there are so many ways for someone to say that it could always be worse. i’m sure you’re familiar: silver linings, count your blessings, “at least you’re not dead”, etc, etc…
the thing that bothers me about these sentiments isn’t the delivery. i know the intent is good, but it always feels like there’s an unsaid second half to the sentence, which goes roughly along the lines of “so stop whinging”.
i think my favourite one of these platitudes is “look on the bright side”, because it feels so amazingly ironic that it illustrates what i’m trying to say here. sure, look on the bright side. while you’re looking on the bright side, you’ll completely miss the next bullshit thing guaranteed to fuck up your plans… because you weren’t looking where you were going.
of course it’s an abstract metaphor. but i prefer realism to idealism, even if platitudes make people feel all warm and fuzzy.
i know the character of chidi from the good place is supposed to be comical. his chronic inability to make a decision is a hallmark of his character. being presented with a difficult choice causes him so much discomfort he gets a stomach ache. what we’re meant to learn from chidi is that indecision causes problems.
i didn’t need to learn that from chidi. what chidi taught me is that people like me who are chronically indecisive are seen as weird, mockable and ‘different’. chidi agonises over the moral implications of even small actions and takes the concept of the butterfly effect to logical, but hyperbolic, extremes.
my wife calls me chidi sometimes. i try to say that i just prefer to be sure before i jump, but she calls me chidi. i can see the parallels. and while the show goes to great pains to try to educate me on why not to be indecisive, it doesn’t quite show me how.
i am, honestly, just sick of all the bullshit and darkness. i’m not trying to be comically considerate of others because i think i’ve wronged them, i just know that other people have, and will continue to do so, and i have no control over that, but i do have control over how my actions affect them. so i try as hard as i reasonably can to minimise the amount of bullshit and darkness that i create.
this small concept leads to odd situations. my wife asking me “what do you want for dinner” turns into a half an hour back and forth where we’re both trying to make a decision which is in the most benefit of the other party. but i know how people treat her at work and other places where i’m not around, and i just want her to feel supported, loved and listened to. she wants the same for me. it gets complicated, especially when the same concept gets applied to larger things.
like the day she told me she’s pregnant. i remember she texted me at work and told me to come home straight after work, no detours or excursions. she didn’t let on that something was wrong, but her tone was clipped and controlled, so i knew she was trying overly hard to control her emotions. if she’s emotional, something is wrong. tada, sherlock.
i got home, got inside, put my keys down and saw her sitting on her side of the bed, straight upright, legs crossed. she looked like she was trying very, very hard not to cry. i knelt by her side of the bed and asked what was wrong. she started crying and said “i took two”.
i didn’t know what she took two of. did she take two of the wrong pills? did i need to call an ambulance? “you took two what?”
cue youtube buffering gif plastered on my forehead.
pregnancy tests. why is she upset about that? oh, because they came back positive. why would she be upset they’re positive? she’s always wanted a- oh wait, she’s upset because she’s not sure how i’m going to react.
what happened next was a three day long tennis match of “you want to keep it” “yeah well you’re not ready so we shouldn’t”.
we have decided, after much tennis, to keep it. our lives are going to change… a lot.
but i made a decision. so that’s a step in the right direction… right?
i feel like if my life is a car, someone cut the brake lines and i didn’t notice. i can’t slow down. everything is moving, and i’m moving with it, and i don’t have time to fully understand everything that’s going on or how i should react to the things in front of me or what the consequences of my actions might be in the future.
i guess the summary for that feeling is “i’ve lost control of my life”.
and i guess the punchline to that joke is that i was never really in control of my life in the first place. it’s just more obvious now. and monkey brain is scared of unknowns and variables.