Two weeks ago I was in deep anguish about the state of my living room... until I saw a play about the Holocaust. The play, adapted by a local playwright based on a book by a local author based on a true story was gut-wrenching and, as one may suspect, did not end happily. We're so unbelievably lucky, I thought as the curtain fell. Maybe my living room isn't that bad after all!
And then last week I was in deep anguish once again....this time over the state of Valentine's Day. It just wasn't unfolding quite the way I thought it should. Until I went to hear a former Jehovah's Witness talk about recovering from crack in the projects. My Valentine's Day was not so bad after that. And even better when I found out my husband likes to celebrate Valentine's Day a vague number of weeks before and the day AFTER.
The Holocaust, drug addiction and systemic poverty have really brightened my spirits the last couple of weeks! I found myself thinking. Followed quickly by I MUST BE THE WORST HUMAN WHO HAS EVER LIVED.
While I am both grateful and embarrassed by my need for such radical perspective shifts, over the course of our lives I do think we take turns giving them to each other. There have been at least a few occasions when the state of this Jewish love junkie alcoholic's affairs have made someone else grateful as hell for theirs. A friend of mine who teaches mindfulness tells me that when we complain about our high class, first world problems it's like complaining about leaves in the pool. We get so focused on small inconveniences we forget that we have POOLS. Even if they're pools we've rented or borrowed from someone else.
And yet. Sometimes our first world, high class, leaves-in-the-pool problems can trigger very real, very deep, primal pain. In just about every single writing class I teach someone apologizes for the trivial nature of their suffering. I know other people have it worse, they are quick to explain. Yes and no, I think. Because when we are experiencing self loathing, when we feel unloved or unlovable, when we are feeling broken, it can in fact feel like drowning.
Sometimes we berate ourselves for complaining about leaves in our pool when we are way over our heads in the deep end. Sometimes I'm flailing around face first in a shallow puddle. Sometimes the leaves clog the drainage pipes and nothing new can get in or out. Listening to other people's stories and experiences and sharing the truth of my own without judgment can bring about a miraculous shift in perspective. And getting a couple of heart shaped boxes of chocolate the day after Valentine's Day from the man I was about to sell on eBay can too.