Get your positivity OUTTA HERE

Hi, it’s me! Someone who can’t function on a regular schedule anymore! My face looks like this all the time:

And truly? Honestly? I’m fucking here for it. My veneer is gone, and I am but a kernel of pure, unadulterated emotions. In this moment? I feel great! I just ate a Crunchie bar (DELICIOUS) and got an iced tea (THE GREATEST BEV) and my cat is snoring on the chair next to me. But later? Maybe I’ll cry! Maybe I’ll get mad about something that doesn’t matter at all! Yesterday, I couldn’t sleep because I knew I had to have work in today and I started getting worried that I’d somehow sleep through the *checks notes* . . . entire day? Sure! I mean, I’ve never done it, but WHO KNOWS: this could’ve been the time. Basically, what I’m saying is that we are now into week 473 of this pandemic monster, I don’t have any idea what day it is, and in order to survive the next trillion decades, I have had to shed the performative tendency of acting like I had my shit together.

I mean, had I ever? Of course not! Friends, in the year after Nobody Cares came out, I melted down in a way that’s hilarious to remember now, but awful when it’s winter and you’re days away from the doctor’s appointment that finally would deliver some beautiful, blessed relief. (Particularly: Zoloft. To go with my mood stabilizer. I am a big fan of taking medication when you need it, and a bigger fan of talking about it whenever you want because really, we should be talking about this shit the way we talk about Advil.) (And reader, I love me an Advil.) For so many Instagrams, I was a version of myself who was desperately pushing down her anxiety, her obsession with control, her eating disorder, and her profound worry that while she was still outspoken, she was still very much afraid of being seen as someone who really — and I mean REALLY — doesn’t have it figured out. Because I should! Right? I’m an adult! A grown-up! I work and shit! I’ve learned my lessons!

Except absolutely fucking not. I didn’t have it figured out then, and I certainly don’t have it figured out now, minutes after obsessively checking COVID numbers to see whether or not it’ll finally end soon and then Googling it for several thousand minutes. (What am I looking for? News of a cure buried in a local paper on the sixth page of Google? I haven’t the foggiest! Yet I do it religiously.) But the difference between then and now is that, with the cold hard hand of reality angrily grabbing us all by the upper arms, I would rather spend any/all of my time just being this sloppy bitch of a broad. I’d rather admit that I’m oscillating between “It’s fine!” and “NO NO NO I HATE THIS” and “I feel nothing right now — how strange?” and “This is a beautiful day, I’m going to enjoy it” instead of pretending I’m productive or interesting or cool. Not because I think any of you need me to do that, but because I need that honesty from everybody else.

There’s always been something unsettling about small talk, but nothing creates a divide now like acting like everything’s good and fine when we know that it isn’t. Everything’s the worst, and I think it’s okay to admit it. I also think that when we say things like, “UGHHH it’s all just fucking brutal!” we don’t need to follow it with an apology like we’re delivering surprising and terrible news to someone who only arrived on the planet last night. I’ve found in the last few months that when I talk with someone about the shit show we’re in, there’s that incredible connection of realizing you’re not in this by yourself. You laugh, because it’s all a disaster (and some of us use laughter to deflect emotion), or you rage out over the latest development in our misery marathon. But regardless, there’s a connection. And while I’m sure someone reading this is like, “No! Be more positive!” I would like to personally like to take this opportunity to say: no.

I don’t think many things have fucked me up as much as forced positivity; as much as the belief that if you think something good will happen, something good will happen, and everything you say and think is creating a manifestation. And look: maybe I was doing it wrong. Maybe I am so unable to live in a way that is wonderful and magical that I am the asshole who manifested everything from insomnia to a car crash. Maybe I have brought all my hurt and pain upon myself, and that’s why I haven’t been able to connect with the Calm app or meditate properly or date Harry Styles. Maybe! Or maybe it’s just not realistic to be “mindful” in a way (BTW “mindful” has been banned from my therapist’s office at my request during our appointments) that relies on “positive energy.” Maybe to be positive all the time is as dangerous as it is to be a walking and talking black hole of a person because there’s no room for grey areas or other feelings when you’re courting only a single way of thinking. Maybe aggressive positivity makes some of us feel like absolute garbage because that’s not where we tend to thrive, that’s not where we want to go, and, to be honest, can feel super tone-deaf and disrespectful. I can be positive sometimes, absolutely! But when I’m having a bad day or there’s a global event that requires me to turn off my joke-machine or I need to have empathy and listen? I’m not going to sit there urging everybody I see to “be positive!”

Why? Because when I’m going through shit and need somebody, I want the truth. I want to hear that everything feels like shit because everything *is* shit, but also don’t worry: you don’t have to wade through it alone. I want the acknowledgement of reality and the connection that’s forged when another person acknowledges how brutal everything feels. And then together I want us to take that reality and plan and plot and strategize how we’re going to fight our way out. Realism (and even negativity) isn’t bad, it’s the acknowledgement that we’re paying attention enough to genuinely feel. And then? We fix.

Everything else is bullshit. Everything else is flat and flavourless. Authenticity? It offers the full scope of the Pizza Hut lunch buffet in its prime. (The highest compliment I can pay anything.) It never asks “How are you?” in an empty tone at the grocery store. It knows everything’s hard, and it isn’t afraid to lead with that.

Or maybe I’m just a freak. Could be! I could very well be a freak who is a nightmare-person to hang around with because I respond to “say positive!” with reasons why whoever’s saying that to me is now my nemesis. But I’m willing to own my freakage. Why? Because I’m too tired to do anything else. And also, because I always want to be the person you can plop down on a bench next to, tell me how fucked up you feel about everything, and have me tell you that absolutely everything is shit, but you’re not stuck tunnelling through it on your own.

All while making fun of some shared enemy, of course. Because that’s how I personally cope, like a true disaster.

- A.