BUBBLES AND RAINBOWS
Last week while putting the finishing touches on the second of two large video projects this year (that have required six long-distance trips away from my home in five weeks), the account representative for the studio saw me and said: "Gosh, you look so tired. Are you okay?" I told her that I had been traveling a lot; further, that my partner's mother had died, and I couldn't be there for her so I was just drained. The woman responded, "I don't like to hear bad news so here's wishing you bubbles and rainbows."
"Bubbles and rainbows."
Needless to say, this response offered me no comfort at all; in fact, it irritated me. I shared this response with my partner, asking, "What do you think of someone who sees life as 'bubbles and rainbows'"? My partner responded, "Well, it's better than how you see it which is 'death and holocaust'".
Flanny, how SHOULD I see life?
-- Death and Holocaust
First of all, my deepest condolences to your partner for the loss of her beloved mother. I'm certain that it was your loss, too, and I'm sorry that you haven't been able to support your partner in a way you both needed. I'm sorry, too, that you've had to be away from your home so much. I seldom leave my home. As you know I am fighting lupus, but more than that, my home grounds me. So my precious correspondent, you are understandably feeling unmoored.
What irritates me most about the account executive's response to you isn't "bubbles and rainbows", but the fact that she did not acknowledge your loss or weariness. "Bubbles and rainbows" are easier to swallow (or bat away) if you know they aren't being used to push back or ignore pain. Like you, I don't see life as "bubbles-and-rainbows". However, I also don't see life as "death and holocaust," though I suspect that folks who only read my fiction would disagree. To them I ask: have you read my letters collected in The Habit of Being? I swear, a lot of that correspondence is just flat-out funny! Where would any of us be without a sense of humor? For me, laughing is just about the closest we get to experiencing grace.
That being said, there is, indeed, the reality of "death and holocaust". Was it T.S. Eliot who said, "humankind cannot bear too much reality"? I'm not certain, but I do know that too much sentimentality creates a softness that can end in bitterness. Also, some folks just can't handle the truth, God bless them. But you know what? Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. I always say (google it, if you want), "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd."
You have a great gift, my sweet oddness: the ability to bear truth . . . except perhaps when it comes to bearing the truth about yourself. I suspect that you don't see life as "death and holocaust" as much as you see life as "pain and laughter". I can't be certain, but if I were you, I would invite you to ask your friends in the sassosphere for the two words (connected by "and") that capture their view of life. I bet you'll learn something. I bet I will, too.
Yours in loss and grace,