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A Review of “Happy Never After”: owning our sadness, grief, and all those other uncomfortable things adults never talk about


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I am frustrated today. Honestly, the day could not have felt more shitty if it tried. Sure, there were lots of okay things that happened, but my general mood has oscillated between “Fuck this” and verging on tears. I am currently looking for work, an arduous task done in silence and solitude because heaven forbid if we actually talked about how unemployment affects people. I am spend many unwanted hours alone. I have very few friends where I live in Switzerland that I can call on. This forced loneliness is soul crushing. I cannot help but feeling like my unemployment is a direct correlation with my worth as a human being and most days I feel completely and totally worthless.

I wake up and some days I hate myself more than I thought possible. I feel that despite all the years I struggled to get out of shitty family situations, poverty, and grief it was all for nothing. I feel like the world doesn’t want what I have to give. And honestly, if someone tells me, “Well that’s what you get for doing a liberal arts degree” I might just throat-punch someone. While I am on an angry roll here let me also add that if you think the arts and humanities are not valuable pursuits of study, please exponentially fuck off into infinity.

So why am I talking about all the things that make me unhappy? Why am I opening up the internal dialogue that I have struggled with today? Because Happy Never After by Jill Stark is a perfect talking point for all the horrible gut wrenching things we never talk about. A lot of the things Stark talks about in her book are nothing new to me. I grew up with a mother who suffers with extreme anxiety and panic disorders. I’ve seen how the mental health system in Australia has let her down and myself included. I’ve talked about grief on my blog and what it felt like to lose my Father when I was 24. In fact, his death became a catalyst for me in many ways. The most important being that it taught me to throw caution to the wind and talk about uncomfortable stuff because if you don’t, it will consume you.

I don’t know how your day is going. Maybe its great, maybe its horrible. Maybe you are going through the lowest point in your life… But whatever you feel right now, good or bad, know that you are allowed to feel it. Be angry, feel frustrated, feel grief, cry if you need to, man or woman.

Happy Never After is a combination of self-help book, memoir, and social commentary. The main message of Stark is that we are convinced that we need to be happy 24/7 and when we cannot achieve this perpetual contentment we have failed. When Tim Minchin said, “Contented homo erectus got eaten before passing on their genes” maybe he had uncovered the evolutionary missing link?

We don’t have a proper vocabulary for dealing with our struggles because we are constantly taught to avoid hard conversations. I have talked about this a lot with my series on death and loss after losing my Father to bowel cancer. Let me tell you, if you think death and grief are hard topics, try talking about a cancer that directly affects your poop and see people fling themselves away from the conversation like shrapnel after a grenade goes off.

There is a part of me that doesn’t want to post this because acknowledging that I struggle with being unemployed feels like social suicide. That if I tell people I feel lonely, I won’t be able to turn things around. They will know I am a loser and won’t want me. But there is another part of me that wonders if there are others out there, struggling just like me having a shitty day just like me and maybe they read this and think, I am not so alone. Maybe they find Stark’s book and it gives them comfort? And that is the beauty of it. Happy Never After reminds you to look after yourself and to acknowledge that no matter who you are there are going to be hard days. And that those days will come and go just like everything does.

24/7 happiness is dangerous. How do you feel about our society constantly telling us to be happy all the time? What do you do to keep yourself grounded? As always, share the reading love.

 

 

 

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