People often say, "Oh, you're bitter," in a condescending, scolding, or smug way.
But sometimes things happen in people's lives about which it makes sense to feel bitter, angry, disappointed, resentful, etc.
There are many people who think if you don't feel upbeat and positive about every part of your life, all the time, then you're doing something wrong.
I think it's time to challenge that idea.
Note that I am NOT saying we should focus only on the negative, or wallow in the unpleasant thoughts and feelings. In fact, if you do that, you're hurting yourself, and therapy would probably help.
But I'd love to stop sugar coating painful experiences. Some things in life are just BAD, and I don't care if that makes me "bitter" or "negative," etc.
When a long, happy relationship develops problems and becomes miserable, it's not a fucking learning experience. It's BAD.
When someone you love is very ill and will probably die, that's not a fucking "challenge." A challenge is training for a marathon, or submitting a story to a magazine. Cancer is fucking EVIL.
Then, there are the life events that aren't as profound, but that just wear you down over time. Doing lite-dating for a long period of time with no real results can help you learn a lot, this is true. And it isn't the worst thing in the world – at least you're getting dates. But it's not fun to do the same thing over and over again, like "Groundhog Day." It feels like being a kid and having to do first grade for 5 or 6 years in a row, instead of going on to 2nd grade, 3rd grade, etc.
Or a very common example – a noisy workplace. No big deal, you say at first. I'll wear my headphones. But after a year or so, you begin to resent the necessity of wearing headphones – especially when some people are so loud you can hear them through your headphones. Finally, it takes all your self-discipline to get through a day without shouting, "Shut the fuck up!"
Now, as I already pointed out – I think dwelling on the negative is a very bad habit to get into, and it can do a lot of damage to your mental health. I believe in finding some things to be grateful about every day. Deliberately noting to yourself when you like something. And IMHO, when something bad happens, the best first thought is problem-solving: What can I do to change this situation, or make it better?
But the people who insist that nobody should ever express a non-happy emotion are fucking clueless.
If the best relationship you ever had starts crumbling from within, you can either stay there, or you can get out. But either way, you have to go through some pain.
If you find out somebody in your immediate family is probably going to die this year, I don't care how evolved and serene you are. Everybody's grief shows up slightly differently – so I can't tell you that you'll break down or just go numb. But unless you're seriously mentally ill, you will have some unpleasant emotions. Guaranteed.
For the readers who do happen to be serene, evolved experts on how the rest of us should think and feel: I repeat – IMHO, it is NOT healthy to wallow in the bad feelings and stay stuck there. If somebody seems unable to get unstuck from those feelings, I recommend therapy.
But don't hand me a shit sandwich and tell me it's chocolate, either.
I think the most realistic and helpful response to unwanted situations is this:
Acknowledge it. Let yourself feel the anger, the pain, etc. Call it what it is. This is not a "learning experience" or a "challenge." This fucking sucks, it's totally unfair, and it's BAD. Be as judgmental as you want!
But don't stay there. Ask yourself what you can to do improve things. You can't always change things, sad to say. Sometimes you just have to stand there and hurt.
But keep striving towards something better. Do what comforts you. Try to do your normal routine – when you're emotionally bruised and battered, there's comfort in everyday rituals like dinnertime, getting ready for bed, etc. Yes, sometimes things are so bad that bedtime is a treat. That's OK. That's where you are right now. Let bedtime be a treat. Savor how you feel just a little bit better because of it.
I have found through experience that savoring those little everyday things and mentally noting how good they feel is a tiny step towards getting through to the end of the tunnel.
Winston Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going." Considering what he lived through and what he did, I think he's a good source of advice on dealing with bad things.
But yes, I said BAD things. And Churchill didn't say, "When you're having a learning experience, just keep going." He called it HELL.
Go ahead and call it what it is. You'll feel better if you don't lie to yourself and pretend it's all good. And if anybody says, "You sound bitter," reply, "You sound smug."