Susan Mihalic

Susan Mihalic
August 05
Writer & editor. Passionate about freedom of expression. Liberal, aspiring to be pointy-headed. Follow me on Twitter: @susanmihalic.


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FEBRUARY 5, 2013 9:44AM

You Can't Have a Pity Party without Refreshments

Rate: 23 Flag

A few years ago I proposed a new ice cream to Ben and Jerry’s: Pity Party. It would be the richest, darkest chocolate ice cream imaginable, with veins of fudge and chunks of chocolate. I also proposed Pity Party Lite, which would be some kind of vanilla-and-caramel concoction, because if you don’t need chocolate, you’re just not feeling that sorry for yourself.

My friends, I need chocolate. I need a carton of Pity Party, and not a puny-ass pint, either. At a minimum, I need a quart. Do they make a half gallon? Maybe I can just have two quarts. (And my mother thought I’d never learn the difference between a quart and a half gallon. Throw chocolate into the mix, people, and I totally get math. If that train leaving the station at 9:07 traveling 45 miles per hour were carrying chocolate, I’d solve the hell out of word problems.)

I’m grateful that I’m healthy, that I have shelter and food, that I have friends, and that I have work that is meaningful to me. I’m grateful for my partner of nearly 20 years. After serious health threats in 2009 and 2010, I know how incredibly, unbelievably lucky I am. Some days, the realization literally leaves me breathless.

Yet I still want to complain. I’m tired. I’m tired of being agreeable. I’m tired of being at other people’s disposal, with my own schedule and goals back-burnered. Not back-burnered in a way that means I’m not working to reach those goals, because I am. Just back-burnered in a way that means that while my goals are the #1 priority in my creative life, my creative life isn’t a #1 priority for anyone but me. And, oh, yes. I’m tired of having sprained ankles. I’ve been hobbling around for two weeks, unable to indulge in the R and the E of the RICE remedy (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), but I have that C thing down pat. You can forget the I, unless it’s the icy cold goodness of a half gallon of Pity Party. I bet I can hold the carton between my ankles while I eat the contents.

Just once, I’d like to vent without feeling guilty. Without thinking of people who are gravely injured or ill or living on the street or terrified because they’re in an abusive relationship or don’t know where their next meal will come from or how they’ll take care of their children. 

I want to whine without being reminded to have an attitude of gratitude, because I do, goddammit, almost all the time, even though that smug little rhyme, attitude of gratitude, makes me grit my teeth. I just want a little guilt-free bitch-and-moan session. Is that so much to ask?

Well, fuck, actually, yes. Yes, it is. 

It’s a lot to ask when parents have lost children, children have lost parents, husbands have lost wives, and wives have lost husbands. It’s a lot to ask when people are in pain—physical, emotional, psychological pain. Deep, true pain. Not the discomfort of a couple of sprains. 

That’s the second annoying thing about the attitude of gratitude (smug little rhyme being the first annoying thing). You can’t just bask in it and float around beaming like a ray of fucking sunshine all the time. Sometimes you have to work for it. You have to dig a little deeper to find it. Sometimes you have to write down your problems to realize how insignificant they are . . . and how inexplicably, astoundingly fortunate you are. And when you do, how can you feel anything except gratitude?

So hold that half gallon of Pity Party. It is no longer essential to my well being. I may think in passing of a modest scoop of Pity Party Lite, but you know what? I’m just not feeling that sorry for myself. 

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I can be such a fucking Pollyanna.
i am so goddamn *angry* at you, miss polly susan, for CAVING on the woe-is-me bitchfest that i could spit. just when i was getting totally worked up into my righteous "Yes, yes, if she can do it, I can so fucking do it"-potentially guilt-free whining self, you gave UP. or is it IN? whatever. crap. some days you just can't fucking win.
I was all ready for a good ole pity party. You walked boldly, right up to the line.....then you caved. You stepped back. Does that mean I get the ice cream all for myself???

Seriously.....this was both funny and very true. Thanks for a great read.
Hey! A pity's party's just a splurge, right? Everyone needs to splurge on themselves once in a while as long as it doesn't become a habit. I love your ice cream idea but maybe it should have a different name - like "All About ME."
I find that American puritanical hatred of self pity is sickening. It was just a mechanism to prevent people from expressing what is wrong with their lives so they could fix things.

A good pity party is the pathway to self enlightenment. We can't only berate ourselves and plot our advancement all the time (with inner voices that sound exactly like the worst people in our lives).

Self pity exists for a purpose. It has the function of helping us to process through grief over things. Brief bouts of it, supplemented by heavy doses of chocolate, can freshen up a person's resolve to get on with life, stronger and better.

Great post. R!
You know what? Even those with horrific losses or gigantic problems have some things to be thankful for.. and people who seem to have great lives often go home and scream at the walls. Life is hard and rewarding and messy and lovely and all the good/bad opposites we can possibly list.

It's important to recognize those less fortunate, and help when we can, but we're not living their lives, we're living our own. When our lives suck, we're allowed to say so. Without guilt. An occasional angry rant --even just a few days of cosmic whining-- is a release of toxic feelings that's good for the soul.. as are comforting words from friends who understand.

You can't fucking walk and you hurt and you're tired of being a good soldier and it's the dead of winter and shitstorms are raining down. Shout it loud and proud, sistah, feel free to BITCH AND MOAN! Then get on with what you know you have to do, knowing most of us feel EXACTLY the same way. xoxo
Does Pity Party come in frozen yogurt?
Well I sure wish somebody would hide my shovel, because I'm sick of digging... from one pollyanna to another....this was good...r
I woulda gone for the Sprinkles! R
Why is it that we're not allowed to have self-compassion? We're HUMAN for crissakes! My favorite "counter" to that teeth gnashing "attitude of gratitude" when I'm circling the bowl is that gratitude and being happy are not mutually inclusive (or exclusive for that matter). I do know that I'm blessed and I do run down a gratitude list every single day, but you know what?

Some days it just sux to be me. Pass the scoop, please. :-)

This was my first big smile of the day. Lord, I loved this. ~r
You know what! You're right! You can be such a Pollyanna! And you know what else! I think you should take that anger at yourself and grab a big spoon and slam it into that quart of Pity Party!

Chocolate soothes rage, too. :)
hmmmmm chocolate...when do I cross the line to an addiction that affects the quality of my life? Just like alcohol. I love a good cocktail. However to watch a friend die from too much vodka is not fun. Not to be a party pooper but I worry.
femme forte, I know. I'm so annoying. It's unbelievable.

Thanks, David. More ice cream for you!

Margaret, I am acquainted with someone whom another friend and I call MeMe--for exactly that reason.

zumalicious, thank you. I was working up to a pretty good party when I started writing the post, but somehow everything dwindled into "Hmph. Guess it's not that bad." Foiled again.

Sally, thanks. Your comment made me laugh. "Shout it loud and proud, sistah!"

Con, frozen yogurt is not the appropriate balm for self-pity. It simply won't do. Pity Party requires butterfat, and lots of it.

Gary, do they make a chocolate vodka? I know there's a marshmallow one. Combine it with chocolate and graham crackers, and you can have Pity Party S'mores. (Martha Stewart comes to me for advice.)

Thank you, hugs.

Marilyn, sprinkles are always good.

eyespye, you make an excellent point about gratitude/happiness and inclusive/exclusive.

Joanie, thank you. Smooch.

phyllis, chocolate is definitely therapeutic.

zanelle, worry not. I won't OD on chocolate (although if I were going to OD on something, that would be it).
I totally get this. BUT THIS IS THE PLACE for any official rant. Any time. It's okay. Pass the ice cream. It's been a long time since I did that, but i can eat a pint of BR's dutch chocolate in thirty minutes, and would like to.......IT HAS TO BE CHOCOLATE.
Jaime, hahaha! Thanks.

Bernadine, if it's not chocolate, what's the point?
You know you've returned to your life when you can enjoy some routine pedestrian complaining. Speaking of complaints, there could be way more chocolate inclusions in my dog bowl of the new Pity Party, plus a brownie on the bottom.

On a more serious side, I saved some reliquary bits to review when I am feeling less than grateful. The plastic gizmo I had to blow every half hour to keep my lungs clear after surgery, an empty bottle of Tamoxifen, and a gallon size Ziploc freezer bag that contains every bracelet they ever put on me for each test and hospital or oncology visit. It makes quite a large unattractive pillow. You know what I'm talking about. So, come sit next to me on the couch, we'll plump up our pillows, and let's bitch about how cold it's been this week.
work for it, yes yes.
i got a need for that stuff as well. i find that my natural humility
posing as phoney solicitude til i get it right

"I’m grateful that I’m healthy, that I have shelter and food, that I have friends, and that I have work that is meaningful to me"

uh yeah. those are basic maslowian needs tho.
Actually there IS chocolate vodka, and it really hits the spot.
greenheron, a brownie on the bottom! Why didn't I think of that? Since Ben & Jerry's has passed on the idea altogether, you and I should go into business. (And Tamoxifen damned near killed me; I wound up with masses of clots in both lungs plus uterine fibroids. Lovely side effects. My only souvenir, other than a couple of fading scars and two silicone grapefruits on my chest, is the big plastic mug I used in the hospital; the lid makes it impossible for the cats to drink my water. They're very fond of sharing.)

James, thank you. You're right; some of the things I'm grateful for are at the bottom of the hierarchy, and yet I know people who struggle far more than I do to meet those needs. I suppose I've always had the sense that life is precarious. As I've gotten older, this sense has become more a source of wonder than a source of fear, but undoubtedly there are some deep-seated neuroses that even Pity Party with a brownie on the bottom won't fix.

Myriad, there are days when I'm really bummed that I no longer drink. This, the day I learn that there is chocolate vodka, is one of them.
Oh girl! We could co-author a book about Tamoxifen. Seventeen vaginal ultrasounds and two day surgery hysteroscopy D & Cs. My sequel would be a book on Lupron/Aromasin combo, wherein the heroine cannot walk for the first half hour of every morning, just crawls back and forth on the kitchen floor trying to make coffee, while hotflashing 12-20 times and hour!

Now you are making wish that I shoplifted my plastic hospital mug. You Bad Girl.
greenheron, I thought of the mug as a lovely parting gift. I'm up for my second transvaginal ultrasound this spring. Seventeen of them? I hope someone bought you dinner and gave you flowers at least once.
Enjoying your writing. Based on recent posts, may I recommend "Comma Sutra" as a blog name?