“I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.”
Bill Watterson, the author of Calvin and Hobbes, wrote that.
It suddenly occurred to me, after a few weeks of feeling like everyone is deliberately trying to ruin my life, that I might (just might) be a little low on light. The winter really gets to me. I begin the winter knowing this and attempt to do things to keep the tide from overtaking my picnic. But then it does. And every February feels like the longest month, the bleakest time, sand in my sandwiches.
And what also occurred to me, in an instant as I was bending down to load the dishwasher, was that I have been savoring my bad mood. I’ve been feeding my meanness and negativity and sabotaging my own efforts to improve. This happens. I start the winter empowered to affect change and not be taken down. But then the serotonin drops off and I begin to think that everything really is that bad and the only way to change things is to sell the house, force the children to age quickly, divorce and/or kill my husband, begin a PhD, go to art school, run away to New Mexico and/or Portland, Oregon or become a screenwriter. All totally feasible options. And all clearly would solve the problem.
I don’t want to acknowledge the secret. (The problem is me.)
Stupid shit. Life shit. Me shit. Fucking darkness shit. Stupid fucking low house sales shit. Stupid spacetime shit. Fucking snow. Fucking stupid rainy sleet on my face winter shit.
And this coming from the woman who spent a month in Mexico this winter. Holy Jesus spoiled brat shit.
Life is certainly not what you expect. Marriage takes real work. You can’t kill them. They can’t kill you. You have to figure out how to live together and take care of the people you made and pay the bills and get the work hours in and move forward in your life and remember trash day and somewhere in there fit in some sex (preferably every day, say some).
And these early years are long. And there is a lot of fecal matter. And crying. And fighting.
It’s hard to sort out what you really want, what really matters, from all the things you think you want, all the things you think will make you feel better. I do want to make changes and find a career I love and fill my life with passion. But is that what I’m doing now? Or am I seeking immediate gratification?
At the core is this restless craving for satisfaction and greatness and esteem from others and attractiveness - it’s all the problem. Here is your life, that you made, that came to you by fate (or divinity). It is complex and not without confusion. The person you married is different than you (extremely so). Your house is colder than you like. You bruise more than you expected. You get two babies at one time. You moved too far from your sister. Many of your best friends live too far away too. Time doesn’t stop. Fat is hard to lose once on the body. The earth tilts away from the sun. Children fight with their siblings. People get sick (sometimes fighting for their lives). You didn’t go to grad school earlier in life. All these things are just true.
“Reality continues to ruin my life.” (also Bill Watterson)
There’s nothing I can do to smooth out reality. It is bumpy and jarring and startlingly beautiful and radiant and grimy.
So, what am I going to do about it?
It’s hard to resist the urge to want everyone and everything to change. It’s so much easier to distract ourselves from what we really need to do to be here in this life. For me it’s wasting time on my phone, leaving the dinner table (full of crying and fighting) to go do the dishes, blasting loud music, eating candy, making phone calls, volunteering to help with everything, television, books and checking Facebook.
Bill Watterson also said, “I’m killing time while I wait for life to shower me with meaning and happiness.”
We have to be deliberate about our joy. Nietzsche used the Latin term Amor fati which means “love of fate.” It’s having an attitude not just of accepting what comes but of truly loving it.
He said, “I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. and all in all and on the whole: someday i wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”
Lately, as those negative thoughts have been playing on repeat, I keep thinking of all those neurons firing in my brain. They’ve got that pathway down. They know that circuit of thought. I’m doing a good job of making anger my default.
Can I switch it off? Can I let it go? Can I stop and take snapshots of reality and see the freaking forest instead of all the horrible trees?
Yes. But I have to actually do it.
I have to say Yes.