As a rule, I uphold a strong family history of coping. We are copers, the women with which I share DNA. My grandmother, my mother, my sister and I were all born with a prominent ‘shut up and put up’ gene, that marches us like a fearsome Sergeant Major through sticky patches, bumps in the road and dirty great anvils falling out of the sky.
We might have a little cry now and then, usually to each other, but there’s an unspoken acknowledgement that you don’t whine on past your allotted grizzling time; you dry your eyes, count your blessings and get the hell on with it.
To an extent, I’m fairly intolerant of other people’s woes as a result. Unlike my mum and sister, who both work in caring professions and have buckets of goodwill, I have a hard time listening to people moan about everything from a bit of drizzle to rising fuel prices. Self-pity makes me clench my toes inside my socks and struggle to plaster on my poker face to mask the hard-hearted monster that lies beneath this seemingly kind exterior.
I ought to caveat this confession before someone takes an ice-pick to the frozen organ inside my chest. If there’s really something utterly deserving of sympathy going on in your life, I’ll be the first person to suss what’s happening and try to help. That’s when it’s good to be a coper. I have friends who’s lives would challenge the most pragmatic manager. You guys can berate the balls off of life – I’ll supply the tequila.
I find that online friendships suffer more from my inability to make consolatory clucking noises. Maybe it’s that level of abstraction we have from one another inside virtual communities, whether through Facebook, Twitter or Youtube, that has me speaking my mind a little too often to those who can’t seem to stem the tide of self-pity that pours through their everyday lives. Missed the postman this morning? WOE. Rained during the school run? DOOM. No caramel in one of your Twix sticks? CALL CONFECTIONERY ADDICTS ANONYMOUS.
These are often the very same crowd of grumblers who shuffle around muttering derisory barbs about people who are actually doing something about all the shitness in a country getting shittier by the minute. Look through the timelines of your friends who ridicule student protesters or occupying demonstrators. I guarantee they’re the same ones who think life is out to trip them up because the washing machine packed up last night or Tesco had the gall to run out of Jammie Dodgers this morning.
There’s a difference between having the odd down day and going through the years with a permanent rain cloud over your head. We’re all entitled to a glum spell, when the thought of getting out of bed and putting coffee on feels like one demand too far from a bitter and twisted universe. There’s also a clear line marking clinical depression from the sorry-for-myself brigade. The former is an illness and like any other usually requires medicine and trained professionals to get it under control. In my opinion, the latter would be best served with an unexpected wedgie and a short, sharp forehead spamming.