“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
Legend has it that restaurateur Fernand Lachance exclaimed, “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” (“It will make a damn mess!”) when first asked to throw a handful of cheese curds on some french fries in 1957. Fitting etymology for my preferred gastronomic comfort in the messiest moments of life. When my “fabulous at fifty” resolution feels more like a “middle aged mess,” the combination of crisp potatoes, squeaky cheese and steaming gravy sits in my belly like the coziest of blankets. Sure, I often find myself devouring more than I should before spending a constipated night of regret but foresight is rarely the companion of suffering.
Truth is, for all the science of happiness webinars, gratitude lists, and reflective journaling sometimes adult life kind of sucks. Shitty things happen, life spirals out of control and people fall apart. Sometimes you hate our job, love leaves you, you’re swallowed by loneliness and your mental health falters.
It’s Not Always So Positive
According to the endless stream of positivity memes that clog your Facebook page, all you need to do to get through is “Bee Positive!” but you just want to swat the smiling cartoon insect with a newspaper and Ctrl-Alt-Delete. You don’t want to “Count Your Blessings” because you are busy counting the number of deep breaths you have to take before entering the office holiday party where you are expected to “be of good cheer” despite your boss having publicly torn a strip off you earlier that morning.
You’re not looking for “10 Steps to a Happier You” and doubt that “All you need to get through is the right attitude!” In fact you’re pretty sure your “path to fulfillment” looks a whole lot messier than Google Images would suggest.
Resilience Comes in Many Forms
Because you realize resilience sounds less like morning affirmations recited into a bathroom mirror than like the excuses you give your buddies about why you can’t join them at the pub this weekend, ‘cause you haven’t told them that you’ve just lost your job and can’t afford the pint.
You know strength doesn’t always taste like victory and but sometimes like the third glass of wine you pour yourself in the dark as you suffer through the quiet whispers of your own anxieties.
You’ve seen that hope does not look like pretty unicorns in photo-shopped fields of daisies but like mascara streaked by ugly crying. Not cute glistening Julia-Roberts- tears but snotty heaving as you sit in your car where you’ve pulled over around the corner from your house because you can’t let your kids see your red eyes.
You understand that more than the thrill of endless possibilities, starting over feels like the burn of humiliation when you crawl back home to your parents with your kid, having to take a minimum wage job, serving coffee and donuts to business types who all look like the man who just walked out on you.
So You Suffer Through
And so you suffer through however you can. You accept handouts you used to give, drink more than you should, put on a few pounds and let yourself go as you have been.
And you do whatever you can to make yourself feel momentarily better. You ring up your credit card bill with retail therapy hoping in the perfect outfit no one will notice your imperfections. You watch Seinfeld reruns, not because they make you laugh but because the predictable laugh track drowns out the reel of memories you can’t shake. You pull your hair up in a scrunchie and order takeout so you don’t have to face the day.
And you cling to the faith that somewhere, somehow you will get through. You wait for the night when you’ll pull out that new skirt and feel like giving it a twirl. You sit tight for the day when Kramer falls through the door and you snort out loud despite yourself, the sound of your own laughter confirming you are indeed just fine.
And you hang in knowing that soon there will come a time when you’ll order an extra-large poutine simply because it tastes so darn good.
About the author: Social Worker and Certified Humor Professional (CHP), Maia Aziz, works as Assistant Chief of Allied Health Services at The Montreal Children’s Hospital and hosts the weekly talk radio show Morning Moments with Maia through which she explores applications of humor and positive psychology in leadership and well-being withloveandlaughter.ca