In Defense of Self-Pity

If there was ever a day to pity yourself, that day would be Monday.

The weekend is gone. Your inbox is full. And there isn’t enough coffee in the world to wake you up from the general grogginess of the day. I think the scientific community calls it a “funk.” (Although not the uptown variety.)

Today, I felt a “funk” coming on, and it took me by surprise. It was marked by a vague disinterest in society and an increased frustration over the world’s shortcomings. Without really meaning to, I felt myself slip down into the shallows of my own misery and, appropriately, wallow.

Which is approximately the time that I stepped into my car to go home. Feeling no less melancholy, I popped in one of my mix tapes. This particular gem was called, “When You Get Down.” There, I rationalized, I’ll listen to this CD on the ride home, and I will sing a few ballads, and I will feel better. Actually, I will NOT let myself out of this car until I do. 

So, I did. I belted out “Creep” by Radiohead. I crooned “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And then I topped it all off with “All These Things I’ve Done” by the Killers to seal in all of those self-pitying juices. And finally, somewhere between the bridge and a few traffic lights, I was able to leave those weird, funky feelings behind. (I hope they don’t leave a residual stain on the seats.)

And it felt good. Which is strange because almost every single self-help book and graduation commencement speaker tells you that you should never feel sorry for yourself. There are so many people who have it so much worse than you, and you should be thankful, and you need to get up and fight for your right to party, etc.

But what about the times that I slip up, and there is no use trying to “CareBear” myself out of it? I can’t optimistically tell myself that everything will be fine when it feels far from it. The truth is, I can only pull up my bootstraps when I’m low enough to the ground to be able to reach them.

My point is simply this: even if you pretend there is not a landfill at the edge of your property, it doesn’t change the fact that it is there. The smell. The flies. The mountain piled high with other people’s trash. It’s all right there. So, you might as well acknowledge it. You might as well point out the fact that the landfill at the edge of your property mirrors your own emotional run-off that occurs when you choose to ignore your problems with cliches, phony whistling, and half-hearted attempts at finding the silver lining. At least, if you acknowledge its existence, you can do something about it.

So, for me, I don’t mind a few moments of wallowing in self-pity. As long as you don’t drown yourself and as long as you towel yourself off when you are done, why not be immersed in the problems you face? Isn’t that the best way to solve them, to be one with them?

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