I put my purchase on the counter of the thrift store in front of the checkout lady. She smiled and asked,”How are you today?” I responded that I was doing well and asked how her day was going.
“Living the dream,” she responded in such a way that it was clear she was not, in fact, living the dream.
I had make a great effort to not whip my head toward Eric who was standing next to me. This is what we had just been discussing, the “living the dream” response. We have noticed several people recently saying that they were “living the dream.” While neither of us have said these exact words, the issue is something we have noted in ourselves as well.
Really it is two issues:
I definitely have a sarcastic streak. I am not really proud of it, even when it is kinda funny. I feel like sarcasm is a way that I deflect attention from issues or even use it as a shield between myself and a deeper connection. The “living the dream” response sort of encapsulates that point. I can’t recall having used that exact phrase, but I have definitely used a similar approach. The idea is that by making a joke you are sharing that you are miserable, but not allowing any room for a meaningful connection. There is no room for a response. It’s weird and puts up a wall around your misery. I don’t want to be that person. Not that I want to share misery with all, but if I am going to talk about it I want to be honest.
2) Focus on the negative
The deeper issue though is the idea that through the conveyance of “living the dream” a person is sharing that basically their life is the exact opposite. I mean, not to focus on this unnamed cashier, but she isn’t living a nightmare. She has a job, clothes, food, shelter, etc. It just seems that the focus was only on the negative and it seemed absurd. Of course I don’t know what is going on in her personal life, but I could tell that there were several good things in her life just from talking to her for a moment.
It got me thinking about something that happened a few days ago. We were at a restaurant for breakfast. We witnessed a waitress receive a phone call telling her that her son had died. I saw her wail, a scream of true suffering. It was heart wrenching. There was nothing to be done on our end as her co-workers collected the collapsed woman and led her out, but her suffering lingered and it has left an impression. Her sadness was so potent that since then any complaints I have mustered feel stupid and ungrateful.
Yesterday I was listening to a guided meditation and the speaker touched on this thought that has been bouncing around in my mind. He, and I am sorry I don’t know his name, was talking about how to feel true gratitude in life. He essentially said that you woke up this morning, most likely your loved ones also woke up, and that is enough to be thankful for. Of course death is not something to live in fear of, but the gift of being alive is reason enough for deep gratitude.