It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
It is best to give people some space to be themselves.
I FELL down an escalator in a shopping mall the other day. I only have myself to blame. At the time, I was running with heels on, and trying my hardest to avoid touching the handrail. From a safety point of view, I might as well have been running with razorblades in my shoes.
I dislike escalator handrails. I suspect they are teeming with bacteria and viruses. Most of them feel sticky to the touch, so I wouldn’t be surprised to discover the beginnings of the next Great Plague multiplying on the very surface I’m supposed to hold onto for my own safety.
Anyway, in my haste to get down the germ- infested escalator, I stumbled about four steps from the bottom. I tried to grab the handrail as I fell, but missed. What happened next was a bit of a blur, but I was aware of an involuntary somersault, and my hands and knees making contact with the metal steps. The next thing I knew, I was lying at the bottom of the escalator.
In my dazed state, while I was wondering if anyone could see my knickers, two middleaged men, who must have been coming down the escalator behind me, began pulling me onto my feet by my arms.
My first thought: “My arms are going to pop out of their sockets.”
As soon as I was standing, I looked down at the ground – at my two arms, which had been torn off by my rescuers.
Perhaps I imagined that last bit.
Without any warning, I began to shake, so one of the men led me to a nearby bench, opposite a row of shops.
It was only when I sat down that I saw the state of my arms and legs. It looked as if a large, angry bear had been using me as a scratching post. Indeed, I could easily have passed for Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunt double in the movie The Revenant.
The next day, despite the painkillers from my doctor, I felt as if I’d spent the night being trampled on by the entire cast of Riverdance, heavy shoes and all. I was due to participate in a workshop, and since I didn’t want to pull out, I walked into the facilitator’s function room with all the style and grace of a zombie, minus the outstretched arms.
The room was almost full, so I took one of the last remaining seats next to a man who, according to his nametag, was called Larry. For some reason, Larry had tagged two smiley faces onto the end of his name.
I was feeling a bit down that day – brought on, no doubt, by my injuries and a restless night with little sleep. As I sat down, Larry turned to me, smiled and then said, “Cheer up! It might never happen.”
His accent told me he was a fellow Brit, but I was in no mood for cheerful banter, compatriot or no compatriot.
As we waited for the facilitator to make an entrance, Larry told me about his wonderful job, and his wonderful family, and his wonderful car, and his wonderful house ...
As I listened to him, I prayed for a wonderful out- of- body experience to carry me away from the wonderful Larry and his smiley faces.
“Did you know a smile uses less muscles than a frown?” he said, in an obvious attempt to get me to be more cheerful.
“Like, who gives a rat’s ass about the physiology behind facial expressions?” I wanted to say, but didn’t.
Instead, I pretended to be preoccupied with the workshop schedule.
After a few minutes sitting in silence, Larry must have felt deprived, because he simply began talking again, like a radio that had been switched on accidentally.
“I attended a motivational workshop last week, where I learnt that happiness is a choice,” he announced. “I think a lot of people would benefit from it. I now wake up every morning and choose to be happy for the day. It really works.”
At that moment, I fought the urge to share a few choice words with Larry – words that probably wouldn’t have made him feel happy, unless he were to choose otherwise, of course.
Why do some people think they can instantly make someone happy, just by saying “Cheer up!”? If it were that easy, surely there would be no unhappy people around.
Can you imagine losing a loved one, only to have some happy soul tell you, on the day of the funeral, that it’s your choice to be happy?
It might make some people so angry that it would result in two funerals.
Similarly, what if I’ve just been diagnosed with a fatal disease that leaves me with only two weeks left to live? Surely, I’m entitled to feel less than happy about it.
I think Larry showed a lack of respect for my feelings that day. He was basically telling me that my behaviour was unacceptable and I needed to do something about it.
I’m a lot better now, but I still refuse to smile on cue. Oddly enough, that makes me feel happy.
Is happiness a matter of choice? — Filepic