Self-pity is horrible.
Express it to your closest friends and they'll highlight your privileges. You have money, you have love, you have family, you have health, you have freedom. And it won't help.
In fact, you'll rant about "why bad things happen to good people" and "it wasn't supposed to be like this", because you feel entitled to your privileges. Your struggles are undeserved, but are your privileges too?
Let me take you through pity and then blow it all away with gratitude.
My 2yo was having a seizure. We're on our way to the ER, but my wife is on another continent altogether. But my heart is overflowing with gratitude, because everyone who is with me is moving together as if we were all one. One is a doctor, the other is on break from her undergrad, my uncle is there for the weekend and the hospital is less than a mile away. A day later by my plans, this would be a very different story, I'd be in car a hundred miles away from home in a taxi with just my mom and in semi-urban highways. There's no good day for it to happen, but right now I'm part of a support structure which I had no part in building.
My kid had dengue, the platlets were dangerously low and just lying on one shoulder would leave a welt from the blood vessels hemorrhaging. No part of it was going to be good, things could have gone terribly wrong and if it did, I would still feel exactly as grateful but it wouldn't have stuck with me as a life changing experience.
The next 24 hours were spent taking turns in the ICU. I slept for 4 hours and worried more about calling my wife about it rather than the kid. I felt like I had fallen off a high wire into a net and all I had to do was wait for it to stop bouncing. In fact, the kid bounced back faster than I did - playing Khan Academy Kids on the iPad with her aunts in the ICU with the nurses tolerating it barely. ICU stay was precautionary, so the next six days go by in a private room.
The real reason I felt immense gratitude was because of how my kid came out of it. Every injection, every IV, every blood test was a struggle, almost torture, but the return to normalcy after each event was almost immediate - why waste time crying when you can do something more fun. A belief that "it's going to be fine" and their trust that whoever is around will take care of them is contagious.
The pain is real, but the suffering was only to those who looked into the future or the past. To exist right now, without carrying the trauma of the last needle or the anxiety about tomorrow's needle.
And I felt grateful beyond words on how that was possible, in a circumstance that none of us would have wanted. The gaping trap of "I don't need this" opened and was filled over before I could turn it into self pity. And the gratitude was about the immense privilege of resources I had in that situation, which was a temporary but timely thing. People, money, transportation, 24x7 medical care, the fact that I had the freedom to do this and nothing else.
There's not a single thing I can do to repay the efforts of others, except to be like them in my heart.
Sure, disappointments will eat away at it. But I'll never feel the same way when I struggle. Because I sit atop a mountain of privileges, none that I was entitled to. And maybe I should work on being more deserving of all things I've already received.
Nothing taken for granted, but the gratitude of others.--
Blessed are those that can give without remembering and take without forgetting.
posted at: 18:02 | path: /philosophy | permalink |