I cannot recall the precise day I started planning my pity party. Truly, I don’t think it was a conscious choice.
“I want to feel sorry for myself.” —said no one ever.
Or, “I want to buy a cactus and then choose to sit on it, repeatedly, for enjoyment.” —said no one ever.
But I admit it. I planned it, collecting imaginary decor ideas straight from Pinterest. I’d even gone so far as to creating a private board (you know the ones on Pinterest, where people hide what they really research, but are ashamed to admit…think “51 ways to get rid of your double chin”).
I pinned all of my emotional inspirations on its dark, secret page, labeled “I wanted to be an adult so bad. Now, look at me, just freaking look!” With my dignity on the floor, I had a webpage full of sad sketches of animosity, resentment, isolation…
With its conception (months in the making) complete, I sat down at the head table of my ugly pity party, toasted myself and then completely denied all of it. To everyone.
“Are you okay?”
“Yep, I’m fine.” I’d answer evenly, using the most “I’m not fine” adjective—this is pity party rule number one (also known as passive aggressive syndrome), in case you’re wondering. I’d been ignoring, with a heavy dose of vengeful pride, the truth forming in the small grooves of my tongue. I’d been refusing to admit it out loud, but the lead weight of the truth was rapidly crumbling the frail shoulders of my conscience.
My honesty (self-induced suffering) was growing to fruition, sitting at the gate, ready to cross the threshold of my mouth. It wasn’t necessarily premonition, more acknowledgment that I was going to have to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting with myself. I was on the verge of imploding.
My dignity didn’t want my less than stellar emotions to be formed, molded by my lips into an illustration of sounds. My truth would not be built, cemented as so, by words—you can think it, just don’t speak it.
Spoken words have a certain finality.
But it is also a testament that resentment will break you.
“I have been hating life for a hot minute.” I choked out, half surprised, and even more relieved by own confession. After four months, I’d broken my silence and it was unsettling—the moment those nine words tumbled out of my mouth, falling into the phone receiver, I was blindsided by deafening guilt and a sharp stab of shame.
It’s easy to be disillusioned—plunged, drowned by the conditioning of social media—the make it illuminate in all shades of beautiful regarding my not-real time social media feeds. We all on some level live the lie that life is only as meaningful as a glowing highlight reel.
In the slight space, the tiny pause before my closest friend could respond to my statement, I had severe verbal remorse. I wanted nothing more than to rapidly grab my declaration out of the airwaves, like it was ugly butterflies, and strangle them, squeezing the truth out of my words. (I’m aware that strangling innocent butterflies sounds slightly violent. I promise I’m not a butterfly killer, nor a psycho. *insert rolling eyes emoji here)
I nearly followed on the tail end of my confession with, “I was just kidding, har har har!” Or add some self-deprecating humor directed at motherhood that alluded to my current depression level, but I couldn’t.
It’s hard to justify sadness against what you know are your blessings. How can I feel sad, overwhelmed, lonely when I have so much to be thankful for, when my highlight reel SCREAMS I AM HAPPY?
And at the very same time, stress is plain stress, a silent breaker of souls.
“I was worried when you told me you were moving to Kansas. You know that moving is one of the top-rated stressors in life, right?”
I wanted to laugh, and then balk at the truth of it all. (In my adult life, Travis and I have moved nine times. I have the act of moving down to almost an art.) My pride, in support of my husband’s career, didn’t want to admit defeat. Do not complain, Sarah, I have often told myself. Nobody likes a complainer (also, an act I’m extremely efficient at).
So how did I respond?
I went on an incessant bitching rant about life and how heavy and frustrating it can get.
“I think you’re lonely. Being in a new town is rough. You need to get out and make some friends.”
“I have friends!” I huffed. “I don’t need new friends.” I wanted to be mad at her, because the black well of my sadness needed her commiseration to keep thriving. At this point in the conversation, I was basically jumping up and down on my cactus.
And my sad, sulking state needed her to take a seat at my pity party table, not stand at the podium offering solutions, like a real life motivational speaker there to motivate me to change my life. #poursomeblacktea #dontgivemerealtalk
“Sarah…(more real talk that started shredding my self-pity).”
It’s semi-painful when you have to cut your own bs—nobody at a pity party wants to be dethroned of the Petty Queen title. In the past couple of months, my resentment had been at work building the sloppiest proverbial “pig pen” and I’d been transitioning into the fattest pig. There I was—an obese pig rolling in the mud and (insert shocking curse word here) loving it.
Except I really wasn’t loving it. My confession, and the relief I felt by it, to my closest friend (and also to my sister and Mama) told me so. My heart covered in all of its depressive mud knew I needed her to breathe some light into my moment of darkness. My confession was a plea for help.
And she was there (and they were there)…not because I was giving her something, or offering a highlight reel moment—because I needed her to acknowledge that it’s okay to be sad, and it’s even okay to own a damn cactus—just don’t sit on it.
You can be frustrated, stressed out of your ever-loving mind, but at the end of the day, when you can’t stomach yourself another day, you have to do something about it…you can’t be a pig forever (unless of course, you are one of those adorable pigs that swim in the bahamas—they are real my friends. It’s worth a google. Cuteness overload).
This is why relationships with people who deeply care for you (in all the right ways) are so important—they can bring you back to life. The art of soft, loving accountability that lives in them are a lifeline. There is something to be said for the friends who grow you (the ones who show kindness in the face of your ugly madness, who want only the best for you, and truly, truly mean it–even when you refuse to accept it. #sigh).
“I don’t know what I would have done so many times in my life if I hadn’t had my girlfriends. They have literally gotten me up out of bed, taken my clothes off, put me in the shower, dressed me, said, ‘Hey, you can do this,’ put my high heels on and pushed me out the door!” —Reese Witherspoon
To my closest friends, my sister, you are my haven, my village…thank you for toasting me at the ugliest party you’ve ever not attended (because my denial is still real), for letting me roll in the mud and not judging me, for picking me up—angry and dirty, for washing me off, and then forcing me to seek joy again. I love you all, and yes, I threw away the cactus, are you happy now?
P.S. Be this friend to someone—grace changes everything.