Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Is other people’s misery spoiling your comfy existence?

Despite many Irish people feeling most comfortable when times are hard, it’s bloody difficult to be depressed or down-hearted around them.

Unlike England where it’s perfectly acceptable to respond to ‘How’re you doing?’ with a diatribe of disaster, here in the West of Ireland there are only 3 acceptable answers: Mighty; grand; not a bother on me.
Or, if you’re lucky, all three joined up in one gutsy fanfare:
“Mighty grand not a bother on me!”

Trouble is, not everyone is feeling grand. Lots of people are feeling terrible, yet they’re not finding it easy to talk about their situation.

Thankfully the start of this year has seen a tide turning in my life. The last 4 years have been exceedingly difficult, from the death of my father to the demise of the freelancing market, but the Snapper and I soldiered on through many tests and hopefully, (almost whispering now, peering this way and that around imaginary corners so as not to tempt fate) we’re on the up again.

However I could not fail to notice how unacceptable it was to say “Yeah, life’s been really hard for 4 years now!”

Just not on. Not in the streets of Galway. You can maybe have a bad day, or a bad dose that lays you out for a week, but nobody here wants to listen to matters as dark as ‘bad years’.

Nuhuh. That’s just pure self-indulgence.

Except that everyone has bad years, and it’s preposterous to pretend otherwise. Much-loved colleagues for whom I worked many-a-year became subtly weary of my incessant hard-luck stories, while I bit my tongue, refraining from apologising sarcastically that I was sorry to mess up their happy job situations with my oh-so imperfect existence.
Wherever we’re at in our lives in the First World, there’s billions of humans worse off elsewhere. We’re all familiar with the concept of ‘Compassion Fatigue’, that scourge of charities whereby donors, weary of being bombarded by too many worthy causes, stop giving altogether.

A few too many famines chucked in with a couple of earthquakes and a tsunami and we’re not picking up the phone to pledge credit card help. We’ve done our bit. What’s the point anyway? Shit happens and it always will.

Yes it does, yet sometimes it happens neither to you nor the stranger in the Third World, but to the person sitting next to you on that Galway bus.

So please, let’s not become too quickly tired of the problems of others.
If you have a job then let your friend give out about not having one.
If you’re healthy then allow the neighbour to complain about her painful hip.
Let’s not allow compassion fatigue to creep into the way we deal with each other in our everyday lives, because that compassion, worth infinitely more than 40 shades of green and cead mille failte, is what I adore about the people of the West of Ireland

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