Friends can grow weary, when we are hurting, when we need to talk, a friend can blank someone out after a while. The current political angst and anger as well as suspicions that have arisen since the November election have some people feeling more frazzled than others. I also feel the need to resign as your schadenfreude friend.
I saw Avenue Q with a wonderful friend when we were both in New York City not too long ago. She and I have been through some upheavals in our lives and seeing the play together was a great treat. If you’re not familiar with Avenue Q, it’s an R rated muppet show where the puppeteers do a great job of acting out a story of life on a street in a major city. The themes they touch on are the same standards of believing in yourself, believe in your dreams, but there’s also some real brutally honest themes that hit audiences in between the eyes with their sagacity.
Themes like, the Internet is for porn or everyone is a little bit racist and also we seemingly have a couple of bears on our shoulders the play calls the “bad idea bears,” the little adorable bears say that any wild ass and stupid idea we come up with, (like mixing tequila with a lot of whiskey and wine in our stomachs) is a great idea.
The part that I identified with was the scene where one of the muppet’s who had been living with the still-in-the-closet gay republican financial advisor, (I’m well aware that is a loaded lead in) is kicked out on the street by his roommate. He becomes homeless living on the street in front of his former room-mates building. The other residents try and put him up in their flats but ultimately he wears out his welcome in each of the places and is back on the street.
The character notices through a discussion with one of the other characters that his being on the street makes other people feel better about themselves because they see the other has hit a low in their life. The schadenfreude of the people who see him living on the street brings them some joy, and so his purpose, at least for the moment, is that he is helping other people feel good through his misery.
Why does that resonate with me? For one, I believe that homelessness is one of the things I fear the most. For a number of years I have been transitioning my career to learning and development, and while I enjoy the work I do now, and am passionate about helping others succeed, it’s the being of a schadenfreude object that I’m particularly done with. You see, after a divorce, and a series of transitional positions that fit me like my old high school dress shirts, I have done work that was ill fit for my skill level, (another term is called being severely underemployed) and always the one to keep chasing money, (as well as provide for 5 kids) I was never short of motivation.
Once upon a time, I was for all the world this once successful happy person, and then, by my own hand, I left my marriage, my neighborhood and a lot of “friends“ said good-bye to me.
There were times where I felt like all I was about was being the person constantly needing help. I knew I was in a bad place, and tried my best to put a brave and happy face to my bumps I was facing. I know now that the gift of pressing on and working to achieve my masters degree, and hone my skills as a trainer and facilitator and coach through all these difficult times is going to make the arrival to my new found career all the more victorious. But getting through it took a lot of people looking out and checking on me. I have expended every last financial resource in weathering the unhappy and turbulent transition. And I want to thank those who were truly there for me, who loved me unconditionally and just let me talk. I felt safe doing it.
The truth is, as Mick Jagger sang it “we all need someone we can lean on”. I wore many of you down, and perhaps some of you are done. I get it. But for those of you who have stuck with me, I want to say thank you. I’m really better now, and while I’m not out of the woods by any stretch, (I still worry about being homeless, I think I need to have it to motivate me) but I am focusing on what I have to give.
Your patience with me has created a profound change, I am now someone who loves what he does. That to me is priceless so the investment to get here where I can eventually crawl back up the financial ladder again is at least there, although very challenging. I have always been and remain a devoted dad to my children, and to others’ children as well (more on this in a later post) Your help has gotten me to this point.
To summarize, If I have over taxed you, I’m sorry. I was recently shut down by what I thought was one of my best friends because of the fatigue of political discourse on social media. And I’m mad as hell about the lack of moral fiber in the leadership of this country. It was a direct shut down by my friend and I felt betrayed. How dare he shut me down after I have patiently listened to him lay out his hurting soul?! My reflection on the whole incident made me wonder what a friend is for, and then I realized that being a “needy” one for so long has probably wore him out.
I’ll still need some understanding from you, my friends in the coming months and years, but I promise not as much as I once did. I’m sticking to the focusing, on you, and what you need.
Let me know how I can help you. I’m serious.
Just don’t ask me to be the Schadenfreude guy any more. I quit.