Let’s dig into the forgotten stacks of the library and pull out this tome. Dream Makers from 1982 is a collection of interviews Charles Platt conducted with sci-fi writers. As expected, Asimov and Bradbury and the like show up. I read about 10 pages of the book because right in the middle is a bit on Harlan Ellison. There’s everything one would come to expect from Ellison within. Self deprecating puts over his own work. Trashes some people, builds up others. Throws some personal history and personality quirks within. But it was one quote that really got me.
And I learned that I can’t really be damaged. I can be momentarily hurt, I can feel emotional pain, my heart can be broken, but as I was saying the other day, real pain only lasts twelve minutes, the rest of the time is spent in justifying it to yourself to make what you went through seem valid and important.
I finished the section on Harlan, closed the book, and put it in the pile to return to the shelves. But it sat there. Sat there and sat there longer. There was just something that lingered in between the page and my mind. I thought the whole thing dismissive of the human experience at first. Who are you to tell me how valid my pain is? Who are you to set a stop watch to my misery?
Damn though, he has a point.
To dive into what he said, there are certain kinds of pain that he isn’t limiting. Physical pain can certainly last for years. The pain of a loved one’s death is valid and expected to take some time to feel “normal” again. I believe it’s the day to day problems and obstacles which should not become accepted obstacles.
As the last year, and really every year showed me, the initial upset -the pain – disappears. What remains is my reaction to those moments. How long it took me to act. To change, to accept, to right the boat. The more I think of these moments the more I ask myself why I spent so much time complaining and not enough time doing anything about it. I hated previous places of employment and if I hadn’t spent so much time bitching or laying on the couch maybe my station in life would have improved sooner.
The amount of failed youthful relationships I spent way too long whining about will always upset me. Sure, that’s part of growing up and learning. But if my old self can give any piece of advice it is this, that high school relationship is not worth getting depressed over.
Yet there is also the allowance to be upset for a bit. Life throws so much at us and it is understandable to take a few moments to freak out over the latest curve. After those few moments though it’s necessary to get up and do something. In my new job I hate having something new thrown at me. Because it’s new and I don’t know what to do. So I take my 12 minutes, get calm, and move forward. The only way out of something is through it. Unexpected bills. Sickness. The day’s plans thrown in the toilet. I’m going to allow myself to take those 12 minutes and let the panic run its cycle.
Then I’m going to get up and figure out a solution.