The letter from the despondent man to Salon.com’s “Since You Asked” columnist Cary Tennis went like this:
I am very aware that I’m supposed to feel gratitude. I live in a nice house, not on the street; I’m healthy, not struggling with chronic or terminal illness; my kids are all right, not bums or sociopaths. But I don’t feel gratitude — I feel massive, near-universal disappointment. We had to move out of the “good” neighborhood where we’d been for decades because we could no longer afford it, and nothing of the life I thought I’d have — a stimulating, rewarding partnership with someone equally involved with out children; opportunities for travel; a secure, comfortable income — has or will ever be realized. Everything about my life, from my miserable, insecure, occasionally abusive childhood to my and my spouse’s failed careers; my mean, petty, rejecting in-laws; to the fact that I’ve never been anywhere and there’s never any money to go, is a complete disappointment. I know that no middle-class American should say this, but I feel seriously deprived. And I’m supposed to feel grateful. I’m a good listener for my friends, but they don’t like it when I refer to my miserable childhood or talk about resenting my mother, and they don’t like it when I talk about not having money, either.
And the response from Cary Tennis went like this:
. . . giving yourself instructions for how you’re supposed to feel is not helpful.
What is helpful is to assess just exactly how badly you feel. With accurate information, you can reassess the situation. Statements like, ” . . . nothing of the life I thought I’d have has . . . or will ever be realized” and “Everything about my life . . . is a complete disappointment” make it hard to gauge exactly what happened and how badly you feel about it . . .
You may say, What choice did we have? Well, even if your alternatives were to get rid of your kids, or stop eating, you did make a choice. Even bizarre choices are choices. Reasonable choices are choices. We can choose to act irrationally. We can stop eating to save money. We don’t, because we retain a good bit of rationality.
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People say, Oh you should be grateful. They say, Oh it’s time for you to move on. I’m like, What are you, a cop with a nightstick? I’ll move on when I’m done playing the blues on my harmonica, thank you very much.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.