|From the sculpture gallery at Chatsworth|
Many bloggers (who I greatly admire) have explained that their blog is a space for counting blessings, for appreciating simple pleasures, for capturing moments of beauty. I completely understand that; this is our chance to show our best side. Many of us prefer to sing a hymn to happiness; most of us prefer to hear that song. But I would just like to say that maybe there is also a need for a hint of disquiet. Just occasionally, a murmur of pain or a streak of ugliness would not go amiss.
I know that I should know better, but sometimes a beautiful blog will make me feel that there are those amongst us who live perfect lives. I don’t mind (well, not too much) that other people’s lives are more aesthetically pleasing and creatively engaged, but what really causes a pang is when other people’s lives seem happier. I know, realistically, that there must be a shadow side to every beautifully lit image, but it is so easy to be beguiled.
A couple of weeks ago, I received the sad news that an old schoolmate had died. Actually, he committed suicide. When I read the obituary, it described a life that seemed perfect in every conceivable way: Happy marriage; healthy children; successful business; great friends; loads of fulfilling hobbies. Perhaps that was all true, but it read like a big whitewash of what was probably a normal human life that had become unendurable for some reason.
I hadn’t seen this man in years, but his death has haunted me. Was he the sort of person who always had to tell you how GREAT everything was? Was he afraid to fail, to be frail?
Last year I read Barbara Ehrenreich's Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World , and I remember thinking that always looking on the bright side can be so downright tyrannical. Surely sadness and struggle are as much a part of life as the brighter, lighter side of the spectrum. A positive attitude won't necessarily cure cancer, calm a surly teenager or lead to a good job offer in a bad economy. What a comfort it is to say, "I feel low; I'm angry and sad," and have someone reply that they feel that way, too, sometimes.
I think that there can be an incredible pressure on women, especially, to focus on the positive, and eliminate the negative. I often feel like a cross between cheerleader and peacekeeper, always ready with the pep talk or soothing word – whichever is required. I know that many women feel this way. If I really want to tell the truth and let it all hang out (emotionally speaking), then I have to find a female friend. As I mentioned in my last blog, I’m feeling a bit drained of buoyant spirits right now. Thank you for your supportive comments; they helped.