I don’t know how many people have this problem but sometimes I think I need to get better at allowing myself to be unhappy.
I find it very difficult to admit that I am unhappy to other people. It feels like failing. In my case, this seems entirely self-inflicted: I don’t come from a showroom family. I have friends whose parents are insulted if they don’t try to look their best and smile at the dinner table but my family are perfectly happy for me to walk around the house with my hair un-brushed, scowling and still in my pyjamas at 2pm. So my family background isn’t the problem. If you were expecting me to rehash the pushy-parents-leads-to-insane-perfectionism narrative, I am afraid I will disappoint you.
Why then, do I find it difficult to admit I’m unhappy, even to myself? I guess because it feels like a waste. I hate wasted time and unhappy days feel like wasted life. I am lucky in that, most of the time, I genuinely believe that the world is beautiful, exciting and has a lot to offer me. Unhappy days spent feeling sorry for myself seem like a waste. Time in which I am not sampling experiences in my very limited time on Earth.
Despite the amount of black I wear, I am generally a pretty cheerful person. I guess in this way I am extroverted – when I’m unhappy I don’t find going to social events are struggle, they’re a welcome escape. The day after I got back from watching my beloved Grandma die I went to my office Christmas party. The drinking started at 10.30am (I know) and I stayed out until the small hours. Far from being subdued I drank, chatted, ate, flirted, partied my little heart out and I still think that was honestly the bet thing for me. Perhaps this way of coping a performance but it is genuine in that it does lift my spirits for a while. What isn’t a performance in modern society anyway, a la Butler.
And I will defend this as a way of coping, at least in the short term. I know myself and I know that launching into a detailed recount of my troubles every time an acquaintance says, ‘How are you?’ will not help me much, even if it is more honest. My coping strategy has the advantage of making other people around me happy, which is one of my greatest pleasures in life, and also has the selfish benefit of people telling me how charming I am. Drinking, chatting, eating, flirting, partying are not only an escape, they provide genuine good memories to counter whatever is causing the unhappiness in the first place.
But I think sometimes, I go too far. Forgetting about my problems by going out is one thing but a long standing pattern of a sense of failure associated with negative thoughts is quite another. It leads to a circle: I see my unhappiness as a flaw, so I feel guilty, which leads to more unhappiness. I then suppress that, which, left undealt with, surfaces in petty and unattractive temper tantrums. You should have seen me when I couldn’t find my glasses before a long journey the other day.
I think it’s fair to say that I do a lot and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I work a lot, play a lot, love a lot and expose myself to difficult situations in all of these areas. Perhaps if I don’t want to burn out by the time I’m 30, I should give myself some down time. Not just in the sense of a few TV days after a deadline but some time in which I allow myself to admit that: hey, things aren’t great. I am not the cheerful, charming, productive person I have the potential to be at the moment. And maybe that’s not the end of the world.
I feel very lame saying this, but I am currently going through a kind of ‘identity crisis’ which is very personal, very confusing and I don’t know what is going to happen. The uncertainty of the situation scares me. There is no rule book, no one who can tell me what the correct thing to do is because no one who can tell me what is right for me. I don’t understand myself what is going on.
But today, whatever this thing is, it hurt. I was plagued by doubts and self-hateful thoughts and even when those subsided I felt lethargic and miserable.
So I am admitting it. Hello friends, family, potential employers googling my name, ghosts of the internet who listen to my music or who have happened upon my blog for any other reason. I expose myself: today I have been unhappy. I have wasted time. My unhappiness has not lead to anything that will solve any of the multiple problems that have lead to it. It is useless, it is pointless. It is a complete and utter waste.
But do you know what? I can forgive myself for that, even if it’s harder to forgive myself for other things. As I reach the end of this post I am finding it easier not to be unhappy about being unhappy.