Slough of Despond

Feeling unexpectedly depressed! My faith in the system is at an all-time low. My hearing gets worse and worse, and I’ve been on the NHS waiting list (to be assessed for new hearing aids) for over a year. While putting up the Christmas tree, I was trying to listen to Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M, and realized I couldn’t hear the singing voices, just the beat. I don’t know if that’s because it was a CD instead of the records and tapes I used to listen to. The frequencies are possibly different.

Space Cadet (on TV) is not helping. I looked in for 20 minutes and felt angry. At least one of the young people swears every time he opens his mouth, even when he’s being affable. He probably thinks it comes across as vivid and expressive, but that’s a mistake a lot of people make. I’m hardly Miss Goody Two Shoes when I think no one’s listening, but tonight I was feeling pretty dismal already. And whether I watch it or not, I feel we are all affected by the principle of the show. It reminds me of the fable about the boy who cried wolf. Credibility is important – yet so many people give their credibility away without a second thought. Then we wonder why we struggle and why the world is so cynical.

While I’m on this tack, I’m reminded of when I asked people on a message board what the key to happiness was. To my surprise, take-up was slow to start with, and there were comments like “what a heavy topic!” It seemed to me perfectly straightforward – perhaps it’s ‘heavy’ because we wish to close our eyes to other people’s state of mind, or to the inadequacies of the system. Eventually the ice was broken and more replies came in, often along the lines “don’t compare yourself to others – be content with what you have.”

I’ve considered it – there’s some truth in it; for instance, it would be unrealistic for someone to be unhappy because he couldn’t paint or draw while people around him could. His skills are just different. His unhappiness might be understandable if the system determined that it was especially desirable to be artistic, or that all those who are not artistic must be abnormal or ‘not trying hard enough’.

When it comes to being happy, I think our greatest need is to ‘fit in’ and be accepted. Part of that involves looking around, seeing what the others do, and working out what we can do ourselves in order to fit in the best we can. We also look to see if we’re being appreciated. We need to feel of equal worth – maybe have a little bit more so that we can feel slightly smug!

The problem arises when individuals and businesses assume that the security and happiness of others is less important than their own strivings to do well. It’s not realistic to say “relax, you’re fine with what you have” – it’s impossible to relax when you know something has gone wrong in the scheme of things, and it’s even worse when you see people taking their relative prosperity and stability as an excuse to feel superior. I’m comfortable with what I have but I don’t feel secure – and not everybody is so fortunate. And it’s not because ‘the less fortunate’ couldn’t (or didn’t want to) do better. The problems we have are much bigger than any failure to pull our weight.

Perhaps I’ll feel brighter tomorrow morning, though of course nothing will have changed. Human nature is nothing if not resilient…

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