Monday, January 31, 2011

Does My Happy Make You Sad?

     On the radio yesterday I listened with interest as a deejay reported findings of a study about fb. She shared results that point toward an affect of reading other people's happy statuses.  Apparently this makes people feel worse about themselves.  Some reported that it ruined their day to read of someone's good fortune.
     I'm not sure that this is true, at least for me.  But I am not in high school or college anymore and tend not to feel threatened by another person's happiness.  But if I am truly honest, I love a good, sad drama about people surviving terrible conditions.  Ever read Angela's Ashes or watch the movie?  I couldn't put it down.  Frank McCourt's childhood has to be one of the worst cases of poverty I've ever read...even topping my dad's childhood on the suffering index. Perhaps the fb study shows us a paradox.  Sadness evokes good feelings.  Feelings that connect us to one another when we struggle and grieve.
     I was still thinking of this paradox while watching AFV with Elliot.  If ever there was an occasion to laugh happily at people having mishaps that look painful, this is it.  Lifting people up by knocking them down is a theater that's been going strong for over 20 years.
    It reminds me of childhood. My father had a string of serious accidents each year.  One year he drove off the road after a sneezing attack and broke his nose.  Another year he broke a bone in his foot while playing soccer with his brother in law.  Once he broke his thumb at the joint catching a baseball with his bare hand at a family reunion.  On a cold winter's night one December, he shattered his ankle while skiing behind a snowmobile.  And each time, my father's pain sent my mother into fits of giggles.   Our hospital, Wheelock, had an emergency room staff who knew my dad by his first name.  When he'd come in to report his bad fortune, my mother would start
saying, "Rog, is it time to go to Wheeeeelock?" Te-he-ing all the way as she drove.  I can still see my dad looking up to the sky, silently asking God why his wife was filled with laughter at his pain.
   Both of my parents loved AFV because it showed them that they were normal.
     And then, if I tell you that on my wedding day, my parents and Richard's parents were in a high speed car accident with one another on the way to the chapel having-never-met-in-person before, you might start to chuckle.  The newspapers wanted that story so badly they wouldn't stop calling.
     It was a feel good story.  When I think about how we could have been in the morgue identifying bodies instead of shakily sharing our vows..

Yes, we went on with the wedding after a slight three hour delay.
    Then we drove them directly to the ER where they received pain medication and insisted that they be driven to the reception where there were double scotches to drink and embarrassing toasts to make.  We celebrated being ALIVE and together.

So, I can understand why this study makes logical sense.  It's like the feeling of safety you get while driving past and accident scene.
      I'm not saying that I'll stop writing happy statuses, but it's true.  Someone's image of perfection kinda makes me feel, well, a little messy.  But thankfully, we are all bloggers in this room.  We tell it straight and we keep it positive and we support one another.  We have a lot more to say to one another than will fit in a status bar.  We are not brought down by our shared joy.

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