During the past month, I’ve found myself saying “I don’t care” quite a lot. Whether it’s to my husband when he tells me he doesn’t want to eat chicken for dinner or to my friend who complains about how much her husband spends on booze, the words “I don’t care” have started to flow freely from my mouth and I rather enjoy it.
I’m sure every single one of you have thought the same words in response to a variety of your family’s or friends’ dilemmas. Maybe it’s a lost toy your child is pining for (and you know it’s buried in their closet) or your co-worker is griping about being back to work after a long vacation, and all you want to do is yell, “I DON’T CARE!” But you don’t. Because you shouldn’t or because the time and effort it would take to smooth things over after a big blowout would be massive and you’d never be able to get that time back. So instead you bite your tongue and either give a bit of advice, “Sweetie, maybe try cleaning out your room,” or you nod and pretend empathy and say, “I know how you feel.”
But it’s those times when your loved ones tell you all that is going well for them, and you want so desperately to be happy for them, and yet all you feel is irritation and anger and envy. You want to scream, “I DON’T CARE!” You want to say, “Fuck your sex life, your love life, your vacations, your time off with your kid, your youth, and you. Just FUCK YOU!”
That’s when you take a deep breath and you don’t say any of those things. That’s when you don’t pretend to be happy for them, but you find real joy somewhere deep inside that part of you that really does want happiness for your beautiful friends and family. You dig that little bit of yourself out and shine it up and show those people how much you love them and are happy they’re not as miserable as you are. Misery may love company, but Misery is a real party pooper when Happiness is trying to have a good time. So you suck it up, put a genuine smile on your face, clap your hands (it always helps me be a little more cheerful) and hug your loved one. If you get a little teary, it’s ok. They won’t know if those tears are of joy or sadness, so it won’t matter.
The odd thing is that it’s very easy for me to feel happy for people I’ve never met. Those folks that win the lottery? Although I would have loved to win it myself, I am typically overjoyed for those that do win it. Think about it. How freakin’ extraordinary for something like that to happen! Or hell, when people win prizes on game shows I get excited for them, too. Maybe it’s because these things are like little happy endings only found in fiction, and since they’re strangers they seem more like characters in a book. I don’t know what happens to any of these people after the spotlight fades, nor do I want to know. They’d probably kill the image of the happy ending and I’d have to hate them for it.
But maybe it’s just when I’m feeling shitty about my own life that others’ lives look so great and I can’t help but whine and think, “Why can’t that be me?” Yet I know the grass is not necessarily greener. I know that sometimes that grass is really astroturf and although those Facebook photos make it look great, it’s really a bunch of chemicals that will probably give everyone in the neighborhood cancer.
I don’t want to be like this and I’m really not *always* this bitchy. But I am human. And sometimes it’s tough being a good person, especially when going through a difficult time. I do try to be happy for others and feel empathy for those that need it. So if you tell me something wonderful or even something horrible that’s happened to you, I may give you a look that could be interpreted as my best Grumpy Cat impression. Just give me a minute to find that little nugget of joy or compassion I know I have for you.
Unless I tell you that I don’t care.
Then I really don’t.