Have you ever encountered the following scenario?
Person 1: Wow, I am having a tough day today.
Person 2: Ha! You want to hear about a rough day?! Great Aunt Gwendolyn was diagnosed with black hairy tongue last Tuesday. This after she lost her little toe to gangrene last month! To make matters worse, her poodle, Sprinkles, had an anxiety attack last night! You should count your blessings!
Person 1: …
This is so common. Count your blessings even though you are miserable. Consider yourself lucky that you even have a job in this economy. At least you can walk.
Consider yourself lucky to have something to be unhappy about.
What does this mean? Haven’t we always been told not to compare ourselves to others? Don’t try to be that skinny or that rich or that successful, and certainly don’t feel bad about yourself for living an average and mediocre life. That’s the positive side of it. Judge you by you. I get that. But the underside is something more nefarious – the elevating of ourselves by being thankful that we don’t share in others’ misfortunes.
Guess what? Thinking about all of the kids and moms and dads who go to bed hungry every night and who aren’t making it in this economy doesn’t inspire me to count my blessings. Thinking about the people who send out resume after resume and are wondering if they should just end it all to make it stop? They break my heart. I think about it often. I am a poet. The suffering of the masses does not escape my notice, I assure you.
But because others suffer, am I not allowed to aspire to more? I already count my blessings. I don’t take the wonderful parts of my life for granted. But should I really consider myself “lucky” to be unhappy because somewhere out there, someone is unhappier than me?
That has always been true, and I think I have known since I was aged somewhere in the single digits that there was oppression and hunger and abuse and neglect and killing and torture and suffering and death in this world. And never, not one time, has that ever given me any cause to feel lucky. I always knew how good I had it, but that’s because I understood the trajectory of my life and where it could have gone horrible wrong (or ceased to exist), I was indeed happy to be alive.
Comparative misery is a myth.
Each person lives in their own small universe, and it is impossible to compare across universes. I could never comprehend the struggles of, say, a crack whore. Neither could I grasp what might send a princess into the depths of despair. Because it’s not about what makes other people miserable or happy. It’s about what makes ME miserable or happy. The feelings we feel inside our respective lives are valid. We are allowed to feel disappointed in what life has to offer right now – even when the unemployment rate is eleventy billion percent.
I am struggling right now, and everywhere I turn, the universe is responding with a resounding, “You’re lucky to be getting crumbs. How dare you expect an entire piece?”
As long as people in this world are still thinking new and creative thoughts, selling their art for money, writing books and poems and films, and making new music for the world to enjoy, I will never be content (or feel lucky) to toil away at anything less. And it’s nobody’s right to tell me I should be.
Imagine a person choking on a few crumbs (let’s imagine, just for fun, that they happen to be crumbs of mediocrity). What would you do? Would you walk up to that person and say, “You’re lucky that you have those two crumbs to choke on. Do you know how many people are starving in this world? You should count your blessings.”
No, you wouldn’t.