So what do we do in this here modern world when then shit actually hits the fan? Not sort of hits the fan with a small amount of shit, I’m talking the truest and most gruesome interpretation of that metaphor, when your life is a shit covered stinking nightmare place. What then do we do?
I think the answer people usually go for is to find the people that they care about most in this world and force these loved ones on a guided tour of the shit. Describing in great detail its consistencies and smells, so that the loved one can iterate and reiterate “Oh, that’s terrible.” “Oh, how awful.” “Oh, that stinks.”
I would like to say that I am the type of person who does not do that, who keeps my shit covered life a closely guarded secret that no one must endure touring. I would like to say that because I think that there is some points for pride there. That somehow silently and privately dealing with my own shit makes me a stronger and better person. But if it does than I am not, and therefore I would like to prove to myself and to you dear readers that it doesn’t.
Let’s start with the benefits of stoicism. By keeping the shit to yourself you are sparing everyone around you from a fairly pointless song and dance number (think Spiderman 3). People have to feel sorry for you, they have to ask you in soothing tones how you are doing, and then have to listen patiently as you blubber out a rambling answer to that question. By sparing them from the social obligation of feeling sorry for you are a hero who keeps the social avenues of your life free of the shit that is covering your more personal mind spaces.
However, if nobody knows your life is covered in shit then nobody knows that they do not know that your life is covered in shit. Nobody knows that a selfless martyr walks among them protecting them from a genuine answer to that perfunctory question “How are you doing?” Of course part of the whole deal with being a selfless martyr is not getting any credit for being a selfless martyr, but my argument is that people don’t behave that way out of any true selflessness or martyrdom. They want to appear like they are selfless to win themselves points in the Better Person than Everyone Else tallies that we all keep in our heads.
But that’s just me and my negative view of humanity. Selflessness is selfishness when you do it for the wrong reasons.
So let’s say, hypothetically, that the people in your life who say that they care about you actually do. Let’s say that these people, when they started caring about you understood the risks of caring about other people and that that might eventually mean taking tours of shit covered rooms and commiserating on the smell. Let’s say that for some of these people it might hurt more not being able to at least try to help you while you to unilaterally call the whole thing futile and keep it to yourself. What I’m suggesting here is that friendship is not a figment of your imagination. And that sometimes taking the risk of calling in that debt of friendship to see who pays can be a worthwhile experience.
When you need your friends it’s true that some of them might not want to deal with your shit and that’s cool, now you know where you really stand with them. But some of them might be ready, willing, and even eager to deal with your shit, and that’s beautiful. I can tell you right now, cynic as I am, the experience of knowing that somebody loves you and is truly there for you is the best thing that I have ever felt. I hate myself for being so sentimental but this isn’t some saccharine bullshit, this is the honest to goodness pure beauty of life and shit. Love is real, man, okay.
When I see the Facebook updates on my feed that vaguely hint at some terrible thing, sure most of the time I roll my eyes at the drama and attention seeking of some people who can turn almost anything into a tragedy. But on occasion when I feel humanity and mercy stir within me. I read those posts and think. A cry for help is still a cry for help. Begging someone in the world to notice that you’re in pain is an infinitely human experience. It’s not really about the drama of the moment it’s about that starving need within us all to know that despite all evidence to the contrary we’re not alone.
Conscious is lonely, awkward, and terrifying. Life is long and often brutally empty. Craving connection may very well be a sign of weakness but it’s also a sign that you are a human being. The points you gain by stoicism may win you that tally you keep in your head, but winning is not the purpose of life, love is. Nobody’s commiserations will clean up your shit covered life, but that isn’t the point of friendship. A friend is there to love you in spite of the smell.