Last month I wrote:
If you can resist being pulled into the drama of a friend's sad tale of woe (or, even more difficult, your own sad tales of woe), and clearly examine the particulars, 95% of the time it amounts to nothing more than: "I thought X would happen, but Y happened".I once found myself forced to listen to a few excruciating pages from the memoir of a woman who'd lived as a small child at her family's large estate, which was eventually swapped for a much smaller house. Her wonderful, saintly father eventually died. And, as a result, she did not live the life she expected to live. She painted her tragedy as if it were an opera. It was the worst pain any person had ever suffered.
I was flabbergasted. First, who ever gets the life they expect? What sort of pampered upbringing creates the impression that your expectations carry any weight at all? And what sort of narcissist throws a literary tantrum about things not being just so, expecting readers (few of whom grew up in estates or had saintly fathers, and most of whom have been forced to understand that life's a ride rather than a drive) to sympathize with her anguished indignation?
Most humans can't relate to entitlement; it's as alien-seeming as psychopathy. After all, the expectation of perpetual augmentation is sharply contradicted by even a casual look at the world in which we live. This doesn't mean total misery is inevitable. On the contrary; if you see the world clearly, and have never fallen prey to the virus of entitlement, you come to recognize that none of life's surprise or turmoil is negative unless we label it that way.
A tiny dose of surprise and turmoil is welcome - so much so that we gladly pay a cover charge for the experience. It's haltingly processed, and released via an oscillating diaphragm in rhythmic pulsations, like a garden hose just barely accommodating a sudden flow. But when a stream of surprise and turmoil exceeds our thresholds, many of us reflexively clench against it, so it gets stuck. "This is not happening!" we hoarsely cry out to the universe, lacing our systems with elective stress*, as the universe blithely continues its business.
* - Stress is something we choose to do to ourselves in response to life situations we choose to consider non-optimal.Kudos to David Mamet, whose film "State and Main" contrived a different response (wait for Alec Baldwin's first line upon exiting the wrecked car):
Oh, crap, the video link's dead and there's no other to replace it (if anyone out there can find one, please leave a link in the comments). Alec Baldwin's character epically, horribly, crashes amd flips his car. He extricates himself from the upside-down vehicle, notices that a pedestrian has witnessed the whole thing, and remarks to him, with casual flippancy, "So that happened!"
The phrase has caught on in pop culture, proving, once again, that a language tends to be wiser than its speakers.
This is a good opportunity to re-mention my all-time favorite book title - a title so great that one needn't even read the book (a good thing, as it's out of print....though there's an e-book version): "What's Wrong with Right Now ... Unless You Think About It?"
My GPS is sanest of all. "Recalculating!" she exclaims, with cheerful equanimity, even when her most insistent demands have been ignored.