"Do not grieve for the JOY of the Lord is your strength"
Misery is both a defensive shield and an offensive sword. When we wrap ourselves in misery people who love us both jump to relieve our misery and also refrain from asking us to take on more of lifes unpleasant tasks. Using misery in this way is a sneaky and treacherous activity for so many reasons. But before we explore that side of the misery equation, let's expand on what I mean by misery. You don't have to be a downtrodden English orphan in a Dickensian tale to be miserable, You can just be applying judgment to peoples actions and not be satisfied with their actions and that is miserable. You can be holding on to strong opinions about "how things should be" and feeling victimized because things aren't going your way and that is miserable. You can have an inflated sense of self that tells you you're entitled to "more" and when that more doesn't come you are miserable. You can be making yourself sick so no one expects much of you and that is miserable. You can be addicted to something numbing in an attempt to avoid pain and that is miserable. On the same hand, you can be in a war torn famine and disease filled land and NOT be miserable, how is this so? . Misery is really just the attachment to things "being the way we think they should be". A trivial example of this is the combination of three factors in my life, the first that my grandmother repeated the phrase "eat past 10, join dead men" so often it became etched in my mind as truth and the fact that my night owl husband likes to eat late and the third factor is that I like to eat with my husband. By releasing any of my opinions to how it " should be" sooner I could have saved us both years of misery. But I didn't and now its blog material so not all is lost! But you see, I did not have to believe my grandmothers words if her statement were really true most of Europe would be dead of dinner by now. I did not have to eat with my husband every night I could have left a plate on warm for him. But instead I cloaked my face in misery, usually about 9:45pm, throwing in a few well timed sighs, so hubby would hop to and prepare to eat. Let me say now this was not a useful strategy. Instead of creating the fellowship of a shared meal I was creating a lot of indigestion.
So, if misery is so powerful why not use it sometimes to prod someone to action? Well, first of all it has a short shelf life and your misery only encourages loving actions in others for so long and then as they become "immune" to your misery you are left alone and even more miserable. We all try to avoid miserable people after awhile and sadly loneliness exacerbates their self inflicted misery. Second, misery never travels alone, rather it brings it's companion emotions of victimhood, self righteousness, and (the illusion of) control. The victimhood part of it where we hold the illusion that others are causing our misery is so disempowering. I was upset at dinner because I wanted to eat with hubby and at a certain hour. His night owl tendencies weren't the cause of my misery, but rather my attachment to my desires were. Equally dangerous to the disempowerment of victimhood is the hard shell of self righteousness which removes from us the ability to see others fully and make room for them to be a whole and complex person with us. And holding the illusion of control is tantamount to just living a lie. The truth that sets us free also tells us we are not in control.
Once, we realize that other people really do not have the power to make us miserable but that it is an internal choice, it is important to not turn on ourselves. It is easy to try to compartmentalize our less desirable parts and try to eradicate or silence them. But the internal war this creates is the most miserable state of all. So, its important know that the part of you that is causing your misery is probably doing so in a misguided attempt to keep you safe. That part of me really didn't want to die from a taco at 10:01PM! Now it's time to love on that less evolved part of yourself but at the same time not let it be in charge of your actions. you love your toddler, she just doesn't get to run your life. Love it and hug it and put it in a corner of your mind while your inner WiseSelf takes charge. Using misery to try to control life is like punching yourself in the face to try to get someone to notice how pretty you are. They will notice pain and damage, but will they truly see your soul? Misery is an offensive shield that cracks with only a few blows and a defensive sword that only nicks and annoys but does not cut deeply. It does not have the power to keep us safe and it does not have the power to change others. So maybe it's time to lay down our weapons of judgment, opinions and control and free our hands to hold some of the deep joy that comes from living an "out of control life"... peace yogis