is the title of a book of poetry i read for a class several years ago. can't say i was particularly drawn to the poetry, but the title, oh the title. there are so many things i like about it.

the other night i had a conversation with a friend i hadn't seen in awhile. we caught each other up on recent stories of life and dating. mostly dating. that's just the kind of friendship bond we have established. last fall we had semi-regular venting sessions as we sat in bluestem bistro. poor rachel, she often got the brunt of our bitter diatribes. though our therapeutic sessions were most likely and most often not without good reason, i can't say that they were the most healthy. though in his defense, he's had some pretty unreal things happen to him that are just beyond belief. you can hear about them in his forthcoming memoir. you think i'm kidding.

one question he expressed is one that has come to my mind many times over the last few years: why is it that some people had it so easy? this could be asked of many life situations, but in the present context it is about those people who just seemed to meet someone, date, and then get married. so simple. sure there were complications and questions and such, but never any real heartbreak. never any unrequited love. why did they get it so easy? sure their hard times will come, but they were still spared a lot. implicit in that question is the idea that i haven't had it so easy, that the road i've been given is much rougher. me and this friend of mine, and many others--we've taken our hits.

it makes me think of those old battles, like in the civil war and such. they just stood there in a line and who's to say which one of you will take a bullet? do the fallen look up from the ground, wondering why the man who was next to him is still standing? why the bullet strayed over to his spot and not another?

it's a self-pity thing really. which is such a powerful and destructive emotion. perhaps so because there is so often truth at its center--you have had a rough time. you have gotten the short end of the stick. the problem is that it only looks one way. it doesn't consider all those who've had it worse off than you. not that that would be all that much consolation to you though. it doesn't decrease your pain.

perhaps part of the problem is the lack of pity itself. to pity someone is seen as denigrating. but true pity is the affirmation of another's pain and misfortune. and it at least seems as if it can only be given by those who somehow have it better than you. for if they have it worse, then they don't pity you, they just resent or at best accept what you have. but they cannot pity you. that must come from someone willing to look outside themselves and down the other end of the stick. to not look up to those who have what you do not, who haven't experienced the suffering and pain you have and somehow have it better--but to look down at all those with worse hands from life's impartial dealing. how we'd rather delight in counting our own chips while figuring out how to get more of our own.

do people want pity though? no they would rather hold themselves in their own independence and simply secretly envy the others. pity done in love with understanding is not only acceptable i would say, but maybe even necessary. to see your pain affirmed and acknowledged--it is to take some of its burden and power away. but no, we are too proud for pity. pity is for the weak. or at least from others, so we turn to self-pity. the thoughts run deep and often they are hard to recognize for what they truly are, for we are so often comparing ourselves to others, comparing our lot with those around us.

i want to learn to fight those voices. to fight the excuses i create because so and so has happened to me or i've had it such and such way. to ask that question about others. to not let myself be dissatisfied with the way my life is because it is not filled with what many others have, because i have had such a painful road where others have been spared. when all the while the voices in my head is the spoiled brat that refuses to acknowledge the millions who have had it far worse, who have suffered far beyond anything i have experienced. or even also to ask the question if maybe perhaps they were better off because of it. or if i am somehow ever more enriched because of those trials and disappointments. the problem is, character-building experiences never seem to come close to comparing with those who have what you have been denied, who have been spared the pain you suffered.

i'm 26 tomorrow. i can't say that this is where i thought i would be at this point. i could never have imagined these last three years and how they unfolded, only to end up where i am now. it's hard to understand so much of it. it's hard not to see so much of the battle as all for nought. the losing side makes the greater sacrifice, giving up more men and not gaining the field. but then to see what i have gained. to think what still might await me and where i could be in another 3 years. self-pity teaches perpetuation, believing you are in some vicious cycle or that it's all tied to who you are and how that cannot change. and indeed it can become self-fulfilling.

but hope.

a yes, hope. you are greater than the envy and self-pity. and somehow you rise up from the ashes and are born once more. a weak frail youngling, you still somehow find your wings and jump out of that nest once again. will you fly this time? or fall once more? somehow it doesn't matter. because we are learning to fly. who knew it would take so many crashes? but still we leap. and we'll worry about the destination later.


  1. good words. I think self-pity is an easy thing to get caught up in. I find myself observing other people a lot and thinking this or that in my life should be similar to their lives, I guess because they seem to have it right. I'm glad my life is different than the next person, or that some things may come easier or harder... but it's just difficult to see it that way all the time.

  2. somebody's stumbled upon some wisdom. you are a good man.