The Cure for Vague Ennui
There is a man at my new workplace who is all heart. Whenever I am playing my self-pity tape in my head, he always says something to put my life in perspective. I might be thinking internally about how little money I’m making or how none of my dreams will ever come true, and he will tell me the story of a friend of his whose daughter died from schleroderma. Or he’ll mention that he saw a homeless man outside the donut shop across the street. He had to nudge the guy ‘cause he was passed out drunk, and he thought the man might have actually died.
One of the Mr. Brewsters told me the other day that one of my former coworkers is getting a divorce. They seemed like such a happy couple, and they have a daughter who is very near Punky’s age. Turns out that the wife got caught drunk driving…because she ran over someone’s child and killed the kid. She refused to go to counseling or get any help to resolve her issues with alcohol abuse, and now a kid is dead, and a marriage is over as well.
I might make very little money, and I might not have health insurance. I might not drive a Prius. I might never make a significant professional contribution of any kind and spend every day of the rest of my life as a glorified secretary, barely getting by, paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth, nose to the proverbial grindstone and any other hackneyed cliché you’d care to add. But when I hear stories like the ones above I know that I am blessed.
I know that whenever I am spending a lot of time playing the self-pity tape that my worldview has become very small. My worldview, in essence, is all about me. It’s important to be in communion with other people. One of the posts I wrote on Jesus was commented on by a Muslim gentleman from Pakistan, and we’ve struck up a little email friendship. He mentioned in one of his emails that people in Pakistan live much simpler lives. They live together with their extended families.
Children aren’t expected to be financially independent, and many families live with the husband’s parents, even after babies are born. People in Pakistan don’t purchase homes on credit. They prefer, instead, to save money over a lifetime and use their inheritance when their parents die in order to purchase a home. Old folks don’t go live in a “home;” they live at home. Their families care for them. The concept of any institutionalized care setting is just so foreign for them, and they wouldn’t want it. They like to care for their own loved ones.
Americans have record levels of depression and mental health issues and obesity. We have the greatest material abundance of any nation in the world, and yet we are still unhappy. I think it’s because we’re a lonely nation. We are a nation of people who need people who don’t spend time with people. We are preoccupied with our own thoughts, our own careers, our own obsessions and issues and our own vague ennui. Americans are obsessed with independence when we should really be thinking about our interdependence.
It comes from our own constant navel gazing. I’m writing this from a Starbucks where there are approximately twenty people. Of those twenty people, very few of them are actually interacting with each other. Most of us are lost in our laptops and iPhone screens and books, a large room filled with people who are not paying any attention to each other.
I was pissing and moaning about Valentine’s Day the other day when one of the Mr. Brewsters said to me, “Well, what you do is you pick someone who’s in the same boat that you are, and you do something nice for her. Buy someone a card or candy and flowers and make someone happy.” And I thought, well, that’s so profound, why didn’t I think of that? The reason, of course, is because I wasn’t thinking about anyone but my own damn self. Oh, whoa is me, destined to be alone forever. Yeah, if you think like that, you will be.
This morning I went to a new church, and I sat down next to a giant yellow Labrador who smelled like wet dog. Yes, the dog attends church, which I think is a good sign that I might be in the right place. I hate going to a new church. It’s always so intimidating. But it’s important to be a part of something bigger than myself. And while you can pray and worship in solitude, the Bible clearly says that wherever two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name, he will be with them. There’s a reason why other people are meant to be involved.
Entry filed under: Chrisitanity, Depression, Ethics, Faith, Health, Mental Health, Relationships, Social Commentary, Spirituality. Tags: Health, iPhone, Jesus, Mental health, Pakistan, Starbucks, United States, Valentine's Day.