This morning I took our dirty clothes to wash at the laundromat. Our washer broke awhile ago, so we wash the clothes at the laundromat and then we bring them home to dry on our clothesline or in the dryer. Often EJ goes with me to help me, but when he’s tired or in pain, I just go alone.
This morning as I sat (alone) in the laundromat, I pondered that a few days ago the thought of doing routine tasks felt overwhelmingly stressful, but today it felt like a touch of normalcy. Then I thought that although I would like to get moving QUICKLY, without pause, to get JJ’s cancer treated and cured so we can get back to normal life, I am rather cherishing the opportunity to have some moments to catch my breath before the next flurry of medical activity.
This reminded me of an old Hitchcock interview we watched on TMC a couple of months ago. I love Hitchcock movies. He was a masterful director of suspense. The TMC channel aired a marathon of Hitchcock movies that weekend, one of which was a movie I had never seen before called Sabotage. In the movie, a man named Mr. Verloc was part of a gang of foreign saboteurs operating out of London during World War 2. He managed a small cinema with his wife and her teenage brother as a cover, but they knew nothing of his secret. Scotland Yard assigned an undercover detective to work at the shop next to the cinema in order to observe the gang. At one point, Mr. Verloc had to place a bomb in a building to go off at a certain time, but he was being watched so he handed the bomb, wrapped as a package, to his wife’s brother and asked him to deliver it before a certain time without fail. I watched with breathless fear as the unsuspecting boy traveled across the city on bus and by foot, getting slowed and hindered by various events. Always there was the alternating fear and hope that the boy would get rid of the package before it was too late. It was a complete shock when the boy was too late and was killed when the bomb detonated. In the interview later that night, Hitchcock described that scene and said it was a mistake. He said when he saw the disbelief and shock on the faces of the audience in the theatre, he realized that at various points of the story, as the suspense builds, there needs to be moments in which tension is released so the audience can catch their breath and not be pushed over the edge of emotion. He said if he could do it over again, he would have had the boy escape at the last moment.
I think people going through suffering needs moments of release too. We need to be able to catch our breath. We need to find moments of laughter and moments of normalcy.
Throughout his life, JJ has sometimes said to me, “You are weird.” I’ve often replied “Thank you” or “I’m not weird, I’m unique.” Other times I’ve reminded him that my life goal is to become an eccentric old lady. I’d love to be like the old lady in the following video. I’m not there yet, but I’m really trying to work towards it.
There are times when I agree with JJ that I am probably very weird.
One of the ways in which I am probably weird is that I am the only one I know who sees value in Pity Parties. Ok, before you stop reading, maybe you should let me explain. And, by the way, I am not currently feeling sorry for myself. If I were feeling sorry for myself, I would be unable to write about Pity Parties. I’d be too miserable.
It would be totally awesome if we could always be bursting with faith and hope and joy, no matter what happened to us. However, most of us are human and the reality is that life can be scary and sad and painful, and there are times we cry and shiver and groan…and even, on occasion, feel sorry for ourselves. I say “most of us are human” because I secretly suspect that those who don’t have ups and downs might actually be robots, aliens (Vulcun?), or superheroes. I confess that sometimes I want to pinch them or take a blood sample. Most of the rest of us are humans, which means we struggle a bit, even though not everyone describes it at Facebook or in a blog.
People have different ways of coping and release (even robots, aliens, and superheroes). One of my ways of coping when I am feeling sorry for myself is to throw a Pity Party. Here is how I do it and also my guidelines:
No one can throw a Pity Party for another person. We have to be careful to not be insensitive or callous. There is real heartbreak out there, deep pain, and scary stuff like cancer. I think it’s ok to be sad in a sad situation, to groan when we are in pain, or to be scared when the situation is scary. I even think it’s ok if a person feels a scream building up inside, to go out and scream with all his might, as loudly as possible, just to release the pressure. But not where people might hear and call the police.
These emotions are not self-pity. When my son’s beloved cat died years ago and he said, “I’m feeling really sad,” I responded with “It is very sad that your cat died, so go ahead and be sad for a while.” When he currently says, “I hate this hospital procedure” or “I’m scared,” I reply, “I hate it too.” or “It’s a scary thing, but we are here.” His emotions are valid.
However, I confess that over the years when my son has wailed about a miniscule paper cut, I have been known to callously say, “Suck it up, Cupcake.” I mean, I couldn’t even see the cut with a microscope. And when I’ve complained about something minor, my family has said the same to me.
I usually throw a Pity Party when I recognize that I am mired in feeling sorry for myself. I think a person can be as simple or creative as they wish when planning their parties. A person can invite guests but usually I only invite myself to my Pity Parties. It’s difficult to feel sorry for myself if there are other guests. Usually, I just start humming my Pity Party Song, which is just a couple of lines of an old song: “It’s my Party, and I can cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to…you would cry too if it happened to you.” There are a lot of other cool Pity Party songs out there. For example, If It Weren’t For Bad Luck, I’d Have No Luck at All was song on a 1970’s TV program called HeeHaw. It’s wonderful. I love the dramatic groans. EJ says that when he or his siblings were feeling sorry for themselves, their Mom used to sing, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.” Then there is “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” and “Nobody’s Seen the Troubles I’ve Seen.” The last song should be sung in the lowest voice possible.
The only time I threw a Pity Party for a friend was when she, herself, told me that she was feeling sorry for herself. I exclaimed, “Oh! Oh! Can I Throw You a Pity Party?” She said I could so I sent her pictures of Pity Party balloons and cupcakes on Facebook. We had so much fun celebrating her self-pity that we laughed and the party was totally ruined.
Which is the whole point. The value of a Pity Party, whether I invite others or only myself, is that it causes me to make fun of myself, to see the humor of my misery, and to distract my mind. Soon I am back to seeing my situation more positively. I suppose that if you want to get all technical and psychological, I’ve read that it is sometimes help to engage in pity for a little while so you can face it, deal with it, and move on. The goal is to not get stuck in misery. A Pity Party is a way to release tension and stress.
Of course, I believe strongly in the Bible and prayer, and I believe those are absolutely necessary to help. But I also believe that we can use other measures as well. Sometimes the best spiritual help is practical help. As James 2:15-17 says:
Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, and someone says to him, “Shalom! Keep warm and eat hearty!” without giving him what he needs, what good does it do? Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead.
Sometimes what we need is a way to release tension and a reason to laugh.