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Misery Loves Company

Some people can flat-out wear you out. They will challenge you every which way and frustrate you until you are blue in the face. Or maybe they just wear you down, little by little, over the course of time. They wear on you like a thick, wet coat that drags you closer to the ground with every step you take. Some acquaintances are like that. Some friends are like that. And some significant others are like that.

Maybe you start the day with sunshine on your shoulder. You hear the birds chirping; you smell the roses; life is good. Life is a dance. Then, out of the blue Mr. Misery crashes the party with some new bombast or dire determination of definitive doom. The storm clouds roll in. The wind picks up. Next thing you know, your drenched in his misery.

Mr. Misery pesters with putdowns and disgruntlements. Maybe the music is wrong. Maybe your choice of clothing just isn't up to his par. Maybe the steak is a little over-done. Without much effort, his perception frames your reality. Without much effort, his effort has removed your rose-colored glasses and replaced them with smog filters, bathing everything you see in a layer of dust and grime. Without much effort, the sun no longer shines on your shoulders; the birds cease to chirp; life stops being good. Life becomes a dirge.

As couples, over time, our dance defines us; we lose a part of our separate identity. Who we are as a couple usurps who we are as individuals. Over time, like two foods sitting together on a plate, we can start to taste the same, our different-ness is less identifiable than our sameness. Over time, we morph into "us." The homogeneity of couple-ness can be great until we realize that we are morphing into a shared someone who is miserable.

Hopefully, we have a thread of memory of happier days, when we had a smile on our face and a bounce in our step. Hopefully, that memory serves as a pilot light, promising to one day resurrect our heat, our passion and our joy. Hopefully, that memory does not serve as a mournful recollection of times now past as contrast to our miserable present and therefore even more miserable future.

Escaping misery is not as easy as recognizing that your are in a miserable place. Even then, even with some objectivity, you have to perceive the light at the end of the tunnel and gather the impetus to move toward it. Even then, you have to sustain that march to reach that radiant light and emerge into a brighter day. Even then, you have to withstand Mr. Misery's drive to drag you back down that tunnel, like crabs that pull their brother back into the boiling pot contending that "no one escapes here." After all, misery loves company.

Certainly you can't save Mr. Misery without first saving yourself. Like the flight attendant who instructs you to put on your own face-mask before you place it on others who need your help, you have to find your own way out of misery before you think about any rescue.

And while rescue is noble and rescue is valiant, rescue is far from certain because Mr. Misery is quite comfortable in his tortured place and neither needs nor wants any Pollyanna from you, thank you very much. To him, you can take your cheerful disposition and stick it where the sun don't shine.

So first, extricate yourself. Then, try to save Mr. Misery if you still feel so inclined, but be ready to cut your losses, remove yourself from his company and quickly climb to higher ground. And from that higher ground, enjoy your fresh perspective, resolving to avoid slipping into that pit again. Resolve to deny misery the benefit of your company.

Misery loves company. It's time to stop giving him yours.

-Michael Manely

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