“Do you like being unhappy?” “Do you like the fact that rain is wet?”

No one single instant of it was unendurable. Here was a second right here: he endured it. What was undealable-with was the thought of all the instants all lined up and stretching ahead, glittering… – David Foster Wallace.

Someone asked me recently if I “like” being unhappy. It’s a strange and, at the same time, normal question. Unhappiness can, after all, become familiar, like a pair of well-worn boots you slip into with a little sigh of satisfaction, even if you actually think that the heel is fugly or whatever.

What do you do when you isolate and recognize the feeling of familiarity? Look for a consenting rainbow to have sex with? Hop along the yellow brick road to enlightenment picking up endearingly creepy companions along the way?

These aren’t just rhetorical questions on my part, because I’ve been thinking about the idea of acceptance lately. In TIME*, the awesome Barbara Ehrenreich recently wrote that:

We don’t have to dwell incessantly on the worst-case scenarios — the metastasis, the market crash or global pandemic — but we do need to acknowledge that they could happen and prepare in the best way we can. Some will call this negative thinking, but the technical term is sobriety.

Ehrenreich is talking about responding to the ongoing economic crisis here, but I find that this kind of wisdom applies equally to other, even more abstract areas of life. Sometimes, things suck, and you have to admit it. Sometimes, you suck, and not in the fun way either. The night gets longer, and colder, and even more densely populated by howling stray dogs and drunks. Your idiot neighbours leave the building door open, and someone swipes your welcome mat, and probably trades it for heroin – along with their firstborn. A creature slithers out of a Stephen King story and sits on your chest at night, drinking your blood and breath. You struggle to write clever blog entries, when you really should be working.

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