Why Do Bad Things Keep Happening To Me?

Welcome back to The Alchemist — Because Advice Columns Don’t Have To Be Useless

Question 1: Why Does Bad Shit Keep Happening?

From “Dear Maddisen,” HuffingtonPost, November 17, 2011

The Question (Summarized): Everything bad has been happening to me even though I’m a good person. Why? Can you help me?

The Bad Advice (Summarized): We are part of nature…bad things are actually opportunities to get stronger….release what you don’t want…ask the universe for what you do…1,000 more words of trees and mountains and shit.

My Better Advice: Sometimes the world is really shitty. Sometimes really shitty things happen to really good people. Yes, if you go around being horrible, there is a good chance that horrible things will happen to you — not because of luck or karma, but because a lot of people probably will want to punch you. But you could also become the 45th president of the United States.

On the other end of the spectrum, you could have given nothing but love and light to the world every day of your existence, but also live in a war zone and live a life full of unimaginable pain and suffering. I’m not saying this to depress you. I’m saying this because we like to believe that there are these specific steps we can take to guarantee that disaster won’t befall us, when for the entirety of human history that has been impossible. And if you are lucky, you will live a good life and manage to have good things happen to you. If you are not lucky, you will look at your misfortune and say “Why have I been forsaken?” and some asshole will tell you that you just need to put better intentions into the universe.

If you are not lucky, some asshole will tell you that you just need to put better intentions into the universe.

When bad things happen to you, you have the right to feel angry, hurt, sad, and scared. You have the right to feel wronged. When a lot of bad things are happening to you, you have the right to feel all those ways a whole lot more. You have the right to say it’s not fair, and it’s shitty. No, that’s not a place you can live forever, but you cannot will the natural reactions to bad things away. Give yourself a safe place to feel shitty.

But while you are feeling shitty, ask for help. Ask for comfort, ask for a witness to your pain and sadness and frustration. Also ask for help in identifying areas where you do have some power to help yourself with what is happening to you. Ask for help in identifying not only practical solutions to the individual situations you are facing, but also in seeing the areas of your life that can give you hope. If you have friends or family that you can ask for help, don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t have friends or family to turn to or you don’t feel comfortable turning to them — first off, know that you are not alone in that and it is nothing to be ashamed of, and then seek some professional help. If you do not have the resources for professional help, please seek out online support groups for other people going through similar situations. The number one benefit of the internet is the constant reassurance that you are not the only one feeling this pain right now, and somebody will understand.

About three years ago, I went through a death in my family, an emergency crisis with my son, a job change, a breakup, and a move — all within months of each other. I remember feeling like there was just absolutely no way that I could handle it all. But when I literally found myself frozen in grief, spending afternoon after afternoon crying in my car in my driveway, I realized that if there was light at the end of the tunnel, I was going to need help finding it. It took a bit of searching, but I found that help, and those dark times that I thought would be with me forever now feel like they are a lifetime away.

I can’t give you any guarantees, just the hope of knowing that today is almost always not forever, and that people can and have been able to climb back from darkness we can only begin to imagine and find themselves in a place of peace. I hope the same for you.

Question 2: My Husband Yells At Me When I Interrupt Him

From “Ask Amy,” The Mercury News, January 23, 2017

The Question (summarized): When I unintentionally interrupt my husband he’ll harshly say, “I’m talking!” or “Stifle!” What should I do?

The Bad Advice (summarized): You should stop being rude and interrupting your husband and set a good example by apologizing when he tells you to “Stifle!” so he’ll be shamed by your politeness into not being such a jackass. When you talk about it, let him know he’s not Archie Bunker.

My Better Advice: Are you fucking kidding me? Stifle!?? Oh hell no. I’m sorry. I need a minute…

Okay, here’s the thing. Sometimes people interrupt other people. Literally everyone does it. Often, it is perfectly innocent — you are excited about the conversation and your brain is flooding you with possible contributions and before you can stop yourself you are blurting out sentences before someone has finished theirs. Yes, it is rude. But so is farting. When it happens, and you catch yourself, you apologize briefly and then everyone just kind of moves on because these things happen. If you find that you are farting in the middle of every conversation, consider paying more attention to your diet for the sake of those around you. People who stare you in the eye and loudly fart at you while smirking are assholes — as are people who purposefully cut you off in conversation in order to exercise power over you. I do not think you are this person because if you were, you wouldn’t be nearly as concerned with your husband’s responses.

Are you fucking kidding me? Stifle!?? Oh hell no.

If your interrupting is out of hand, like you just really cannot help yourself from cutting in to every single conversation — you should consider the impact that is having on other people and how it can make others feel like you do not value their opinion. If this is a chronic habit, it is not something that can be fixed overnight, but you owe it to the people you care about to really try (and you may well need therapy to help with this). Let the people you care about know that you are trying, and ask for some patience, while being patient with their impatience in return.

But if you are just occasionally interrupting people like people do, then (I know you love him and all but) fuck this dude.

Actually even if you have a serious problem with interrupting — “Stifle” is not the way that you talk to someone you love and respect. Your husband has a right to voice his frustration with your interruptions, but the moment he decides to forget that you are a grown adult he loves and respects, his treatment of you becomes the behavior that needs to be addressed above all else.

If you are just occasionally interrupting people like people do, then fuck this dude.

When you are not in the middle of the immediate situation, and things are calmer, I strongly suggest you ask your husband to join you in couple’s therapy to help you both with healthy boundaries and respectful dialogue, and some counseling for anger management for your husband. This does not happen in a vacuum, and I suspect there are other areas of your marriage where your husband has not been treating you with respect and kindness as well.

You do not have to be perfect to be treated with respect. That is a demand you can make RIGHT NOW with your interrupting self. A man who yells “Stifle” at you for interrupting him does not deserve to be heard. That is not an acceptable way for him to talk to you, and you have every right to say that right then. Do not engage further in conversation with him until he can start speaking to you with some of the love and respect that was in your vows, but make sure to verbalize that his demeaning responses to you are the reason why. If he wants a conversation with you so badly, he needs to start acting like an adult that someone would want to hear.

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