Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Trouble With Platitudes

First, I'll start with an apology for having been snappish with those who have been genuinely trying to be supportive over the last few weeks.  I've just reached a point where I have little to no patience for the usual platitudes of advice like "Take care of yourself first" or "Just try to do a little at a time" or "Try not to worry about things you can't change."

Sayings like that are saying for a reason.  They're good advice and will help in probably 99% of situations.  But there also comes a point where they don't and frankly, I'm there.  Pretty much all of the standard platitudes depend on a single premise: that whatever you are facing is not as bad as you think it is.

If a person is worrying obsessively, then telling them to take a mental break is good.  If they're overwhelmed, breaking down the tasks into manageable bits is good.  If they've gotten worn down by dealing with various things, then telling them to take care of themselves is good.  

But here's the thing.  I have already contracted out every task and chore that I can.  I have a whole staff of people whom I pay to help me, plus a number of volunteers.  (And to be clear, I'm not supporting a whole mass of people, but it's a significant portion of my monthly budget.)  There is nothing left that I can ask them to do.  Everything else has to be done by me.  And the financial stress of paying for all those people, not to mention the mental stress of having to coordinate everything, adds its own burden.  There comes a point where it is no longer beneficial to ask for help, so pushing me to keep asking is ignoring the reality.

I'm exhausted, but I'm exhausted in part because I've chosen to sacrifice sleep in order to have time to write.  That's a choice I've made because it is more draining and demoralizing for me to have to shut off my creativity than it is to stay up late.  And this isn't something that I can fix by reshuffling schedules or working harder/smarter.  There is no other time that I can make work and I've had to face the reality that I don't sleep well anyway if I don't write.  So I am taking care of myself but it is still not enough.  And I'm not being stubborn or trying to be a martyr, it's a reality.

The other reality is that some stuff is just not going to get done and since I've already farmed out all the minor things, that stuff is going to be important and missing it is going to have major impacts.  But I simply cannot do it and so I've had to accept that.  But prompting me to keep trying or pushing me to do more because what I'm failing to do is important isn't helpful.  It's only a reminder of something that I already know and have made a difficult decision about.  Decisions that I don't want to explain or justify because unless someone has stood where I'm standing, they don't understand how those decisions work.

There is an inherent optimism to platitudes (as there has to be since they're supposed to encourage us), an optimism that is really hard not to take offense to when a person has done all of the steps that they can and things still are not working out.  They gloss over the inherent unfairness of the universe because the truth is that bad things do happen to good people and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, success isn't an option.  

I think the most frustrating part about getting platitudes is that it makes me feel as if no one is actually listening, or worse, that they just want me to shut up and stop making them have to be aware of the problems.  They want to continue with the illusion that everything is going to be fine and that everything is ultimately fixable, and I'm an inconvenience to that illusion.

I recognize that the intentions are good, which is why most of the time, I just smile and nod and accept the message as its intended, as an expression of caring and good wishes, even when it is painful.  But of late, I haven't had the energy for that and I'm sorry for those who have gotten hit by my temper.

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