Monday, May 10, 2010

And the Pursuit of Happiness

A number of female bloggers have recently written about how they predominantly (if not exclusively) use their blogs as vehicles with which to highlight the more positive aspects and happenings in their lives.  They've argued that no one wants to read about their misfortunes and so they make a concerted effort to focus their blogging on uplifting and/or comical personal stories.

Frankly, I take issue with the assertion that only the positive is fit for public consumption.  I, for one, would much rather read about a person's validly negative life experiences than to solely read insipid, inane flounderings toward a positive spin where one does not rightfully exist.  While gratitude journals certainly have their place, I would prefer to not have my online world subsumed by Oprah-esque, happy-happy, joy-joy ramblings.

Reading a piece by Rebecca Traister, Screw Happiness, verified that this phenomenon is hardly limited to online blogging.  It seems that omnipresent satisfaction is a regular expectation of women in American society, as follows:
But really, how could [women not get sadder as they get older], given the aggressive messages about happiness and how they must achieve it, and unhappiness and how they must avoid it that are foisted on them from every direction, making them feel like failures if they are not warbling and grinning their way through life?
It appears that we've collectively discounted the virtues of unhappiness.  Traister makes the point that dissatisfaction can act as a "propellant" to "show us what we do not want" and to "give shape and specificity to what it is we do want."  Further, she acknowledges that sometimes life is not unicorns and rainbows and that is fine, too.  It isn't bad, it isn't less than, it simply is.  The Buddhists hold that "life is suffering."  That suffering instructs.  That suffering builds character.  I believe that suffering helps us to fully appreciate the good things in life because we have something to measure against, something to provide contrast in what would otherwise be a monotonous, gray landscape.

Kurt Cobain once said, "I miss the comfort in being sad" and I've often empathized with that sentiment.  Sorrow can be an enriching experience.  Digging deep into the marrow of unhappiness can leave one feeling cleansed and even protectively enveloped in a cocoon of melancholy.  I'm not proposing that women should haplessly wallow in self-pity and despair.  It just seems that, every so often, taking a dip in the deep end isn't such a negative thing.  In fact, it could be a welcome opportunity for self-development and personal growth.  At the very least, I reject the expectation that women be ever happy, ever positive, and ever cheerful--like good little 1950's housewives.  All of my emotions are worthwhile and worthy of expression.  After all, they are reflections of my complete and expansive humanity.