. Feeling sorry for ourselves. I don’t mean a serious depression, from which you can’t seem to extricate yourself. No, I’m talking about those run-of-the-mill blues, ennui, moodiness. Remember the child’s rhyme? Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat worms … Sometimes, we just have to wallow in our unhappiness, relishing the exquisite joy of being miserable.

When we can do that, when we can be honest, we are claiming our choice in the whole matter. Buddhists say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Our society talks disparagingly about pity parties, but I think we all need one every once in a while. Like with all good parties, we need good food, good drink, good entertainment. Bring on the comfort food, the milkshakes, the sappy movies to cry over, whether it’s Steel Magnolias or Field of Dreams.

Ecclesiastes says to everything there is a season, and after the pity party, it’s time to clean up. Wash the dishes, dry the tears, change the soundtrack.

Misery can feel good, but happiness feels better.



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